In this third instalment of our blog dedicated to the brave men of the 100th BG, I recall my recent visit to Thorpe Abbotts, home of the "Bloody Hundredth".

In October 2023 I had the honour of receiving a special invitation to the 100th Air Refuelling Wing at RAF Mildenhall. Despite being an RAF base in principle, it is in fact occupied by the United States Air Force and been since 1950.

As part of our affiliation with the 100th Bomb Group Foundation I was cordially invited to attend this special event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the infamous bombing mission on Munster, Germany. The 100th ARW is a direct descendant of the 100th BG designated by the 'Square D' on the tail plane. On the morning of the 10th October we attended the unveiling of two nose arts which had been painted on the noses of the massive KC-135 refuelling jets. These nose arts were done to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Munster bombing mission in which so many aircraft and men were lost.

This mission has gone down in history as one of the deadliest performed by the 8th Air Force in WWII. In fact the week on which it was performed came to be known as 'Black Week' as only two days before Munster another high loss mission was undertaken at Bremen. The 100th took a particular pasting on both missions. Already being dubbed as the 'hard luck group' due to their inordinately high losses the Group's reputation was sealed that week as they were nearly wiped out - earning them the nickname 'The Bloody Hundredth".

After the unveiling event we all moved onto the original 100th Bomb Group air base of WWII at Thorpe Abbotts. The control tower and some buildings are still there, all of which have been adopted by the 100th Bomb Group Foundation and turned into a museum. At this event there was a service, and the laying of wreaths by officers from the 100th ARW and other dignitaries, not least the last surviving (combat) original member of the 100th BG, John ‘Lucky’ Luckadoo.

John is now 102 and was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, March 16, 1922. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and joined the 100th Bomb Group as one of the original cadre of pilots. He served in both the 350th and 351st Bomb Squadrons and flew 25 combat missions. ‘Lucky' made the journey back to his former base – where he first set foot in 1943, at age 20 – to once again walk the familiar territory and to honour those Airmen who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I can only say I was in awe of this incredible man. Still moving under his own steam and not even wearing glasses, he spoke eloquently and clearly at the podium after the laying of wreaths at the Thorpe Abbotts museum. He recounted his wartime experience of being a co pilot on the Munster mission remembering the events in uncanny detail.

“I cannot possibly convey to you the feelings that I’m having, after being here 80 years ago on this day, at this spot. What we, and my generation, did from this base has become legendary. We have become accidental members of history. We were so young, so innocent, so gullible, and we had no clue as to what we were going to face when we came over here and crossed swords with the very formidable Luftwaffe – the most powerful air force in the world at the time. We were citizen soldiers; college kids being thrust into this position, to defend the freedoms and values that we cherished so dearly. Those of us who are fortunate to still remain, have serious doubts on what the present generation is doing to our country – and I say this with great sadness and great trepidation as a warning that freedom is never free. It demands constant vigilance, protection and determination to preserve it, and we have to do everything in our power as individuals to do so, because we took an oath – and many of our countrymen take an oath – to protect our country from both outside and within. We all meet challenges, and certainly we were forced from this base 80 years ago, and I stand before you today merely because I was uncommonly blessed – with a guardian angel on each shoulder – to have survived. My comrades are the heroes; those who did survive are just ‘Damn Lucky!’ There’s no other way to explain it – we were just in the right place at the right time.”

The wonderful museum at Thorpe Abbotts is a literal treasure trove of 100th related ephemera. Numerous original crew members flight jackets are on display (see above) along with other apparel, personal items and unit related items. I also had the honour of presenting the Foundation with one of our own Eastman 100th BG Elite Units reproductions.

The event came along just around the same time as AppleTV announced the release date of the Masters of the Air series. The production of which we were enormously proud and honoured to be selected as the leading supplier of flight jackets.

My thanks goes to Mike Faley of the 100th BG Foundation, the 100th BG Museum and the 100th Air Refuelling Wing for their kind invitation to honour this great unit.

MASTERS OF THE AIR premiers today on AppleTV+, don't miss it!

In this second instalment of our “Bloody Hundredth” blog, we focus on some of the most well known personalities within the 100th, all of whom feature in the forthcoming Apple TV+ series Masters of the Air.

Colonel Neil “Chick” Harding

Colonel Neil “Chick” Harding, (played by James Murray in MotA) was a West Point graduate and the school’s football coach before the war. A veteran of the interwar public relations flights to South America proving the efficacy of airpower, Harding was a seasoned aviator who emulated much of the attitude of the 100th. Short, round, and affable, he was a popular figure. With a distinct penchant for alcohol, he was no disciplinarian, and often viewed fistfights and emotional outbursts as a way to release the strain of combat. Understanding the human element of war, he was fond of saying his men were made of “flesh and brain” and exhibited an appreciation for his crew’s mental and emotional well-being. Given this disposition and concern, he was widely respected by the command and saw it through some of its darkest days.

Major John “Bucky” Egan and Major Gale “Buck” Cleven

Two of the squadron commanders, Majors John “Bucky” Egan (played by Callum Turner) of the 418th Bomb Squadron (BS) and Gale “Buck” Cleven (played by Austin Butler) of the 350th, exuded the dash and audacity often associated with aviators. Their skills as pilots were matched by their personalities. Both were described as “debonair”; with white scarves and a Hollywood swagger, they were frequently the centre of attention at the Silver Wings officers club. Larger than life, other pilots idolised them as both served as the “heart and soul” of the Group. As later described by navigator Harry Crosby in his book “A Wing and a Prayer”, Egan and Cleven were “….Air Corps raunch, their hats cocked on the back of their heads, ...both wearing white scarves, the souls of romanticism....they hated discipline”.

Major John “Bucky” Egan

“Bucky” Egan was the epitome of the devil-may-care wartime bomber pilot, wearing his hat askew, often sporting a moustache. "He could turn on the charm and turn it off whenever he liked” and was often seen on base wearing a fez he'd procured while on the Regensburg Shuttle mission to Africa. Egan had started out a Flying Cadet at Randolph Field Texas and in his trademark B-3 sheepskin flight jacket, flew on numerous combat missions with the 100th, usually in the co-pilot's seat.

Major Gale “Buck” Cleven

Gale “Buck” Cleven wasn't just popular with his comrades, he was also well liked by the locals, regularly frequenting the pub in Dickleburgh, where he drank and sang songs in the bar with the villagers. When then-Brigadier General Curtis LeMay, Commander of the 3rd Air Division, came for an inspection of the 350th, Cleven was absent. When LeMay inquired as to the squadron commander’s whereabouts, the senior enlisted airmen reported that Cleven had “taken to the woods.” Cleven was in fact holed up in his favourite pub. The character and antics of Egan and Cleven, combined with Harding’s style of command, set the tone for the 100th during the early days of combat.

Major Harry Crosby

The aforementioned Major Harry Crosby (played by Anthony Boyle) was a self described “romantic at heart” and well known at Thorpe Abbotts for listening to classical music. Crosby was the lead navigator for a mission over the Ruhr Valley, but when the primary target was obscured by clouds, unable to drop their bombs, the formation proceeded to the next target available, the city of Bonn. At 25,000 feet, as the formation lined up at the initial point for the bomb run, Crosby realised it was where Beethoven had attended school. With this epiphany, he called over the plane’s intercom, “…we can’t bomb Bonn!” As a result, 63 B-17s flew over the target with bomb bay doors open and none of them dropping their payloads. He then provided a new heading and set course for the marshalling yards in Cologne. When General Curtis LeMay, Commander of the 3rd Air Division, was informed of Crosby’s action, Col. Harding asked the General if he wanted to talk to the tender-hearted navigator. LeMay replied, “No, for Christ’s sake, keep him out of my sight!”

1st Lt Owen “Cowboy” Roane with Mo

1st Lt Owen “Cowboy” Roane was another standout character in the 100th. After a shuttle mission went awry, the squadron landed in Africa, where the unit found spartan accommodation and eventually pieced itself back together for the return home. Before departure, Roane, flying in a B-17 named Laden Maden, acquired a miniature donkey and decided to make the animal a mascot. He smuggled the mule aboard and wrapped it in blankets to keep it warm while at altitude. Upon approach to the airfield at Thorpe Abbotts, Roane radioed, “I’m coming in with a frozen ass!” Upon landing, the bomber was met by ambulances thinking the crew had frostbite injuries. Opening the plane’s hatch, the only frozen passenger was a tiny African ass named “Mohammed” (Mo for short)! This was a serious breach of British customs and agricultural law, and host nation officials did not find it a laughing matter. Despite the legal wrangling, the matter was finally settled when the donkey eventually succumbed to the vagaries of English weather.

Lt Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal

Possibly the most famous of the 100th personnel was Lt Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal (played by Nate Mann). Described as a reflective and scholarly man, at 25, “Rosie” was older than most of the pilots and had trained as a lawyer at a large Manhattan law firm before enlisting. More importantly, he was Jewish and, clearly understanding the Nazi threat, he saw his service as a moral obligation. Rosenthal joined the 100th Bomb Group in August 1943, and on his third mission, was the only pilot to safely return to base following the Munster raid on 10 October 1943.

He later said, “In a situation like that you don’t think about dying. You focus on what you have to do to save the plane and crew…. You’re frightened, but there’s a difference between fear and panic. Panic paralyses, fear energises…. Truthfully, the only fear I ever experienced in the war was fear that I would let my crew down.”

Rosenthal was shot down in France in September 1944, but evaded capture and returned to duty. He was also shot down over Berlin in February 1945 and was picked up by the Red Army. He again returned to duty, flying one further mission. In total, Rosenthal flew 52 combat missions, earning sixteen awards.

After the war and still searching for justice, Rosenthal returned to Europe in 1946 to work on the US prosecution team during the Nuremberg trials.

In the third instalment of our tribute to the “Bloody Hundredth” I take a visit to Thorpe Abbotts on the 80th anniversary of “Black Week” and have the honour of meeting one of the last surviving members of the 100th, Major John “Lucky” Luckadoo.

It’s safe to say we’re extremely proud here at ELC to be the official supplier of flight jackets and other apparel for the new Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks production “Masters of the Air”, streaming soon on Apple TV+. As the series launch approaches, we’re taking a deep dive into the history of the heroic USAAF unit and men that inspired the epic production.

In most military services, there are often units that stand out as unlucky or unfortunate. Either by mission, assignment, or the fates, such units usually go on to achieve a legendary and revered status. The US Army’s 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne, USS Indianapolis after delivering the atomic bomb to Tinian, or the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal, are all examples of military units experiencing particularly exceptional hardship. For the US Army Air Forces during World War II, this kind of reputation was earned by members of the Eight Air Force's 100th Bombardment Group.

The 100th or “Century Bombers” as they would later refer to themselves, consisted of 4 Squardons of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress' (the 349th, 350th 351st & 418th), their “Square D" insignia being the only World War II USAAF tail flash to survive in the present-day U.S. Air Force. Rendered on the vertical stabilisers of its B-17s, the large tail fins of which made an excellent canvas for the bold “D” on a square background, the 100th proudly wore the emblem into battle.

As a part of the Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO) over Europe, the members of the 100th were both respected and pitied by fellow bomber crews. The Group’s reputation was well known throughout Bomber Command as a jinxed unit, with the chances of surviving a tour of 25 missions appearing as a dim possibility. Highlighting this expectation, a new airman assigned to the 100th in late 1943, told a companion, “I’m not going to make it…they just put me in the 100th Group. I haven’t got a chance.”

The 100th arrived in England in June 1943, one of the dozens of heavy bomber groups comprising the Eighth Air Force’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd air divisions. After a brief stay at an incomplete airbase in Podington, they set up shop at Thorpe Abbotts airfield in East Anglia. From here the Group’s airmen began flying over England and the Channel to get the lay of the land as they prepared for their first mission over enemy territory.

