Debden Eagles (Artist Proof)

Price: $475.00








(Artist Proof Edition)
by John Shaw

Overall Print Size: 33" x 27"

Edition Size: 135

Click on the image above to view images of the companion print and booklet.

This ARTIST PROOF PACKAGE is a magnificent salute to Colonel Donald J.M. Blakeslee and the Famous 4th Fighter Group during World War II. It is a stunning depiction Blakeslee's P-51 Mustang against a dazzling blue sky.

The legacy of the famous 4th Fighter Group is a rich one; from their beginnings, consisting of a relatively small group of adventurous Ameri¬can pilots who joined the RAF before the United States' entry into WWII to be activated in September 1942 as the 'Eagle' Squadrons, to that of ultimately becoming the highest scoring fighter unit in the mighty Eighth Air Force in Europe. Based in Essex County at RAF Debden, the Fourth began in Spitfires, and transitioned to P-47 Thunderbolts in 1943. Their aircraft bore distinctive nose art and squadron IV markings: QP for the 334th, WD for the 335th, and VF for the 336th. Their stellar record, however, would begin forming when they began utilizing the P-51 Mustang under the brilliant leadership of Colonel Donald J.M. Blakeslee, from Fairport Harbor, Ohio. Already a proven combat pilot with several victories to his credit with the RCAF even before the Eagles were formed, Blakeslee aggressively and tirelessly led his unit against Germany, soon gaining the reputation as one of the finest fighter Group Commanders in the USAAF. Under Blakeslee's leadership and insistence on teamwork, the 4th would produce some of the War's greatest aces, among them names such as Don Gentile, John Godfrey, James Goodson, and many others. The 4th set a number of Fighter Group "firsts", such as being the first Mustangs to escort American bombers over Berlin, and flying the first long-range shuttle missions from England to Russia. By the end of WWII, the highly-decorated Fourth Fighter Group had been officially credited with destroying over 1,000 enemy aircraft. Their legacy continues today, as the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, NC, defending freedom around the world.

Don Blakeslee was born in Ohio in 1918, and aspired to fly after attending the Cleveland Air Races in 1938. He obtained a Piper Cub the following year (which a friend soon crashed), but war was now raging in Europe, and young Don had higher aspirations... His lust for flying and adventure and a burning desire to see Hitler's Germany dealt with. He headed for Canada and joined the RCAF. He soon proved himself in combat, achieving several aerial victories with Canadian and British squadrons, before being assigned to 133 Eagle Squadron in late 1942. When America officially entered the war, and the Eagles became the 4th Fighter Group, Blakeslee continued demonstrating great ability as 335 squadron leader and by May 1943 became 4th XO and Operations Officer. Always leading by example, his reputation was growing, and he was made Group CO by January 1, 1944, proclaiming his goal to make the 4th the US's highest-scoring fighter unit. Never one to stand on ceremony, Blakeslee's plane (WD-C) never sported nose art or 'kill' markings. In fact, he never paid much attention to personal scores (his official total was 17.5, but those who flew with him say this should be doubled). Blakeslee's wings were finally clipped toward the end of 1944, when 56th Fighter Group CO Hub Zemke was downed and captured. A Luftwaffe official reportedly stated that "now that they had Zemke, if they could get Blakeslee too, they might win the war!" Not willing to take this risk, his superiors made the decision to ground him. By war's end, Colonel Blakeslee had flown more combat hours than any other US pilot. He continued his career in the Air Force, flying F-84s in Korea, and retired after Vietnam in 1972, residing in the state of Florida until his death in 2008. His ashes are interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

In addition to the artist this print is individually signed in pencil by:

  • Colonel Donald J.M. Blakeslee
  • James Goodson

and 16 additional 4th Fighter Group Veterans:

  • Donald E. Allen
  • Vincent J. Baietti
  • Donald L. Groomer
  • Kenneth G. Helfrecht
  • Joseph W. Higgins
  • Sylvester Koenig
  • Charles Konsler
  • Andrew C. Lacy
  • Henry A. Lee
  • Paul J. Lucas
  • Cecil E. Manning
  • James W. Rathkey
  • Richard J. Reinbolt
  • George F. Russel
  • William G. Spencer
  • Lloyd W. Wallin

Included with this AP package is a special 16" x 20" black and white companion print featuring several sketches of Don Blakeslee and his P-51 Mustang.

Also included are a descriptive Certificate of Authenticity and an eight-page booklet/Historical Profile with a history of the 4th Fighter Group, a biography of Colonel Donald J.M. Blakeslee, and lots of great photos.