This image came from an idea I had for a while. I wanted to tie my beloved Oliver into something that had meaning to me. The idea was to place Oliver in a bomber jacket with a red scarf, flying in the wind. His cute fluffy hair blowing in the breeze. As I started editing the image, I started to think how much more it could be if I tied WWII and my grandfather’s history into it. So that is what I did.
Many see the depiction of the Red Baron (bomber jacket, goggles red scarf etc), on pizza boxes, Snoopy/Charlie Brown and so many different places. The history of the Red Baron is not as cute and cuddly. The Red Baron was actually a German Air Force pilot in WWI, Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen. He was an exceptional pilot and had many victories in the war (meaning successful bombing of his targets). The nickname came from him being so victories and the plane he flew actually being red. The death of the Red Baron has many questions but he passed in 1918.
Fast forward to Pearl Harbor and the beginning on WWII. My grandfather, Arnold Williams, “Pap” enlisted for the war. He became a bomber pilot for the Army Air Corp, at that time, the Air Force did not exist. Pap never spoke much about the war to us. In his later years, before his passing, he spoke some, even speaking at a Veterans Day event memorializing it.
On November 3, 1943, a crew was pieced together for a mission. Pap and the crew left heading to accomplish the mission in Bomb Boogies Revenge, that had just arrived in September. That day they would be shot down and landed in the cold sea west of Wilhelmshaven. Pap, Radio Operator Larry Yenchik and the Waist Gunner, Clarry Edwards were the only survivors out of the 10. They were pulled out of the sea by Germans and became Prisoners of War (POW). They were taken to Stalag Luft I in German. The three would remain there for 18 months. After returning from the war, Pap decided to go to College. He went to the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and graduated from their Pharmacy school. He married my grandmother, Patricia Parrott, “Gam”, who went through the war with him. I could only imagine her thoughts being at home and him being a POW, not knowing when or if he would come home.
With having lived through what he did, you would think he would have animosity or maybe PTSD. You never would have known he was in war or a POW. He had no hatred towards any one and he always said that those “Germans” that pulled him out of the sea, saved his life. He always said that Stalag Luft I was not that bad but anyone who has read history knows it was a bad POW camp. One time, kind of joking, he said he was going to complete his mission and then eat an apple that he had sitting on the dash of the plane. He said he never got to eat that apple, but he remembered it. Pap’s way of giving us a little laugh to a situation, I’m sure he really didn’t want to talk about. After my grandfather passed, my brother, found out more history about the war and Pap’s part in it. He finally found a picture of his plane and a picture of him and his actual crew. After my grandfather’s passing, going through his things, we found an old cigar box with a handkerchief in it. The handkerchief had a Nazi symbol on it and there was a used blue piece of what I would call thick chalk. There were more items in the cigar box as well, which I can remember but pertained to the war. I wondered if he brought those items back from the POW camp. We will never truly know but we have them.
In the picture, Oliver is wearing the famous bomber jacket with a red scarf, hat and goggles. The ocean is an ocean in the area where Pap went down in the winter. The plane in the sky, is one of the only pictures found of Bomb Boogies Revenge, the plane flown for Pap’s mission that day. I wanted a vintage feel to the photo with rich oranges and reds. So there is my vision, just that simple lol.