The Group flew its first mission on June 22nd 1943, but it was merely a diversion flight over the North Sea. Three days later they took off from Thorpe Abbotts on their maiden combat mission, a raid on the U-Boat pens at Bremen, Germany. Flying in a formation comprised of 275 bombers, the 100th sent 17 B-17 crews, who sighted their first German fighters while also receiving their initial barrage of ground-based Luftwaffe flak. In total, 18 bombers were lost, with the 100th losing 3. The baptism by fire had a sobering effect as the Group’s downed aircraft each took 10 men with them. Killed or captured, the loss of 30 airmen underscored the deadly and unforgiving nature of the air war. This first mission would fuel the beginning of the Group’s reputation as a “hard-luck unit”. As the losses and sacrifices grew, they would go on to become known as the “Bloody Hundredth.”

Soon after, the 100th would take part in a 12-hour mission to bomb German U-Boat pens in Trondheim, Norway. Because the majority of the 1,900-mile flight was over the waters of the North Sea, lead navigator, 1st Lt Harry Crosby, was unable to make pilotage checks of off ground references, meaning the young navigator felt the full weight of his responsibilities leading the 63-plane formation. Fortunately, Crosby’s calculations were accurate, and the bombers hit the target. On the way home, Crosby deviated from the planned route due to weather and then realised he did not make the required radio/position reports. Upon landing, he was summoned to the Group operations hut, expecting to be in line for a court martial. However, his radio silence and change in the return route prevented German interceptors from getting a fix on the bomber formation, and in an ironic twist of fate, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions that day.

On August 17th, the 100th participated in one of its bloodiest missions that would begin to cement its infamous reputation. The Group flew to Regensburg for the first time, their mission, to target a factory where Messerschmitt Me-109s fighters were assembled. The mission required the coordination of two separate masses of Eighth Air Force bombers, one to Regensburg and the other headed to Schweinfurt and its ball-bearing works with Republic P-47 escorts. The Regensburg-bound bombers would then fly to North Africa and return to England at a later date.

However, the 100th was left unescorted when one of the P-47 units never appeared. Flying in the low and trailing squadron in the larger bomber formation, in what was afforded the darkly humorous nickname "Purple Heart Corner", the 100th were in the location that the German fighters often attacked first. While the Division successfully hit the target, the Regensberg force lost 24 bombers. Of the 100th's 220 airmen in 22 B-17s launched that day, 90 of those men and 9 Fortresses didn't return.

418th Bomb Squadron navigator Harry H. Crosby later remembered “what seemed to be the whole German Air Force came up and began to riddle our whole task force. As other planes were hit, we had to fly through their debris. I instinctively ducked as we almost hit an escape hatch from a plane ahead. When a plane blew up, we saw their parts all over the sky. We smashed into some of the pieces. One plane hit a body which tumbled out of a plane ahead.”

The Group’s reputation was sealed in the second week of October 1943, during missions to Bremen and Munster. On October 8th, 100th pilot John “Lucky” Luckadoo put his nickname to the test over Bremen. By this point in the war, German fighter pilots had worked out an effective method of taking down numerous aircraft in one action. They would get out in front of the bomber formation — 25 or 30 Focke-Wulfs or Messer­schmitts wide — and spray the formation with cannon fire, rockets and machine guns. As a result, the 100th suffered tremendous fatalities. Seven B-17s were lost and 72 aircrew died on the Bremen mission.

However, it was the Munster raid of October 10th, 2 days later, that finally cemented the 100th ‘s terrible renown. While en route to the target, the Group experienced the most violent Luftwaffe attacks yet seen as bombers took hits from both flak and fighter planes. As the formation made its way to the initial point, planes of the 100th were downed one by one. Only 1st Lt Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal’s aircraft “Rosie’s Riveters” made it to the target. With his own plane hit, he continued the bomb run. He dropped his payload while also losing two engines, the intercom, and oxygen systems. The losses on the Munster mission were devastating: 12 aircraft and 121 men. Only “Rosie’s Riveters” returned to Thorpe Abbotts that day.

Several days after these disastrous missions, the 100th was able to muster only 8 aircraft for a raid that nearly broke the back of the Eighth Air Force. October 14th, 1943, became known as “Black Thursday.” On that autumn day, 291 B-17s assembled to make a second raid on the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt. American losses were unacceptable: 60 aircraft shot down, 17 written off and more than 100 others damaged. In a twist of fate that served to highlight the randomness inherent in war, the 100th Bomb Group emerged comparatively unscathed that dreadful day. All of the eight B-17s that it contributed to the mission returned to Thorpe Abbotts.

The October 1943 missions wound up being among the last bombing raids deep into German airspace that the Eighth Air Force flew without end-to-end fighter escort. Commander of the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring had once pompously bragged that Allied bombers would never be seen in the skies over Germany. By March 4th, 1944, Allied bombers weren’t just flying over Germany, they flew all the way to Berlin. On that date, the 100th and their friends in the 95th Bomb Group became the first fliers to successfully bomb the German capital. For its efforts, the 100th was later awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. Two days after this raid, they returned to Berlin on their 81st mission of the war. As they approached the target, an electrical equipment factory, they were met by swarms of German fighter planes. They would suffer a devastating loss of 15 aircraft and 150 crewman, ranking among the Groups highest.

The 100th Bomb Group flew its final combat mission on April 20th, 1945, just days before the cessation of hostilities in Europe. As the war in Europe wound down, the 100th and numerous other Eighth Air Force bomber groups celebrated the weeks leading up to V-E Day on May 8th by exchanging their 500-pound general purpose bombs for containers of food, medical supplies, clothing, chocolate and cigarettes. The so-called “Chowhound” missions dropped thousands of tons of supplies to the long-suffering people of the Netherlands and France. So many 100th fliers wanted to be a part of the humanitarian efforts that the oxygen systems, unnecessary at low level, were removed from the B-17s, freeing up room for as many as four extra crewmen on each plane. The missions helped the 100th put a positive spin on what had been a harrowing experience.

While the 100th earned its reputation as a hard-luck unit over the course of the war, it was really the terrible losses of the Regensburg and Munster raids that created a perception that was hard to shake. In addition to those missions, the colourful personalities and Hollywood swagger of the men that filled the ranks of the unit also added to its unique reputation. Men like Chick Harding, “Lucky” Luckadoo, the two “Bucks” - John “Bucky” Egan and Gale “Bucky” Cleven, “Cowboy” Roane, Harry Crosby, and “Rosie” Rosenthal all added to the unit’s distinct history and reputation. In the next ELC blog instalment we’ll take a closer look at these personalities who braved the air over Europe with the “Bloody Hundredth”.

Like numerous other WWII aviation aficionados, here at Eastman we have an ongoing fascination with the USAAF 100th Bombardment Group - or ‘Bloody Hundredth’ as they came to be known due to a reputation for unusually high loses.

Such is the enchantment with the brave men of the 100th, the forthcoming and much discussed Steven Spielberg / Tom Hanks / Apple mini-series ‘Masters Of The Air’ is a dramatisation of their story. Based on the book of the same name by Donald Miller, it follows their incredible and harrowing story as they fly mission after mission into occupied Europe. We’re very pleased to say that we were selected by the production for supply of the flight jackets and other related garments for use in the production, which is provisionally set to air in January 2024.

As part of the extensive Eastman collection, we have General Harold Q. Huglin’s original wartime A-2 jacket and uniform on display at the Eastman showroom. Huglin was commander of the 100th itself for a short period, and then went on to command the 13th Combat Wing, of which the 100th was a part. Huglin was known for his obsession with statistics, and kept his own very detailed records of how his groups performed within themselves, and between each other. In the 1949 film ’12 O’Clock High’, a fictitious wartime ‘hard-luck’ bomber group (the 918th) which was experiencing unusually high loses and had become very low in morale, was supposedly loosely based on the 100th. The new commanding officer (General Savage, played by Gregory Peck) who was sent to sort them out, was an amalgamation of several senior officers including Huglin.

He was promoted to Brigadier General on 23 January 1945, and for his service in Europe with the Eighth Air Force, during which he flew nine combat missions, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal and the Commendation Ribbon with two Oak Leaf Clusters. His citation for the Distinguished Flying Cross read:

For extraordinary achievement while serving as Commander in the Air of a Wing of B-17 aircraft on a heavy bombardment mission against the enemy over Germany, 5 August 1944. The Target on this very deep penetration into enemy territory was an important aircraft and motor works plant at Magdeburg, Germany. Under Colonel Huglin's efficient direction, wing assembly was made and a superior formation maintained throughout the mission. Intense, accurate anti-aircraft fire was encountered over Magdeburg, but despite this and the added difficulty of clouds obscuring the target, Colonel Huglin led his formation directly to the target. The success obtained on this operation was largely due to the superb leadership of Colonel Huglin. His action on this occasion reflects the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.

The ‘Bloody Hundredths’ story began at Orlando Army Base, Florida on June 1st, 1942, but it would not be until October 27th, 1942, that the full complement of personnel populated the unit. The Group was officially activated on November 14th, 1942, when Col. Darr Alkire became the group’s first Commanding Officer. In December, during their second phase of training, the total strength of the Group was 37 crews, with ten men on each crew. They trained at Walla Walla Washington, Wendover Field-Utah, Sioux City-Iowa, and Kearney-Nebraska.

Once their training was completed, they were assigned to combat status and flew to England on May 25, 1943 to participate in the day-light precision bombing campaign of Germany. They arrived at Station 139, Thorpe Abbotts near Diss in Norfolk on June 8th, 1943. Three days later, Huglin, who was at that time a Colonel, was given command of the group which became combat operational on June 25th, 1943, and unofficially gave itself the additional designation of ‘Century Bombers’. After their first mission however, any sense of adventure and bravado soon came to a halt as three planes with their crews (30 men) were lost over Bremen.
That first mission was their baptism of fire, literally. By the end of the day the grim reality of air-war and day-light precision bombing was seared into the young mens minds as they got their first taste of what is was like to lose fellow comrades who they had trained, sweated and laughed with up to then - including pilot Oran Petrich and his crew - one of the first assigned to the 100th. The group acquired its reputation as a ‘hard-luck’ unit very early in its operations, for which it became infamously known as the ‘Bloody 100th’. The average life expectancy of an 8th Air Force B-17 crewman in 1943 was eleven missions!

On July 2nd, 1943, Col. Neil B ‘Chick’ Harding assumed command of the Group with Col. Huglin being moved up the echelon to the 13th Combat Wing HQ which comprised bomb groups 95th, 100th and 390th. ‘Chick’ would command the 100th until March 7th, 1944, and by which time the unit had already become legendary. From June 25th, 1943, until April 20th 1945, the 100th Bomb Group would never go off operational status due to losses.

Their glowing combat record included the following:

From June 1943 to January 1944 the unit concentrated its efforts against airfields, submarine facilities and aircraft industries in France and Germany. During this time they were involved in the epic air battles over Regensburg - Aug.17th, 1943 (for which it received its first Presidential Unit Citation) and ‘Black Week’ - October 8th-14th, 1943 (Bremen, Munster, Marienburg and Schweinfurt - nicknamed ‘Black Thursday’ because the 8th Air Force lost 60 bombers). It also led the bombing of Rujkan in Norway, which delayed the manufacture of heavy water for the German atomic bomb.

From January to May 1944, the Group bombed enemy airfields, industrial areas, marshalling yards and V-1 missile sites, including participation in the allied campaign against enemy aircraft factories during ‘Big Week’, February 20th-25th, 1944. It participated in the first daylight raid against Berlin (March 4th, 1944) and completed a series of attacks against that city on March 6th and 8th, 1944, for which the 100th was awarded a second Presidential Unit Citation. The Group also lost their beloved Col. Harding who was relieved of command due to illness, and his replacement Colonel Robert H. Kelly (KIA) who was shot down on his first mission April 28th, 1944 one week after taking command.
In the summer of 1944 oil installations became the major target. The Group also engaged in support and interdictory missions, hitting bridges and gun positions in preparation for the Normandy invasion in June 1944. On June 6th, 1944 (D-Day), the Group flew 3 missions in support of the ground troops. Later that month the 100th participated in the first Russian shuttle-mission led by new Group C.O. Colonel Thomas S. Jeffrey.

