In 2008 I was contacted by an associate of the VF-17. The gentleman is spearheading a number of projects regarding the history of the VF-17 "Jolly Rogers" fighting squadron of World War II fame. One of the projects involves the renaming of the Muskeegon County airport in Michigan after the squadron's top scoring ace, Ike Kepford. It is planned to rename the airport in the spring of 2008. The project not only includes new signs for the airport and vicinity but also for a 3/4 scale Corsair airplane to be put on display as well as a small museum in the airport dedicated to Ike Kepford and the VF-17 "Jolly Rogers".
A painting was commissioned for the museum which would depict the the VF-17 "Jolly Rogers" in action..The original idea was to create a painting featuring only Ike Kepford's airplane however through lengthy discussions during the planning phase of the work it was decided it would be a fitting tribute to also include the airplanes of the 4 surviving VF-17 pilots at that time: Mel "Kurly" Kurlander, William "Country" Landreth, Hal Jackson and Jack Chasnoff. Sadly, Jack Chasnoff passed away before the painting was completed.
I have the highest respect and gratitude for the men of the VF-17 as well as all the men and women of all the armed forces who served our great nation during it's time of greatest need. I wanted to be sure my depiction showed the men of the VF-17 for the experts they were in the cockpit of the Corsair.
We knew there were going to be five airplanes in the piece. The trick was to show them all so the numbers of each airplane would be large enough to be readily legible by the viewer. I also wanted to show each pilot in his "office" as best as possible. Various ideas and compositions were considered including scenes of harrowing combat. Scenes of combat are exciting for the viewer but do not always represent the happiest times for the men who had to do the fighting. Since this is a tribute, we thought it best to portray these men during a moment in which they would be experiencing joy flying the Corsair. The painting you see here is the result.