Autographed by Alex Vraciu, Richard "Zeke" Cormier, Hamilton "Mac" McWhorter, Armistead "Chick" Smith.

L/E of 1000. Artist Proofs signed and numbered by the artist.

Size: 36" x 26"

Price: $225
(Artist Proofs)



Soon after dawn on June 19, 1944, the flight deck of the U.S.S. Lexington has become a frenzied blur of moving color. Blue-shirted plane handlers merge with the yellow of the plane directors, hookmen in green, chockmen in purple and firefighters in red all darting about readying aircraft for launching Pilots haul themselves into their cockpits and fire up their big radial engines, then, with a great howl of noise and rush of power, hurl themselves into the sky.

Radar has already picked up a large number of bogies approaching the American carrier force and TF-58 Commander, Rear Admiral Mitscher, has ordered every available Hellcat into the air. Immediately they are airborne, the Hellcat pilots will be vectored towards the intercept, 90 miles out the two mighty aerial forces will collide.

On that historic day, American Navy pilots ripped into wave after wave of enemy aircraft. As each new onslaught arrived there were more fighters there to meet them. Other squadrons joined in the melee and the radio circuits crackled with shouts, curses, warnings and cries of encouragement. "Hell this is like an old time turkey shoot!" yelled one pilot - and thus the battle became known as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.

By the late afternoon the sky over TF-58 was swept clear of enemy aircraft, two Japanese carriers had been sunk by submarines and an incredible 373 enemy planes shot down. Mitscher lost only 23 aircraft and not one of his task force was seriously damaged. The U.S. Navy pilots had won an historic victory that paved the way to the final onslaught upon Japan.

Seen hurtling off the deck of the U.S.S. Lexington in Nicolas Trudgian's highly dramatic painting is the F6F Hellcat of Lt. Alex Vraciu of Fighting Squadron VF-16. With 12 victories already to his credit, Vraciu would add a further 6 to his tally in the space of just 8 minutes on that momentous day.

Joining Alex Vraciu in signing Nick's remarkable new limited edition are three distinguished Navy Hellcat Aces, making this final print in Nick Trudgian's Classic Fighter Series, a true collectors item.


Commander ALEX VRACIU U.S.N.
Alex Vraciu first saw combat flying the F6F Hellcat off carriers with VF-6, becoming an Ace in January 1944. Transferring to VF-16 aboard U.S.S. Lexington his tally of victories continued to mount and during the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot he splashed six dive bombers in eight minutes, the following day adding a Zero, bringing his total to 19. His luck ran out in December 1944 when he was shot down strafing an airfield. Bailing out, he spent five weeks with Filipino guerrillas before meeting up with advancing Americans. He ended the war as the U.S. Navy's fourth highest Ace, and retired in 1963.

Richard Cormier served with UC-I aboard the U.S.S. Card in the Atlantic flying both the Wildcat and the Avenger, and was commended for an attack against a German U-boat. In March 1944 he was assigned to VF-80 flying the F6F Hellcat from the U.S.S. Ticonderoga during the campaign against the Philippine Islands, and in strikes against Iwo Jima and Okinawa. With 8 victories to his credit during World War 11, 'Zeke' Cormier flew in the Korean War and later as leader of the famous 'Blue Angels'. He retired from the Navy in 1964.

Hamilton McWhorter first saw combat with VF-9 flying the F4F Wildcat from the U.S.S. Ranger in strikes against Casablanca. Transferring in March 1943 to the new F6F Hellcat aboard the U.S.S. Essex in the Pacific, he participated in the strikes against Marcus, Wake, Marshall and Gilbert Islands, Rabaul, Truk - where he scored a triple victory in a few minutes, and Saipan. Joining VF-12, he took part in strikes on Tokyo in February 1945, and Iwo Jima and Okinawa. With 12 air victories in 89 combat missions, 'Mac' McWhorter was the first carrier-based pilot to become a F6F double Ace. He retired from the Navy in 1969.

After the North African invasion of 1942, 'Chick' Smith transferred with VF-9 to the Pacific in 1943 flying Hellcats from U.S.S. Essex. He participated in the carrier strikes against Wake, Marcus, the invasions of Tarawa and the Marshalls; and in the first carrier attacks against Truk and Saipan/Tinian. Becoming an Ace in 1944 he transferred to VBF-12 flying F6Fs in strikes against Tokyo, and the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In 87 combat missions he recorded 11 victories. 'Chick' Smith retired in 1972.