From July to September 1944 the 100th struck at enemy positions in St. Lo and Brest and concentrated on the oil refineries at Merseburg, Ruhland, Politz and Hamburg and flew a second Russian shuttle mission along with two low level supply drops to the French Maquis. For attacking heavily defended German installations and dropping supplies to the French Forces of the Interior they received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.

In October to December 1944, they attacked transportation, oil refineries and ground defences in the drive against the Siegfried Line. They were involved in the December 24, 1944 mission to attack communication centres and airfields in the Ardennes sector during the Battle of the Bulge. On February 2, 1945, Colonel Frederick J. Sutterlin took command and would remain there until after the end of the War. On Feb 3rd, 1945 they led the entire third Air Division on a mission to Berlin. Leading the group was Major Robert ‘Rosie’ Rosenthal flying his 52nd Mission. Along with John Egan and Gale Cleven, Rosie was one of the greatly respected and inspirational leaders in the unit.

From January to April 1945, the Group concentrated on marshalling yards, bridges, factories, docks, oil refineries and ground support (including the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945). By March 1945 the Luftwaffe was a limited but effective force and used both ME 262 jet fighters and ramming techniques to try and thwart the 100th Bomb Group and the 8th Air Force’s continual bombing. On April 20, 1945, the 100th Bomb Group flew its last combat mission to Oranienburg (Berlin) with no losses,

The following month the 100th's aircrews dropped food to the people in the west of the Netherlands, and in June transported French Allied former prisoners of war from Austria to France. In December 1945, the group returned to the U.S., where it was deactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, on 21st December 1945.

The bravery and reputation of the 100th is now legendary, and while many deemed the unit an unlucky group to be stationed to, Major John Bennett summed it up best when he said: “what the 100th lacks in luck it makes up for in courage. The men of the Century Bombers have fighting hearts.”

The Second World War is a fascinating period of history, and it has an innumerable amount of incredible stories. One of these unbelievable tales involves a soldier of Korean descent who fought and bled for three different countries: Japan, the USSR, and Nazi Germany. Even upon his final capture, it was initially believed that he was a Japanese soldier in a German uniform.

Yang Kyoungjong’s story begins in 1938. He was 18 years old and living in Manchuria, which was occupied by Japan from 1931 until the end of the Word War II. Korea was used as a breadbasket and a pool of manpower to fuel Japan’s conquests. Additionally, young Korean men were frequently conscripted into the Japanese military and used as occupation troops in captured Chinese territories. Japan invaded China in 1932 following several trumped-up border incidents. After conquering large swathes of the countryside, Japan installed a puppet government in Manchuria. The puppet government’s desire to increase its territory ran afoul of Soviet Russia and a number of border incidents were soon followed by battles at Khalkhin Gol and Nomonhan.

With the inception of World War II, Kyoungjong was immediately conscripted by the Imperial Japanese Army into Japan’s Kwantung army division to fight against the USSR to the north of Manchuria. At the time, the Kwantung division was the largest and most prestigious of all of Japan’s forces. Kyoungjong was taken as a prisoner of war by the Red Army during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. This intense struggle between the two powers ultimately raged from May until September 1939, involving over 100,000 troops and 1,000 tanks and aircraft. A staggering figure of 30,000 - 50,000 men were wounded or killed. And in the final climactic battle on August 31, 1939, the Japanese were crushed.

Yang Kyoungjong’s fate thus fell into Soviet hands, as he was then shipped off to a labor camp. However, due to a shortage of manpower, the USSR forced whoever they could into military service, which meant Kyoungjong entered the fray as a Red soldier. After a year, Kyoungjong was once again taken as a prisoner of war by the Germans at the Third Battle of Kharkov. Arguably in this single battle, the Germans were able to prevent large swaths of the Ukraine from being lost to the Soviets, and it is considered a major victory for the Germans on the Eastern front.

However, the Germans were not immune to military losses, and they struggled with a shortage of manpower. Kyoungjong again found himself as a prisoner of war, this time drafted as a provisional soldier fighting alongside German forces. The Germans had a history of conscripting captured men into their army. Whether by choice or by force, it formed an essential source of manpower in the Second World War. The German army had two classes of foreign conscripts – fighting men and so-called hilfswillige, or “Hiwis” who were volunteers to help in mostly non-combat roles. Hiwis were usually used as supply troops or as construction labor. Unfortunately, as the war went on many of the Hiwis would be pressed into combat roles.

In 1944, he was transported even farther west to France. There, he joined the 709 Infanterie Division and was posted to defend the port of Cherbourg, in Normandy, on D-Day. Fatefully, Kyoungjong would fight against the Allied forces in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. As the Allies successfully took over the beaches, Yang was captured once again, this time by British forces. He spent some time in an English prisoner of war camp before being sent to a camp in the United States, where he’d spend the rest of the war. The war over and no longer a prisoner, Yang had almost been shipped around the entire globe. He decided to stay in the United States, becoming a citizen and living out the rest of his life there until he died in Illinois in 1992.

For years, the famous photo that supposedly depicts a captured Kyoungjong in a Wehrmacht uniform was labelled in the US National Archives as “Japanese man.” Some historians and a South Korean documentary team tasked with investigating his story concluded that they couldn’t identify the prisoner in the photo. While historians have found that Korean nationals were conscripted in the German army, some believe Yang’s story was created from thin air as a way to solidify the mythos of the “Japanese man” in the photo.

True or not, Yang Kyoungjong’s unwitting journey from Korea, to Northern China, to Ukraine and finally to France is a perfect representation of just how sprawling the Second World War was, and how so many people’s lives were changed and displaced forever. We might never learn what really happened to him, or if he existed at all, but the story of the unwitting soldier who fought for three armies rings true to many, even now.

Perhaps no other motorcycle in the history of off-road racing made such an impact as the Husqvarna 250. In 1966 the 250 Husqvarna was the lightest, fastest motocross/off-road bike in the world, and would be introduced to the United States at the hands of Swedish rider Torsten Hallman. Hallman and his Husky would have such an effect on the sport that actor and racing enthusiast Steve McQueen would subsequently use a the same machine in Bruce Brown's seminal motocross movie On Any Sunday. The word was out on the Husky, and there was no doubt what bike the experts would be riding in 1967. In 1966 a 250 Husqvarna cost $969. Translated into 2022 dollars that’s about ten thousand bucks. Expensive for a dirt bike of the time, but if you wanted the best, you paid for it. The 1967 MF series 250cc Husqvarna was a true inspiration for dirt bikers of the time. With a bolt-together chrome molly frame, fast tractable motor, and light weight, it was years ahead of the competition, which were mostly overweight underpowered four strokes like the BSA 250. Torsten Hallman won the World Championship 250 class in 1966 and ‘67 on his factory Husky.

Torsten Hallman's physical excellence, determination and swift reactions in combination with years of experience made all the difference in his riding. No surprise that this Swedish wonderboy left the motocross scene with nine world scalps under his belt, including five team titles. Hallman grew up on a farm in Skyttorp near Uppsala in mid-Sweden, where his father had a mechanical shop. His early world consisted of pistons, cylinders and chains, in his hometown 80 km north of Stockholm, there was a motorcycle shop where his father had spent a fortune for racing activities. The "Nyman" company had some 30 sponsored riders and Hallman passed this place every day going to school. Thirteen years old, "Totte" stole the bike of his older brother Hans in order to get cross-country experience.

In the beginning Hans was furious, but seeing younger Torsten develop, he soon became an admirer and was proud of his progress. In fact, Hans soon followed his brother to races acting as mechanic and cheerleader - in that order! Torsten's first bike was a 98cc DKW, which according to him "was the best bike available then". But it broke down after rugged treatment from Torsten and it was exchanged for a 125cc Royal Enfield. It didn't take long before "Totte" was discovered by opposition and admirers. In 1957 he had his first racing license and Torsten won his class in his debut enduro, coming in 5th overall at this major Swedish race.

Hallman was often mixed up with Hans: "it was good for my career", says Torsten, "I could develop as a rider without people noticing". This became evident in a 1957 MX race in northern Sweden where Torsten battled newborn star Rolf Tibblin: "We changed places several times before and Rolf was determined to overtake me in a steep hill on the last lap. But I closed the door so he finished behind me". After the race Tibblin went to Hans and complained. Hans was 6th in the race and did not understand what Tibblin talked about. "You must speak to my little brother, Torsten", he finally answered. Rolf went to Torsten and said: "I didn't know Hans had a little brother who is so fast ... "

After ten years of motocross with factory support from Husqvarna Torsten Hallman won his first world championship title in 1962 in the 250 cc class. He doubled his efforts and repeated his world victory in 1963. In 1966 Hallman crossed the Atlantic after his championship series and effectively introduced motocross to the USA. It was his intention to engage in some PR activities for Sweden's weapons factory with which he had a full time contract. Husqvarna had decided to ship 75 machines to the United States and needed publicity in order to sell them quickly. Hallman said, “I received an approval from the factory three weeks before my flight was due to leave. The media were writing about this trip and there was even television coverage before I left. This only made it more interesting for me. Flying was nothing new to me but I had never before been away from home for so long. This made it a bit strange to be boarding the plane for the Atlantic flight."

In the United States there was already an importer who lived on the west coast. His name was Edison Dye and he was to meet Hallman at the airport in San Diego in southern California. However, due to the time difference Hallman had made a mistake and arrived a day early. On top of this, the plane was redirected after bad weather prevented it from landing at the airport. When he got off the plane there were soldiers and machine guns everywhere. "I knew that the U.S. was a tough country, but wasn't this a bit overdoing it at an airport? Finally, I found out that we had landed at a military base airport and this explained everything.”

After a few days rest it was time for Hallman to make his race debut in the US. His first event was in Jackson in the north of the state of California. It was the first time Hallman had been confronted by the desert and it made a big impression on him even if riding in the sand was nothing new to him. "It felt like being in another world.” Hallman recalled. Then just before the start it started to rain heavily. The small ghost town of Jacksonville was soon transformed to a real mud bath.

Torsten: “I thought it was warm and hot in the U.S. and I hadn’t brought clothing for wet weather riding. A few T-shirts was all I had and shortly before the start I managed to borrow some clothes from another rider so I wouldn’t catch a cold. There were between 200 and 250 riders at the start and when the flag dropped, my engine wouldn't start. This is a nice stunt of PR, I thought. But I kicked it a few times, it fired up and after a while I had passed all the riders except one. It was Dick Mann who was leading the large field and I decided to ride behind this fantastic all-round competitor who had already won most trophies in the country. Then as we approached the finish I went past him big time, since I was beginning to feel cold and didn't want to lose my pace. I won the race with a good margin and Dick was one of those who came to congratulate me.”

The importer was of course was delighted with this result and soon there was a close friendship and business relationship between Hallman and Dye. The press were also rather overwhelmed that this unknown blonde Swede had so much success. Despite the fact that he had won the world championship, motocross was still new to this vast continent. But, as many said, one victory could easily be a coincidence and the Americans were already convinced that the next races would be a different story. They soon had to reconsider. Torsten competed in nine events in the US in the autumn of 1966 and sometimes he raced six heats in a single day. The two biggest events during his trip were the Dirt Diggers Grand Prix and Corregeanville Grand Prix. These races would later be known as the Hopetown events and both had riders competing in the 250 and the 500 cc classes. In Corregeanville there were almost 800 riders on the starting line and the first prize was a check for 800 dollars. When everything was calculated at the end of the two-month period, Torsten had contested nine races and a total of 23 heats. He had won them all and the Swede was now well known all over the country. This was naturally a huge positive promotion for the Husqvarna brand. Suddenly everybody was looking for the Swedish winning machine because surely the victories had a lot to do with the excellent performance of this extraordinary bike! But it was above all Torsten Hallman who was the celebrated hero. Now Hallman & Dye were already talking about coming back the following year for another showdown.

