The Big Picture
In 1945 a lieutenant colonel gave S/Sgt. George C. Waldschmidt (325th Sq, togglier) a black and white photo of a B-17 and suggested he paint something like it on a wall in the 325th Squadron ready room. Waldschmidt scrounged up whatever enamal utility paint and brushes that he could and set to work on a 12-foot wide, 8-foot high mural. He worked on it whenever he wasn't flying missions.
The ready room was quite chilly. The paint got sticky and the brushes hard. And "...evidently," Waldschmidt said, "someone felt I was taking too long to finish the painting, and I found myself scrubbed from a mission with my crew. I got the message, finished the mural in a couple of days and was back flying again."
Waldschmidt used his own airplane in the mural: B-17 G-100-BO, 43-38877, NV Q.
When the war ended, the mural was forgotten. The ready room became a farmer's pig sty.
The mural was discovered again in the late sixties. A number of attempts were made to preserve it, but its size and the cost proved formidable.
Then came the Eighth Wall Art Conservation Society. The society had previously preserved a series of paintings at Bottisham, a former fighter field near Cambridge, by cutting the wall holding the paintings. Fund-raising began and the society set to work.
Disaster nearly ended the project when the pigs were moved out and the building hosed down for industrial use. The water reactivated the emulsion type paint, which started to flake off. In view of the very limited resources of the society, the project was scrapped.
The 92nd Bomb Group stepped in. Generous donations from the United States and Britain provided enough funds not only to remove and restore the painting, but to contribute toward the cost of displaying it at the Duxford Imperial War Museum.
The painting was moved from Podington by a flat bed truck provided by the United States Air Force in mid-October 1989. It was positioned onto a prepared base next to the Eighth Air Force's insignia display and buttress walls built around it.
Restoration was completed by artist Danny Darnell, who, as a young boy, worked at the Podington base's Red Cross Club.
You can visit Duxford's Web page at www.iwm.org.uk/duxford.htm.
(l to r) David Lee, Duxford Director; Hank Lapinski, pilot of Waldschmidt's plane; and John Mills, former president of 92nd Memorial Association - UK