"THE MIGHTY EIGHTH RUSSIAN SHUTTLE"

BY GIL COHEN

Autographed by Colonel Donald J. Blakeslee.

L/E of 1000. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Size: 36 1/2" x 24 1/2"

Price: $135


In June 1944 Colonel Don Blakeslee, leader of the famed Fourth Fighter Group, finally learned that his P-51 Mustangs were to escort B-17 Flying Fortresses from Debden, England, across Europe to the Soviet Union. The bombers would then fly to Italy, bombing an oil refinery on the way. They would be accompanied by Blakeslee's fighters as far as the Yugoslav coast where P-51's from the Fifteenth Air Force, based in Italy, would take over. Again escorted by the Fourth, the B-17's would make their way home to England, bombing railroad yards in France en route. The operational diary of Blakeslee's Group shows that the entire Shuttle mission covered 6000 miles, 10 countries and 29 1/4 hours of operational flying for 10 destroyed and 7 lost. After briefing his fighter pilots, Blakeslee said: "This whole thing is for show." Indeed, it showed a lot: it showed that no target in Germany was safe from air attack; that Allied air supremacy was complete; that the end of the war in Europe was in sight!

Gil Cohen's powerful painting captures the historic scene at Piryatin airfield as Blakeslee is greeted by his Russian hosts. We see him pointing to his watch to indicate that he has landed 'on time to the minute' after his long flight of seven and a half hours across hostile Europe. Whilst the young woman welcomes Don with her simple bouquet of flowers, suspicion and wariness can be seen on the faces of the others present signaling the decades of Cold War to come between the two Superpowers.

Beautifully reproduced to the highest standard on top-quality acid-free paper, each print is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity and is an outstanding collector's item marking this great occasion in military aviation history.


SIGNATURES

Colonel Donald L. Blakeslee, Distinguished Service Cross with Clusters, Silver Star with Clusters, Legion of Merit, DFC with Seven Clusters, Air Medal with Seven Clusters, DFC (British), Croix de Guerre avec Palme (French). 1938 commissioned; 1940 RCAF; 1942 RAF 133 Eagle Squadron; 1942 USAAF Fourth Fighter Group, Debden; promoted to Commanding Officer in January 1944. Under his brilliant leadership the Group destroyed over 1000 enemy aircraft. In three and a half years, Blakeslee personally flew more than 500 combat missions. When Goering saw Mustangs over Berlin, he said: "We have lost the War!"

Gil Cohen, member of USAF Art Program, Vice President and Artist Fellow of the American Society of Aviation Artists. At the Society's 1990 convention, he received the prestigious award, 'Best of Show', for his painting entitled 'Coming Home/England 1943'. Whilst Gil's paintings reflect his profound interest in history, it is his sensitive portrayal of the human element - the nuances of facial expression and body posture - set against the background of wartime airfield activity, which brings each canvas to life. Because of this rare ability, Gil Cohen now ranks amongst the world's leading aviation artists.