Torsten Hallman had competed with "Husky number one" in USA, the very first Swedish motocross motorcycle to be exported to the USA. The machine was absolutely standard and had come straight off the factory assembly line. “All the time I kept saying my bike was for some reasons not entirely up to standard,” Torsten remembers, and one day an MX dealer came to me and asked for a test ride after the event was over. He said he wanted to know whether it would be worthwhile to market Husqvarna in his dealership. During all the races I had been able to take it relatively easy at a decent pace because the competition was not very strong. I was therefore able to ‘save’ my machine, which was more or less ready for a major overhaul. In Pepperell, Massachusetts I had to race with a faulty front wheel in the final part of the race but I managed to make it to the finish line and won even though I had slowed down in the last stages. The dealer who tried my machine was totally convinced that my Husqvarna was unique but he soon changed his mind after the rear wheel collapsed when he had only finished half a lap on the motocross track. At the same time he also realized that the clutch was slipping. This dealer subsequently became one of Husqvarna's best salesmen in the US market.

One of his most thrilling moments, however, came in 1968 during the deciding race held in Klagenfurt, Austria. Torsten came close to winning his 5th individual title but lost it in the last moment with a rear wheel puncture. "Coming second is like being the first loser", he sighed after the race...

The photographs in this piece were all shot by Justyn Norek, a good friend of Torsten Hallman, who as a motocross GP photographer during the 1960s and 70s shot Hallman and many other Husqvarna riders. Mr Norek kindly allowed us to reproduce his photographs here.

Native service presents a paradox to non-Natives. Why would they fight for America, which has a long history of colonising, massacres and breaking treaty promises? As in other communities, military service is viewed as an honourable tradition by many Native families and tribes. And Native people join for the same reasons as anyone else - to learn a trade, get an education, experience the thrill of piloting a jet, explore new life horizons, strike a blow for gender equality. However, for most it is also a way out of desperate poverty.

The history of service for many Indigenous people is tied to their love of homeland—which, after all, was theirs long before colonists ever appeared. Some Natives also believe it is their duty to defend America as a manifestation of fulfilling treaty obligations. For Native Hawaiians, military service fits into the traditional concept of aloha—which includes mutual support and mutual cooperation, Staff Sergeant Thomas Kaulukukui's father and 11 siblings served during World War II, and he was drafted to fight in Vietnam. “We must serve when needed,” Kaulukukui said. A Vietnam veteran said that even though the U.S. had broken its treaty promises, “we are more honourable than that. [We] honour our commitments, always have and always will.”

The large number of Native people serving during World War II lead to a resurgence of tribal practices—such as protection ceremonies, prayer vigils and carrying of tribal medicine into battle. The Lakota from the Standing Rock Reservation held the first Sun Dance in 52 years, to pray for the destruction of German and Japanese soldiers and the safe return of 2,000 of their soldiers. Research suggests that Native Vietnam veterans may have better coped with anger, depression and post-traumatic stress thanks to “tribal rituals connected with warfare and/or ceremonies of healing.” Going away and coming home ceremonies are still practiced, including honouring ceremonies and victory dances, say Harris and Hirsch. For Native Hawaiians traditions that can include hula, surfing, art and songs to commemorate various battles can help with healing and restoration. Powwow celebrations, social dances and other veterans’ events—held year-round in Indian Country and in cities and towns across the nation—broaden the support. But, as minorities, Indigenous peoples have unique struggles.

Native Americans—a group that includes American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians—have served in U.S. conflicts since colonial times. Tales of individual soldiers and units have long been known to historians, the military and families. Native people in the South were often lumped in with what was then described as “coloured” units. And, when the Selective Service Act was passed in 1917, which led to the draft, it was unclear to the military how to handle enlistment of American Indians who were not U.S. citizens—about a third of the Indian population at the time. During the Vietnam War, for example, the military did not use the ethnic category “Native American.” Recruiters often used other descriptions, including “Mongolian,” “Negro,” “Latin” or “Spanish,” with some Native Americans also being described as “Caucasian.” It’s estimated that 1.4 percent of all troops in Vietnam were Native American, at a time when they represented 0.6 percent of the U.S. population. The scholars estimate that up to a quarter of adult American Indian men served in World War I. During World War II, 44,000 served, with another 800 women working in various capacities. Some 10,000 served in Korea and approximately 42,000 in Vietnam.

For some Native Americans, joining the U.S. military gave them an opportunity to continue a warrior tradition, especially during the Civil War and the late 19th century, when the U.S. government was bent on assimilating or exterminating American Indians. Native Americans were enlisted—and given military pay—as scouts to help find tribes that were doing their best to defend themselves against encroaching settlers. The U.S. Army believed that having scouts from the same or related tribe would destroy morale and facilitate surrender. Sometimes Indians worked as a type of hired contractor. “They were eager to wage war against a common enemy,” say Hirsch and Harris. Whites were powerful allies. In 1876, Crow and Shoshone men went to battle with U.S. General George Crook against the Sioux—a traditional enemy. Osage led U.S. military expeditions against the Comanche and Kiowa. Thus, serving as a scout was a means for continuing a way of life when the U.S. government was trying to stamp out their traditions, says Hirsch. But some may also have viewed their service as a tactic for preventing the Army from wiping out their people. The federal government outlawed Native American traditions as part of its assimilationist push. But military service afforded Indigenous people a way to covertly or even overtly get back to some of those practices.

Master Sergeant Woodrow Wilson Keeble (Dakota Sioux), who served in both World War II—notably at Guadalcanal in the South Pacific—and Korea, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and in 2008, 26 years after he died, the Medal of Honor. In Korea, Keeble launched a one-man assault against a line of Chinese-held bunkers manned by machine gunners. Armed with an automatic rifle and a bunch of hand grenades, Keeble destroyed all the bunkers on his own, paving the way for his unit to seize the hill. Keeble later became disabled by his war wounds—including from 83 grenade fragments that had to be removed after that assault. But he was still active in veterans’ events and causes.

The Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG), a band of some 6,300 Natives, ranging in age from 12 to 80, served as the military’s eyes and ears along the 6,640 miles of the territory’s coastline during World War II. Alaska was highly segregated at the time and Natives were paid less than half of what whites made for the same work. That led to concerns that they might not be the most reliable allies. As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about; Alaska Natives were very reliable. The ATG shot down Japanese balloon bombs that were traveling on the jet stream—that role and those weapons were classified until long after the war. The existence of the Guard also laid the groundwork for racial equality.

Born in a tipi on the plains of southwestern Oklahoma, Horace Poolaw (1906–1984) endeavoured to be a photographer from the time he was a teenager. He left school after the sixth grade and apprenticed himself to professional photographers in his hometown of Mountain View in order to learn the trade. The young Kiowa man succeeded in documenting his multi-tribal community from the 1920s to the 1970s. They also record his great interest in the military, both the warrior traditions of his tribe and the personal service of himself and his family. One of the most frequent faces in Horace Poolaw’s photographs of military events was First Sergeant Pascal Cleatus Poolaw, Sr. He has been called the most decorated American Indian serviceman in the history of the United States military, and was also a member of the Black Legs Society. Sgt. Poolaw’s service spanned three wars – World War II, Korea and Vietnam – and earned him 42 medals, badges and citations, including four Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts (one in each war) and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Although Sgt. Poolaw had retired from the military, he reentered in 1967 hoping to prevent his son Lindy from having to deploy. (Army regulations prevented two family members from serving in the same combat zone without their consent.) Another son, Pascal Cleatus, Jr., had recently returned from Vietnam after losing a leg. Sgt. Poolaw’s strategy failed, and father and son went to combat together. This was not new for Cleatus, however, who had served in World War II with his father Ralph (Horace’s brother), and two brothers. Four months later, he was killed while carrying a wounded soldier to safety. Horace greatly admired his nephew Cleatus, and after his death the photographer committed his energy to seeing him inducted into the Hall of Fame of Famous American Indians in Anadarko, Okla., where a bust of him now resides.

Just about anyone who’s met a US Marine knows the story of World War I’s Battle of Belleau Wood. It was after the Battle of Belleau Wood that the Marines assumed the moniker “devil dogs,” purportedly from the battered Germans who dubbed their salty, indefatigable conquerors 'teufelhunden' or hell hounds. (This has since been debunked by Marine Corps historians.) After the war, the nickname began appearing on recruitment posters and in Marine Corps motto tattoos alongside an image of a helmet-clad snarling English bulldog.

The first mascot of the United States Marine Corps was an English Bulldog named King Bulwark. Kings formal title was dropped at his enlistment in the Marine Corps on the 14th of October 1922. His enlistment papers, signed by Brigadier General Smedley Butler himself, give his new enlisted name as Jiggs. With his new position came new threads, including a tailor-made set of dress blues, a range of covers and uniform items, and rank insignia.

Jiggs's rise within the ranks was rapid, within three weeks he had achieved the rank of corporal, and by New Year's Day 1924 had become a sergeant. By July the next year he had achieved the rank of Sergeant Major.

Although he was well liked by the marines, Jiggs behaviour was true to his independent nature and he was repeatedly court martialed for breaches of etiquette and deportment, although he was always soon reinstated. Jiggs led a pampered existence in the Marines, never far from the glow of publicity, he even starred with Lon Chaney in the 1926 film Tell It To The Marines.

After a life filled with rich food, formal events and sporting fixtures, Jiggs died on the 9th of January 1927, just short of his fifth birthday. He was laid in state, at a hangar in Quantico, in a white satin-lined coffin, which was constructed from his former kennel.

You can purchase the Eastman recreation of a classic vintage 1960s USMC tee HERE. The print, front and back, is taken directly from the original of the famous ‘Sgt. Major Jiggs’ Bulldog logo. Made in Japan it is replicated extremely precisely both in design, colour and method of printing, which is known as ‘broken rubber’ method.

One year before the outbreak of World War II, a U.S. congressional board found that the Navy had insufficient training facilities to deal with a potential emergency demand for new pilots. With the consultation of Texas Representative Lyndon B. Johnson, the Navy commissioned a new air training station on Corpus Christi Bay in March 1941.

That year, 800 flight instructors were brought to Corpus Christi and put to work training 300 cadets each month. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, that rate nearly doubled. More than 35,000 aviators earned their wings at NAS Corpus Christi before the end of the war, including future President George H.W. Bush, who graduated in 1943 just days before his 19th birthday.

In 1942, Office of War Information photographer Howard R. Hollem visited the air station and documented Navy cadets and members of the National Youth Administration as they assembled, repaired, and trained with a variety of aircraft destined for distant theatres of war.


The first American attempt at a printed camouflage uniform came in 1940 when the US Army Corps of Engineers began experimenting with a disruptive-patterned overall that was tested but never issued. By 1942 the USA had joined WWII, and in July of that year the Quartermaster received an urgent request for 150,000 sets of jungle equipment from General Douglas MacArthur, who was high command of US troops in the South Pacific. Fortunately, the engineers had already tested the series of printed camouflage suits dubbed "frog-skin" or "leopard spot", and had shown them to the Quartermaster earlier that month. This pattern was chosen and rushed through testing and approval procedures in order to get the new uniforms out to troops as quickly as possible. US Marine Raiders in the Solomon Islands were the first to receive the new combat uniforms.

Marine Photographer Bougainville 1944 A

Just prior to the Normandy invasion there was a limited experimental issue of HBT camouflage uniforms to elements of the 2nd and 30th Infantry Divisions, the 17th Engineer Battalion and the 41st Armoured Infantry regiment, of the US 2nd Armoured Division. Although the uniform seems to have provided good camouflage for the troops wearing it, the unfamiliar uniforms were often mistaken for the camouflage smocks worn by the German Waffen SS. This resulted in a number of 'friendly fire' incidents. The uniforms were withdrawn from the ETO, although troops were often still issued with the camouflage uniform as their original ones wore out, and period photos show the type in use until well into August 1944; not always with matching sets, as jackets can sometimes be seen mixed with M1937 wool trousers.

Both the US Army and US Marine Corps (USMC) used camouflage uniforms Pacific Theatre of Operations (PTO). (They also both used plain uniforms.) The USMC uniform was totally reversible, which made it well suited to the nature of this theatre of operations, where individual islands could be either sand (Iwo Jima) or dense jungle (Guadalcanal)

The US would later supply the Frog Skin pattern to France who issued it to their 1st and 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiments during the First Indochina War. In 1961, the Cuban Exiles Brigade were issued the Frog Skin pattern by the CIA for the Bay of Pigs invasion. During the early years of the Vietnam War, the US Special Forces often wore incountry made garments using this pattern and also issued it to their Montagnard teams for their guerrilla warfare activities.

Joann Garrett was one of 1,074 women who served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, during World War II. The WASPs completed a rigorous training program at Avenger Field in Texas, then served in non-combat military missions across the US during the war, such as ferrying planes from factories to bases and flight-testing aircraft. WASP Joann Garrett flew twin-engine B-26 planes and C-60 transport aircraft at Army Air Bases in Texas and Kansas in service to her country. Referring to themselves as “Avenger Girls,” the Women Airforce Service Pilots were superheroes of aviation. They were the first women to fly for the US military, paving the way for women to serve equally in the US Air Force. Women had been flying planes since the early 20th century, like Bessie Coleman, the first African American and Native American female pilot, and Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. As the US entered World War II in December 1941, the military needed more pilots for domestic duties, such as flight-testing and ferrying aircraft, in order to send male combat pilots overseas to fight in Allied efforts in the European and Pacific theatres. The US government had created the Civilian Pilots Training program at colleges and flight schools across the country in 1938, enabling young men and even a few women to gain flight time and experience. However, it wasn’t until two other pioneering female aviators formally pushed for official military-affiliated programs that more women began to train and serve as pilots in the war effort.

The Women Airforce Service Pilots program formed in 1943 by combining two separate but related civilian pilot programs for women within the Army Air Forces. In 1942, pilot Nancy Harkness Love started the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), in which a small number of female pilots transported military planes from factories to Army Air Bases. Pilot Jacqueline Cochran also gained military approval to start the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) to train classes of female pilots to serve in domestic non-combat missions. When these two groups merged to form the WASPs in the summer of 1943, Cochran led the program and Love served as the head of the ferrying division. Although the US military approved the Women Airforce Service Pilots program, the WASPs still officially held civilian status. The first woman to train as a pilot with the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, and graduate in the first class of WASPs, was Betty Gillies. She and Nancy Harkness Love later became the first women to pilot and ferry the Boeing B-17 bomber fortress. Gillies had over 1,000 hours of flying time by 1942, significantly more hours than what most male pilots had acquired. Women accepted into the WASP program all had flying experience and came from diverse backgrounds. WASP Adaline Blank (43-W-8), a former assistant buyer, wrote to her sister in her first month of the program, “There are salesgirls, college girls, teachers, stenographers. Every type and size but we all have this in common---- our hearts are in flying, so come what may, nothing else matters.”

WASP training was rigorous and very similar to male AAF cadet training. A typical training day at Avenger Field began at 6am and ended at 10pm. The WASPs cleaned their barracks for inspection, marched, then completed physical and drill training, flight instruction in link trainers, basic, or advanced aircraft, and studied weather, navigation, physics, math, and aircraft and engines, among other subjects. The WASP training program lasted about 27 weeks and at graduation, the pilots were well-equipped to fly all types of military aircraft. Eighteen classes of WASPs graduated during the war, a total of 1,074 women. At the graduation ceremonies at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, the WASPs earned their silver wings from program director Jacqueline Cochran. Although they did not serve in combat roles, the WASPs served in several crucial missions across the US during World War II. The missions were highly dangerous and required the utmost confidence and skill. Ferrying military planes was a primary duty of the Women Airforce Service pilots during the war. The pilots transported newly built planes from factories to military air bases all over the country to be used in training and combat. By the end of 1944, the WASPs had ferried more than 12,000 planes in the US, including basic trainer planes, fighter planes, and bombers. WASPs Barbara Erikson London and Evelyn Sharp ferried C-47s and P-51s, two types of aircraft used in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, a major turning point in the war for the Allies. Another important mission of the WASPs was serving on tow target squadrons. The pilots, including Laurine Nielson, Viola Thompson, Mary Clifford, and Lydia Linder, would fly planes with canvas targets attached to the back for male students to practice gunnery for combat, firing ammunition at the targets.

WASPs even instructed male pilots in ground school and flight training. Jane Shirley taught male officers at Foster Field in Victoria, Texas. Ethel Meyer Finley instructed male pilots in flying at Shaw Army Air Base in South Carolina, and she recalls that most male pilots and military officers on the bases had positive attitudes toward the WASPs and worked well together. She and other WASPs did experience gender discrimination, but the WASPs continued to complete their missions and serve their country despite these obstacles and hardship. WASP missions also included flight testing all types of military aircraft, such as four-engine bombers, an extremely important and dangerous task. In June 1944, the same month as the D-Day Invasion, WASPs Dora Dougherty and Dorothea Johnson Moorman flight tested the Boeing B-29 bomber Superfortress “Ladybird” for Colonel Paul Tibbets. Male Airforce pilots refused to flight test the bomber at an AAB at Clovis, New Mexico, thinking the mission too dangerous. Colonel Tibbets called for two WASP pilots to train on the B-29 then complete flight tests of the Superfortress “Ladybird.” Dougherty and Moorman successfully piloted the bomber, even while experiencing an engine fire during flight. Colonel Tibbets recalled that, “They did the job. And I don't know how we could have gotten people to fly B-29 airplanes without them.” He later served on the Manhattan Project and piloted the B-29 bomber Superfortress “Enola Gay” that dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima in August 1945 at the end of World War II. Some WASPs did lose their lives in service to their country.

Cornelia Fort was the first WASP to die while on active duty in the US military. Before the WASP program started, Fort witnessed from the air the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, while she was conducting civilian flight instruction. She joined the WAFS as the second female pilot and was later assigned to ferrying missions. Cornelia Fort died on March 21, 1943 in an aircraft collision at only 24 years old.

WASP Hazel Ying Lee, the first Chinese-American woman to fly in the US military, served at Romulus AAB in Michigan, then trained in Pursuit School in Texas. She was also among the first women to fly fighter planes in the US military, such as P-63 Kingcobras. While on a ferrying mission to provide planes like the P-63 Kingcobra to allies under the Lend-Lease program, Lee became the first Chinese-American woman to die in service to the United States. While landing the plane at a base in November 1944, another plane collided with hers and crashed.

Because the WASPs were not militarised, the US military did not provide transport home for the deceased pilots and did not pay for their funerals. The WASPs worked together to provide funds for the 38 women who died while serving as Air Force service pilots during World War II. The WASP program disbanded in December 1944, eight months before the end of World War II. It was the only branch of women’s service in WWII to not receive military status during the war and the only branch to be disbanded before the war ended. Jacqueline Cochran had pushed for militarisation in Congress during the war, but despite support the bill was ultimately defeated. According to historians, one of the major reasons for deactivation of the WASP program was opposition from a group of male pilots who were concerned that female pilots would take their jobs after returning from combat duty. After World War II ended, limited options existed for the WASPs. In 1948, women could transfer to Women in the Air Force, or WAF, although they could not pilot aircraft. Ola Mildred Rexroat, the only Native American woman to serve in the WASPs, transferred to the WAF and served as an air traffic controller. Other WASPs worked in aviation by becoming commercial pilots, flight instructors, and stewardesses. Some women also continued to fly planes in their free time. Many women of the WASP program quit flying altogether, choosing other lines of professional and domestic work. The WASPs continued to advocate for official military status. In the 1970s, they pushed legislation into Congress, calling for the full militarisation of the Women Airforce Service Pilots. On November 23, 1977, more than 30 years after the WASP program started, President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 95-202 giving the women who served as civilian Airforce pilots during WWII veteran status. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed a bill to award the WASPs Congressional Gold Medals, one of the highest civilian honors awarded by the United States Congress.

You can find our recreation of the classic WASP B-17 jacket here

In 1953 a black leather-jacketed Marlon Brando slouched across the screen in The Wild One, his motorcycle jacket’s mixture of animal magnetism, brooding menace, and sexual provocation made it a must-have for hipsters, rebels, and fashionistas around the world. The movie opens with an iconic sequence, tiny blurs on the horizon and a low rumble turn into figures of 40 black leather-jacketed bikers who roar directly into the stationary, low-angled camera. The gang rides in a tightly-knit squadron formation, led by sideburned Johnny (Marlon Brando) Surly, sneering and rebellious, wearing the aforementioned black-leather jacket (with Johnny scrawled on the left chest), white T-shirt, denim jeans, boots and a Police issue hat and sunglasses of the era, the implication being that this badass biker had stolen them from an officer in some previous altercation.

While the leather jacket has its roots among World War I aviators, along the way, every generation and subculture — including motorcycle clubs, beats, punks, movie stars, and counterculturists - has made the leather jacket their own. Part of this mystique can be traced back to a specific unit of California Policemen whose uniform created a visual language that bordered on iconography - the California Highway Patrol. Created in 1929, the CHP had Statewide authority to enforce traffic laws on county and state highways, a responsibility that remains in effect today, along with many additional functions. During it’s first ten years the Patrol successfully grew into a highly respected, effective traffic safety force of 730 uniformed personnel. In 1947 the CHP became its own department and the span of responsibility increased.

The CHP's iconic uniform is traditionally khaki coloured with a campaign hat and blue-and-gold trouser stripe. Motorcycle officers, referred to as Motor Police, also wore the prerequisite attire of leather jackets when climate dictated, even in California in the winter it would be cold on bike all day and a leather jacket would be kept in their locker. The jackets were only allowed to be made by Police Dept approved makers and they always conformed to the same spec - albeit there were straight zip, and lancer zip variations. Each officer would go and order them personally from the approved jacket makers - just like officers in the military do. There is never a size label in CHPs jackets as they were custom-made for each officer. When we look at originals they come in a variation of shapes, sizes and quality - some are long and thin, some are short and wide for this reason. The Star Glove Co was one of the better makers, their jackets are always beautifully sewn and the hide choice is excellent. The one consistent factor in CHP jackets is that they were all adorned with the famous CHP gold 7 point badge, each point representing Character, Integrity, Knowledge, Judgement, Honour, Loyalty and Courtesy respectively. The leather jackets afforded the officers an effortless cool usually associated with rebels and not law enforcement. Soon, the CHP motorcycle cops had garnered the allure of the modern day cowboy or knight, riding metal steeds and saving the day. It wasn’t long before Hollywood latched onto this ambiguity of a cool looking cop, enforcing the law but dressed in the uniform of the rebel.

The early 70s represents a utopian Hollywood in which rebels didn't just infiltrate the backlots, they damn near took it over. The ascent of the hippie movement and the rise of the film-brat generation intertwined and overlapped considerably, a great example of this is 1973's masterful Electra Glide In Blue. Wrongly perceived as right wing upon its Cannes première, it arrived at a time when law enforcement battled President Nixon for bragging rights as the counterculture's top boogeyman. The movie revolves around a straight-arrow cop who uses the iconic image of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider as his target at the gun range. That audacious bit of provocation suggests that it be read as a moody answer to Easy Rider, but that description only scratches the surface of its iconoclastic genius. The main character is a sharply attired, diminutive Arizona motorcycle cop who longs to trade in his uniform for a detective's badge, and gets his chance when a recluse is killed on his watch. In his introduction to his sole directorial effort, producer-director-composer James William Guercio describes Electra Glide as a contemporary Western where the cowboys ride motorcycles instead of mustangs, in another parallel to Easy Rider. The leather jacket was a key device in conveying this to the audience. But the film arrived at a tumultuous time when the old divisions between cowboy and Indian, black hat and white hat, and villain and hero were becoming hopelessly blurred. In keeping with the zeitgeist, it's a thriller where solving the central crime seems somewhat irrelevant: Only thinly disguised as a cop movie, Electra is a profound and ultimately tragic meditation on identity, belonging, and the fickleness of the American Dream. It circles around genres only to dismantle and reassemble them in more truthful ways. The lead character's ironclad sense of morality alienates him from both his cop colleagues and the hippies who taunt him, Electra Glide occupies a strange, uncomfortable place in the cultural divide. Clean-cut fans of Westerns and cop movies were no doubt turned off by its ambiguity, deliberate pace, and lack of action, while hippies weren't about to embrace a movie about a heroic cop, no matter how artfully crafted. If had the hippies looked beyond Blake's uniform and haircut, they might have recognised a kindred spirit, a good-hearted and surprisingly open-minded outcast determined to live by his own moral code, no matter the consequences.

Magnum Force, the 1974 sequel to Dirty Harry arrived around the same time and similarly utilised the CHP's double entendre of cool. Director John Milius’ idea for a story wherein Harry’s commitment to police power would be tested by a cadre of rookie CHP bike cops who secretly assassinate mobsters, drug dealers, and murderers, along with people on the force who stand in their way was groundbreaking. While the script focuses on the blurred lines of morality in law enforcement, whatever it means to say thematically, on an aesthetic level the cop-as-rebel motif is reinforced throughout the movie. The vigilantes are all young, ex military, CHP Motorcycle cops, resplendent in black bike jackets and aviator shades, they look equal parts sharp and threatening, like steely automatons. Steeped in the iconography of the black leather jacket they make Eastwood’s character look positively dated. They walk the Brando Wild One line between outlaw and hero thanks to the ubiquitous uniform. This visual language was again utilised in the 1991 blockbuster Terminator 2, Robert Patrick's Terminator morphs into a CHP officer sporting the quintessential black motorcycle cop jacket and shades during the movie's chase scene.

We’ve captured this effortless cool in our ELMC Highway Star jacket. The jacket takes its silhouette and design features from the classic California Highway Patrol jackets of the 1940s. The flattering cut is neat and very easy to wear. No fuss details give it a lean look which fits any occasion. Buttoned tab cuffs, and matching tab side waist adjusters along with top yoked back give the garment the unmistakable 40s styling that makes this the 'dude' of all jackets. The garment is lined with custom-made EndZone Twill - a fabric we had exclusively produced - which is an extremely high quality luxurious hard-wearing material, that was originally conceived in the 1940s and used in the production of military flight jackets. It is a cotton-backed rayon fabric that has an incredibly dense weave construction giving it a super-slick handle which allows the garment to slide on and off the body effortlessly. The hide is an absolutely deliciously expensive 100% veg-tanned horsehide, in black, which we have had specially developed to exude all the character, handle and texture of those 1940s original garments. Trimmed with period vintage-style, leather thonged, metal zips, corozo buttons to cuffs and waist and a useful inside wallet pocket.Click HERE to view

Since 1940 the US Army Corps of Engineers had been applying themselves to developing camouflage for military applications. The process of its introduction into the US supply system was rushed however, brought about by an urgent request General D. MacArthur in July of 1942 for production of 150,000 jungle camouflage uniforms for use in the Pacific Theatre. The pattern chosen was actually designed by civilian Norvell Gillespie, a horticulturist and garden editor of Sunset, Better House and Gardens, and the San Francisco Chronicle. The M1942 green dapple or spot design, reversing to a tan/brown variation, began distribution to US military forces beginning in August of that year. Nicknamed “frogskin” by many GIs, the pattern consists of a five colour green dominant “jungle” camouflage pattern printed on one side, with a three colour brown dominant “beach” pattern printed on the opposite side. Produced in a variety of uniform styles as well as some articles of field equipment, the pattern was most widely utilised by the USMC in the Pacific Theatre (although it did see very limited usage by the US Army operating in the ETO). It was also used extensively during the Korean War

In 1948, John Hopkins, chief designer of camouflage at the US Army Engineer Research and Development Laboratory (ERDL) in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, designed a general purpose jungle camouflage consisting of mid-brown & grass green organic shapes with black branches on a lime green background, this pattern eventually became known as the ‘ERDL’ or ‘leaf’ pattern, although at the time it was quickly shelved. In 1953 eight camouflage uniforms (mostly hand-painted) were trialled in Panama. One pattern, called ‘flock’, was found to be very effective but was never issued. The trials did produced two additional camouflage patterns however that were immediately issued for use by military personnel. Both patterns saw widespread distribution but only as a reversible shelter half (1953) and a reversible helmet cover (1959), with a different pattern printed on each side. On one side the USMC "Standard" or “wine leaf” (sometimes called "vine leaf") pattern, consisting of large overlapping dark green, lime green & ochre leaf shapes with brown twigs on a pale green background and on the other, the brown Mitchell 'cloud' pattern.

Mitchell is often used to erroneously describe the "jungle" or 'leaf" side when it should only be applied to the "cloud" pattern. Helmet covers displaying the 'Standard' pattern are pervasive throughout photography from the Vietnam War, however clothing utilising this pattern was much rarer. Garments were either very rare experimental pieces or usually tailor made in Okinawa or locally in South Vietnam from half shelters or Asian made fabric copied from the US design.

Between 1954 and 1962 the US Marines provided a small advisory group to work with the South Vietnamese Marine Corps. Headquartered in Saigon and under the operational control of MACV Naval Advisory Group, early advisors deployed to Southeast Asia quickly realised their issued uniforms were inadequate for serving in the extremely warm and wet tropical climate there. They sought out more suitable clothing for use in conducting reconnaissance and ambush operations, this led to the procurement of commercially-produced items, as no US military equivalent was available at the time. Based on the original US M1942 jungle spot camouflage pattern, lighter weight hunting uniforms made by American and Asian retail companies - nicknamed "duck hunter" or "Beo-Gam" camouflage - were obtained privately by unit commanders and also supplied to indigenous units as part of the CIA-sponsored CIDG program.

In 1962, during this early period, the ERDL pattern was revived for testing and several hundred ERDL tropical combat uniforms were sent to Vietnam for evaluation by USARV in 1966. In 1967, ERDL camouflage tropical uniforms began seeing service with reconnaissance and Special Forces personnel. The uniforms were also highly favoured by the US Marines, and Australian and New Zealand special forces teams deployed there. The original ERDL pattern was predominantly green printed on a cotton poplin fabric with later versions were printed on a new "ripstop" poplin fabric. The green dominant design is often labeled a "lowlands" pattern, referring to its suitability as camouflage in the lush, lowland regions of Southeast Asia. A later predominantly brown version is usually referred to a "highlands" pattern, due to its application as camouflage in the rocky, mountainous regions. Printing of the ERDL pattern was often inconsistent, with rollers frequently experiencing slippages that resulted in overprinting of one or more colours, leaving a shadow-like or "blurred edge" outline to many of the shapes in the design.

Subsequently, the ERDL pattern would go on to eventually evolve into Woodland pattern, one of the most duplicated and modified camouflage patterns ever designed, seeing service with military forces around the world and continuing to be worn today.

"Olds Lead, this is Ford. Four SAMS coming up at your 6 o'clock. Don't break, they're not guiding. I'm right behind you Chief. I'm covering your tail!" Vice-Commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Col. Daniel James, called this out over the radio as his group of fighter aircraft entered the engagement unfolding in the skies over North Vietnam. At the time, James was leading the 'Ford Flight' of F-4's from the 8th TFW flying cover for the 'Olds Flight,' led by wing commander Col. Robin Olds, during Operation BOLO. Occurring on January 2, 1967, Operation BOLO was the largest single aerial fighter battle of the Vietnam War. During the battle, which lasted only 12 minutes, the 8 TFW destroyed seven North Vietnamese MiG-21's along with another two probable kills, all without the loss of a single aircraft. James' 'Ford Flight' entered the battle just as the lead flight began to engage with the enemy MiG-21's. While keeping an eye on the 'Olds Fight', James' group spotted two MiG's approaching from the front as another MiG snuck in behind the group targeting James' F-4 from the rear. James executed a horizontal barrel roll managing to reverse positions and get in behind his attacker. James launched and an AIM-9 missile that the MiG barely evaded, however, during the attempt to avoid James' salvo, the MiG's maneuver placed it in front of James' wingman who downed the aircraft with a missile strike of his own.

Daniel 'Chappie' James Jr. was born February 11, 1920, at Pensacola, Florida. He grew up in Pensacola and attended Booker T. Washington High School graduating in 1937. Later that year, James began studies at the Tuskegee Institute located at Tuskegee, Alabama. James earned a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education in 1942, at the same time completing a government sponsored civilian pilot training program. James remained at Tuskegee as a civilian instructor pilot in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program until January 1943 when he entered the program as a cadet. James earned his pilots wings with the military and commission as a Second Lieutenant the following July. When James and his classmates graduated from Tuskegee they anxiously awaited their first assignments passing the time conducting familiarisation flights with P-39 Aircobra and P-40 Warhawk fighter planes at Tuskegee. He was particularly fond of the P-39. Standing at 6'4" and weighing more than 200 pounds, James was too big to fit in the cockpit of the P-39 while wearing a parachute. Not to be dissuaded, he went against regulation and flew the plane without a parachute carefully hiding that fact from the Army Air Corps. Inevitably one day after landing a P-39 following a training flight, James' secret was discovered, as despite flying without the bulky parachute he literally became stuck in the cockpit. No amount of twisting or turning was able to free him, and eventually he had to be cut out of the aircraft using a pair of metal sheers.

James' first assignment after Tuskegee was with the 332nd Fighter Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan. With a lingering desire to continue to fly the P-39, James was forced to transition to the P-40 and its larger cockpit after a direct order from his commanding officer to "Get out of that thing!" James remained within the continental United States for the duration of World War II serving at several different airfields across the country as an instructor training other pilots. His primary role supporting the war effort was to prepare other pilots for combat. James first saw combat during the Korean War after arriving in Korea in August 1950. Serving with the 18th Fighter Wing and flying the P-51 Mustang and later the F-80 Shooting Star, he flew a total of 101 combat missions over Korea. With the 18 FW, James flew operations from airfields at Taegu, Pyongyang, Suwon, Chinhae, Pusan, and also from air fields in Japan. While in Korea, James also served for a 30-day period with front line troops as a forward air controller, calling in air strikes to support ground forces operations. He was proud of his time with the ground forces, often boasting: "Got about three jeeps shot out from under me. Mostly by mortar fire. They could stick a mortar shell in your back pocket."

His luck in the air would also take a turn for the worse a few weeks after returning to the cockpit during a close support ground attack mission against North Korean gun emplacements. James' F-80 was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and he was forced to bail out of the stricken aircraft at 7,000 feet. James' parachute landed behind enemy lines, but luckily he was picked up by a roving Marine Corps tank unit and immediately returned to friendly lines. James was back at his air base before nightfall, and he climbed into another F-80 flying an additional mission the same day he was shot down. James remained in Korea until December 1950. Between the Korean War and Vietnam War, James served in a variety of staff and command positions in the United States and also during a three-year tour in England. James joined the 8 TFW in Thailand as deputy commander of operations in December 1966, assuming the role of vice-commander in June 1967. Known for his organisational skill, James was the perfect complement to the wing commander, Col. Robin Olds, who was known more for his operational aptitude. Both men were known for their strong work ethic, and they became the best of friends while working together in Thailand. They were well respected by the men of the 8 TFW for their propensity to not only work hard, but also to play hard during those brief times when mission requirements relaxed. James was well known for his singing voice, often displaying his talents singing fighter pilot songs for audiences at the base club.

During his time with the 8 TFW, James flew a total of 78 combat missions. During one mission flying the infamous Route Package IV, a flight route that fighter pilots dubbed "Downtown" due to it being the most heavily defended area of North Vietnam and included the communist capital city of Hanoi, James brought his F-4 back with 56 holes in the fuselage. After the conclusion of Operation BOLO, the 8 TFW adopted the nick-name, "Wolf Pack," and its commander was given the nick-name "Wolf," a tradition the 8th Fighter Wing continues today. As vice-commander during Operation BOLO, James effectively became the 8 FW's first "Wolf 2." Following his stint with the 8 TFW, James served as vice-commander of the 33rd TFW at Eglin AFB, Florida, until October 1969 when he assumed command of the 7272nd Training Wing at Wheelus Air Base in Libya. Shortly before James took command at Wheelus, a group of Libyan military officers perpetrated a coup d'état and ousted the existing government. Wheelus Air Field had been established by the United States following World War II. Initially, the U.S. government insisted that the new Libyan government honour existing agreements despite their protests, and several confrontations ensued as a result. During one such confrontation, a group of Libyan halftracks refused to halt for guards at the base gate and entered the installation. James arrived on scene and stood face to face with the new Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi stood in front of James with his hand resting on his holstered .45 attempting to stare him down. James barked at Gaddafi, "Move your hand away from that gun!" and Gaddafi relented. James later commented: "I told him to move his hand away. If he had pulled that gun he would have never cleared his holster!" After this incident, the Libyans never again attempted to enter Wheelus without permission. Determining that the strategic importance of Wheelus Air Field had waned, the U.S. willingly withdrew from the installation in June 1970 and James returned to the United States.

James received promotion to brigadier general in July 1970, serving in a variety of staff positions over the next 4 years. On September 1, 1975, James pinned on his fourth star becoming the first African-American to achieve the rank of full general in United States military history. James assumed command of NORAD and Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson AFB, Colorado, having responsibility for operational command of all U.S. and Canadian strategic aerospace defence forces. James' last position with the Air Force was as Special Assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff at the Pentagon. He retired from the Air Force on Feb. 1, 1978. With a military career that spanned 35 years and three wars, James flew 189 combat missions during the Korean Vietnam wars combined. James rose from the rank of second lieutenant to full general earning the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Custer, and the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, among a variety of other military decorations. James was also awarded the George Washington Freedom Foundation Medal in 1967 and 1968. His citation for the 1970 Arnold Air Society Eugene M. Zucker Award for outstanding contributions to Air Force professionalism read: "...fighter pilot with a magnificent record, public speaker, and eloquent spokesman for the American Dream we so rarely achieve."

On February 25, 1978, just 3 weeks after retiring from the Air Force, Gen. Daniel 'Chappie' James Jr. passed away at the age of 58 years old as a result of a heart attack. His remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery. James' son, Daniel James III, also served in the Air Force and Air National Guard rising to the rank of lieutenant general and becoming the first African-American to take command as director of the Air National Guard before retiring in 2006.

Cherokee and Choctaw soldiers had both effectively used their native languages to send coded messages on the Western Front during the final months of World War I so in autumn 1940, a small group of Chippewas and Oneidas joined the Thirty-second US Army Infantry Division for the express purpose of radio communications. Soon afterward, an Iowa National Guard unit, the Nineteenth Infantry Division, brought several members of the Sac and Fox tribes into its ranks for the same purpose. Their training, and their use in manoeuvres in Louisiana, hinted at the successful utilisation of Indians as combat radiomen. The tactic seemed so promising that the Thirty-second requested the Indians' permanent assignment to the division, and the army expanded the program in 1941. With posts in the Philippines, where Spanish was commonly spoken, radiomen were needed who could transmit messages directly to the Filipino forces, to American units, and if needed, in code. Despite the army's early efforts and the proficiency demonstrated by Indian code talkers, the War Department never fully grasped the program's potential. No more than a few dozen Indians were trained for radio operations. In contrast, the Marine Corps developed the concept on such a broad level that it became an integral part of the branch's combat operations. Unlike the army, Marine solicitation of Indians did not commence until after Pearl Harbor. Moreover, the program resulted not from within the military but from a civilian source.

In February 1942, Philip Johnston approached Major James E. Jones, Force Communications Officer at Camp Elliot in San Diego, with a plan to use the Navajo language for battlefield radio transmissions. The son of a Protestant missionary, Johnston had lived among the Navajos for more than twenty years, and, during that time, gained fluency in the native language. He explained to Major Jones that the Navajos spoke a language unlike any other Indians and added that less than a dozen anthropologists had ever studied that part of Navajo culture. Even German scholars who visited Indian communities in the 1930s, including the Nazi propagandist Dr. Colin Ross, ignored the Navajo language. In essence, this peculiar language seemed safe from enemy understanding if incorporated into the Marine Corps' communication structure.

Johnston convinced Major Jones of the possible worth of his idea, and before the week's end, the Marine Corps extended Johnston the opportunity for a demonstration. On the morning of February 28, the former missionary's son and four Navajo's arrived at Camp Elliott. Major Jones gave them six messages normally communicated in military operations and instructed the group to assemble forty-five minutes later at division headquarters. With such a short time to devise a basic code, the Navajos worked feverishly. At 9:00 A.M. Johnston and the four Indians appeared before Jones, General Clayton B. Vogel, and others to conduct their demonstration. Within seconds, the six messages were transmitted in Navajo, received, decoded, and correctly relayed to Major Jones.

"It goes in, in Navajo? And it comes out in English?" questioned one rather surprised officer. In later tests, three code experts attached to the United States Navy failed to decipher "intercepted" transmissions; the system "seemed foolproof." Both Jones and Vogel were immensely impressed.

Over the following days, the merits of an Indian code-talking program gathered interest with General Vogel's staff. By mid-March, the Marine Corps authorised the recruitment of twenty-nine Navajos for communications work and formed the 382nd Platoon for the Indian specialists. Immediately, the boarding schools at Fort Defiance, Shiprock, and Fort Wingate received visits from marine personnel, and the original complement of code talkers was formed. In addition, Philip Johnston petitioned the Marine Corps for his own enlistment as training specialist at a noncommissioned rank. Though already in his forties, the Marine Corps accepted his offer and recommended the immediate recruitment of 200 Navajos to develop a code. Among the first recruits was Chester Nez. As a child growing up in Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools, Nez had his original Navajo name replaced with Chester, after President Chester A. Arthur. He was forbidden from speaking his native tongue — students who did so were beaten or had their mouths washed out with soap. In the spring of 1942, Nez and 28 other recruits assembled at Camp Pendleton in California, and went to work formulating their code. In an interview years after the war, Chester Nez said "All those years, telling you not to speak Navajo, and then to turn around and ask us for help with that same language.... It still kind of bothers me."

Over the course of 13 weeks, the code was developed, practiced, and committed to memory. It grew into a sprawling dictionary, tailored for precise communication in every conceivable battlefield situation. The code ranged from simple letters (“A” could be communicated as the Navajo words for ant, apple, or axe) to vehicles (Dive bomber = “chicken hawk,” submarine = “metal fish”) to direct or approximate translations of hundreds of verbs such as capture, escape, entrench, flank, halt, and target. Once the code was complete, the code talkers became invaluable communications assets. As the war went on, some 400 Navajos were recruited and trained in the code. They acted as coding machines, transmitting messages that would have taken a couple of hours in just a couple of minutes.

On the battlefields of the Pacific Theatre, the code proved to be uncrackable. Even when the Japanese managed to capture and torture Navajo Sergeant Joe Kieyoomia, they couldn’t crack it — though he spoke Navajo, he hadn’t been trained in the code, so the encrypted messages read as an indecipherable mess of words. The Navajo code talkers played crucial roles in every Marine offensive in the Pacific, from Guadalcanal in 1942 to Iwo Jima in 1945. Code talkers from more than a dozen other tribes such as the Seminole, Comanche, and Meskwaki were also deployed as code talkers in more limited numbers in Europe and North Africa.

Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima. In typical fashion, many of the code talkers returned home from the war to face discrimination and hardship, much of which was at the hands of the same US Government that 5 years previous had been desperate for their help. They were not even allowed to speak about the invaluable role they played until the code operation was declassified in 1968. In 2001, the original 29 creators of the Navajo code were honoured with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Chester Nez, the last of the original 29, died in 2014.

It's not widely known that Kelly's Heroes, one of my favourite war movies, is actually based upon a true incident. The caper was covered in a book called “Nazi Gold: The Sensational Story of the World’s Greatest Robbery – and the Greatest Criminal Cover-Up” by Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting. The heist was perpetrated by a combination of renegade Nazi and American officers. It was also listed as the “biggest” robbery ever in the Guinness Book of Records, in the 1960s.

In 1945, as Allied bombers continued their final pounding of Berlin, the panicking Nazis began moving the assets of the Reichsbank south for safekeeping. Vast trainloads of gold and currency were evacuated from the doomed capital of Hitler’s ‘Thousand-year Reich’. Nazi Gold is the real-life story of the theft of that fabulous treasure – worth some 2,500,000,000 at the time of the original investigation. It is also the story of a mystery and attempted whitewash in an American scandal that pre-dated Watergate by nearly 30 years. Investigators were impeded at every step as they struggled to uncover the truth and were left fearing for their lives. The authors’ quest led them to a murky, dangerous post-war world of racketeering, corruption and gang warfare. Their brilliant reporting, matching eyewitness testimony with declassified Top Secret documents from the US Archives, lays bare this monumental crime in a narrative which throngs with SS desperadoes, a red-headed queen of crime and American military governors living like Kings. Also revealed is the authors’ discovery of some of the missing treasure in the Bank of England.

The filming itself was surrounded by some interesting facts and amusing incidents, some of which are as far flung as the narrative itself. For example, it was during shooting in Yugoslavia 1969, that Donald Sutherland received word, via co-star Clint Eastwood, that his then-wife Shirley Douglas had been arrested for trying to buy hand-grenades (with a personal cheque) for the Black Panther Party from an undercover FBI agent. Sutherland recounts this story often, mentioning that when Eastwood got to the part about the personal cheque, he laughed so hard, he fell to his knees, and Sutherland had to help him up. Eastwood then put his arm around Sutherland and walked him down the hill that overlooked the Yugoslav countryside, assuring his friend with complete support of his predicament. Sutherland and Douglas, who are the parents of Kiefer and twin sister Rachel Sutherland, later divorced in 1970.

Clint Eastwood signed to do the film mainly because his friend and favourite director, Don Siegel, was set to direct it. However, Siegel ran into post-production problems while finishing up Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970) and had to withdraw from the project. Brian G. Hutton was then signed to direct. Eastwood, who had already signed a contract to do the film, couldn’t pull out. Mike Curb, who wrote the lyrics to the movie’s theme song “Burning Bridges,” served as lieutenant governor of California between 1978 and 1982. A record was made of Clint Eastwood singing “Burning Bridges” and was released as a 45-rpm disc on Certron Records, the B-side of “When I Loved Her” also sung by Eastwood was written by Kris Kristofferson.

The “Tiger” tanks used in the film were actually Russian T-34 tanks which had been specially modified to look like Tiger tanks. This is apparent when you look at the suspension of the tanks - T-34s used a modified Christie suspension, whereas the Tigers’ wheels were much more elaborate. The German Tiger tank commander, played by Karl-Otto Alberty, appears to be a parody – both in appearance and manner of speaking – of Marlon Brando’s portrayal of German Lt. Christian Diestl in The Young Lions 1958. The ‘key’ symbol on the Tiger tanks denotes that they are attached to the 1st SS Panzer Division “Leibstandarte (Body guard unit) Adolf Hitler.”

The blue “crosshair” shoulder patch indicates Kelly and his men are from the 35th Infantry Division. A National Guard Division, comprised of Guardsmen from Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas who were fighting in the area of Nancy, France, in late summer 1944, while Oddball’s division is the “Super Sixth”, the 6th Armored Division. Its also worth noting that Oddball carries a Luger P-08 “Parabellum” semiautomatic gun, which were in service only in Switzerland and Germany.

Approximately 20 minutes were cut from the movie by MGM and studio boss James T. Aubrey before theatrical release. MGM even changed the title of the movie. Originally it was called The Warriors, then in post production it was changed to Kelly’s Warriors and then into Kelly’s Heroes. Years after the film was completed Eastwood claimed that Hutton had intended more depth to the cast, but these were cut out in favour of more action and comedy. Some of the comedy even parodies Eastwood himself (not bad from actor who had only relatively recently had become a household name) in a scene in which Eastwood’s character of Kelly squares up against a German Tiger tank and the stand-off is played against Ennio Morricone’s score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). The comedy is more than just slapstick. Taken in the context of when the film was made during the height of the Vietnam War much of the comedy is black in tone; Sutherland's proto-hippie character complete with Sixties vocabulary is a deliberate inclusion in order that the audience can make that link. This was made at the time of those other seminal Vietnam black comedies of M*A*S*H and Catch 22.

Made for a budget of $4 million in 1970 dollars, Kelly’s Heroes grossed $5.2 domestically, and unknown amounts in foreign sales, DVDs, etc. Inflation has increased six-fold since 1970, and though the movie was moderately successful financially, it stands out in popular culture lore as a landmark American movie.

It's well documented that The Great Escape helped to formulate the Eastman brand way back in the early 1980's but who knew it's enduring tale of wartime heroism would evolve into an icon of pop culture thanks to Steve McQueen and a reissued USAAF A-2 flight jacket. What was essentially a movie costume has now become the identikit look for style conscious men around the globe. Based upon a daring escape during WWII, the Hollywood story is way off from the truth, nonetheless, there are many interesting facts that surround the movie, mostly regarding it's biggest and most hard to handle star.

When Hilts (Steve McQueen) strings a wire across the road to obtain a motorcycle, McQueen himself played the German motorcyclist who hits the wire. During filming McQueen was up to his usual antics on a daily basis – one day, the police in the German town where the film was shot set up a speed trap. Several members of the cast and crew were caught, including Steve McQueen. The Chief of Police told McQueen “Herr McQueen, we have caught several of your comrades today, but you have won the prize [for the highest speeding].” McQueen was arrested and briefly jailed.

On-set McQueen was invited to view early rushes by the director John Sturges, and realising how thin his character looked, he angrily declined to film further scenes until his were re-written. That’s what gave him the infamous motorcycle chase – while insurers wouldn’t let McQueen perform the actual jump sequence, the actor, an accomplished motorcycle rider and all-round outdoorsman was allowed to play German riders in a few stunts including the climactic motorcycle chase. Sturges allowed McQueen to ride as one of the pursuing German soldiers, so that in the final sequence, through the magic of editing, he’s actually chasing himself. He also allowed McQueen to attempt the hair raising 60 foot jump across the border fence which ended in a crash, the jump was subsequently performed by his friend and professional rider Bud Ekins. Ekins was managing a Los Angeles-area motorcycle shop when recruited. It was the beginning of a new career for him, as he later doubled for McQueen in Bullitt (1968) and did much of the motorcycle riding on the television series CHiPs (1977).

In the stunt he roars across the countryside on his stolen BMW pursued by a hoard of manic Nazi motorcyclists intent on his death. With no possible escape, great or otherwise, our hero chooses a glorious finale. Winding the bike up to maximum revs, he makes an incredible jump across the 12-foot high barbed wire fence. Today, the thought of using a road bike in a film stunt would be unthinkable. But in 1963 the world was a very different place. In many ways it wasn’t so much which bike would Bud Ekins and Steve McQueen use for The Great Escape but simply that there was only one choice – and that was the fabulous, do-everything, Triumph TR6. A key factor for the film crew was that the TR6 was very much their bike and they knew it back to front – even though it was designed and built in England. Europeans always preferred the TR6’s lighter, more nimble sibling – the 500cc TR5, but the Yanks loved the instant power of the 650. In fact, the TR6 had come about entirely from the demand by Americans for ‘cubes’. They wanted engines at least as big as the Harleys of the day and so, in 1950, Triumph made the Thunderbird for them. Almost as soon as the Thunderbird arrived in the US, riders began racing it so Triumph encouraged them first with an all-alloy TR6 and later what was effectively a single carb version of the Bonneville – the ‘Great Escape’ bike.

During idle periods while the movie was in production, all cast and crew members – from stars Steve McQueen and James Garner to production assistants and obscure food service workers – were asked to take thin, five-inch strings of black rubber and knot them around other thin strings of black rubber of enormous length. The finished results of all this knotting were the coils and fences of barbed wire seen throughout the film.

Charles Bronson, who portrays the chief tunneller, brought his own expertise and experiences to the set: he had been a coal miner before turning to acting and gave director John Sturges advice on how to move the earth. As a result of his work in the coal mines, Bronson suffered from claustrophobia just as his character had. During production, Charles Bronson met and fell in love with David McCallum’s wife, Jill Ireland, and he jokingly told McCallum he was going to steal her away from him. In 1967, Ireland and McCallum divorced, and she married Bronson.

Several cast members were actual P.O.W.s during World War II. Donald Pleasence was held in a German camp, Hannes Messemer in a Russian camp and Til Kiwe and Hans Reiser were prisoners of the Americans. Donald Pleasence had actually been a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II, who was shot down, became a prisoner of war and was tortured by the Germans. When he kindly offered advice to the film’s director John Sturges, he was politely asked to keep his “opinions” to himself. Later, when another star from the film informed John Sturges that Pleasence had actually been a RAF Officer in a World War II German POW Stalag camp, Sturges requested his technical advice and input on historical accuracy from that point forward. Wally Floody, the real-life “Tunnel King” (he was transferred to another camp just before the escape), served as a consultant to the filmmakers, almost full-time, for more than a year.

Paul Brickhill, who wrote the book from which the film is based, was piloting a Spitfire aircraft that was shot down over Tunisia in March 1943. He was taken to Stalag Luft III in Germany, where he assisted in the escape preparations. The real-life escape preparations involved 600 men working for well over a year. The escape did have the desired effect of diverting German resources, including a doubling of the number of guards after the Gestapo took over the camp from the Luftwaffe. Some aspects of the escape remained classified during production and were not revealed until well after. The inclusion of chocolate, coffee and cigarettes in Red Cross packages is well documented, as is their use to bribe Nazi guards. Other materials useful for escaping had to be kept secret and were not included in the novel or screenplay. Also not revealed until many years later was the fact that the prisoners actually built a fourth tunnel called “George.”

The film was shot entirely on location in Europe, with a complete camp resembling Stalag Luft III built near Munich, Germany. Exteriors for the escape sequences were shot in the Rhine Country and areas near the North Sea, and Steve McQueen’s motorcycle scenes were filmed in Fussen (on the Austrian border) and the Alps. All interiors were filmed at the Bavaria Studio in Munich.

You can view the Eastman reproduction of McQueen's Reissue 'Escape" A-2 HERE

It’s absolutely crazy to think that the same 1968 Mustang GT Fastback driven in Bullitt by Steve McQueen himself, would end up in the hand’s of an unassuming New Jersey housewife… But that’s exactly what happened.

steve mcqueen bullitt mustang gt fastback

“After Bullitt wrapped, the hero car was sold to a studio executive in Los Angeles, who kept it briefly before selling it, coincidentally, to a police detective. The officer shipped the car to New York and kept it for about three and a half years before placing a for-sale ad in the back of Road & Track magazine in 1974. His $6,000 asking price was somewhat steep, but Robert Kiernan, a New Jersey insurance executive and Mustang fan, went out to look at it. He bought it for his wife to use as a daily driver.” –Vanity Fair


The original 1968 Mustang GT Fastback from Bullitt in Sean Kiernan’s secret barn in Nashville. Inset, the letter from Steve McQueen to Robert Kiernan, dated 1977. (via Vanity Fair) Courtesy of Ford/Historic Vehicle Association.


“The Kiernans used the car avidly for years, adding more than 30,000 miles to its odometer. But, as with many vehicular toys, mechanical and family issues eventually intervened. ‘The clutch went out in ’80 and I was born in ’81,’ said Sean Kiernan, Robert’s son, who grew up with the McQueen Mustang in his family’s garage. ‘So it kind of went into storage.’

The Kiernans have kept the car a secret, mainly to ward off rumormongers and gawkers. But that didn’t stop Steve McQueen from finding them in 1977. ‘Dad had owned the car for three years at that point. And he got a phone call from Steve asking about the car, how it was, if he’d changed anything on it. And McQueen said, ‘I would really like to buy it if there’s not too much involved with it. I’ll replace it with a similar, like kind of car. As long it’s not a crazy amount of money,’ Kiernan said. ‘But dad declined. He said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’


McQueen didn’t take no for an answer. ‘I think a week later, a letter to my dad arrived from McQueen and it had the Solar [McQueen’s production company] letterhead and stamp on it. And it said, basically, ‘I’d love to talk to you again about purchasing my car back, if not too much money is involved. Otherwise we’d better forget it.’ And dad never reached out, he did forget it. And that was kind of the end of that.”

This was a decent decision. The car is now valued at $3 million to $5 million.” – VANITY FAIR

Story and images via The Selvedge Yard

The story of Reckless is not only remarkable - it is unusual. And once you learn about her, you will see why the Marine Corps not only fell in love with her - but honoured her and promoted her every chance they got. And it wasn’t just the Marines that served with her in the trenches that honoured her - her last promotion to Staff Sergeant was by Gen. Randolph McC Pate - the Commandant of the entire Marine Corps. You can’t get higher than that in the Marines.

Reckless joined the Marines to carry ammunition to the front lines for the 75mm Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marines - and she quickly earned the love and respect of all of the Marines that served with her. Lt. Eric Pedersen paid $250 of his own money to a young Korean boy, Kim Huk Moon, for her. The only reason Kim sold his beloved horse was so he could buy an artificial leg for his older sister, Chung Soon, who lost her leg in a land mine accident.

Kim’s loss was the Marines’ gain. It was not only Reckless’ heroics that endeared the Marines to her - it was her incredible antics off of the battlefield. You will not believe her antics when she was being ignored, or if she was hungry – let’s just say you never wanted to leave your food unattended. As legendary as she was for her heroics – her appetite became even more legendary. This horse had a mind of her own – not to mention, being very determined.

Reckless had a voracious appetite. She would eat anything and everything – but especially scrambled eggs and pancakes in the morning with her morning cup of coffee. She also loved cake, Hershey bars, candy from the C rations, and Coca Cola – even poker chips, blankets and hats when she was being ignored – or if she was trying to just prove a point.

One of Reckless’ finest hours came during the Battle of Outpost Vegas in March of 1953. At the time of this battle it was written that, “The savagery of the battle for the so-called Nevada Complex has never been equaled in Marine Corps history.” This particular battle “was to bring a cannonading and bombing seldom experienced in warfare … twenty-eight tons of bombs and hundreds of the largest shells turned the crest of Vegas into a smoking, death-pocked rubble.” And Reckless was in the middle of all of it.

Enemy soldiers could see her as she made her way across the deadly “no man’s land” rice paddies and up the steep 45-degree mountain trails that led to the firing sites. “It’s difficult to describe the elation and the boost in morale that little white-faced mare gave Marines as she outfoxed the enemy bringing vitally needed ammunition up the mountain,” Sgt. Maj. James E. Bobbitt recalled.

During this five-day battle, on one day alone she made 51 trips from the Ammunition Supply Point to the firing sites, 95% of the time by herself. She carried 386 rounds of ammunition (over 9,000 pounds - almost 5 tons of ammunition), walked over 35 miles through open rice paddies and up steep mountains with enemy fire coming in at the rate of 500 rounds per minute. And as she so often did, she would carry wounded soldiers down the mountain to safety, unload them, get reloaded with ammo, and off she would go back up to the guns. She also provided a shield for several Marines who were trapped trying to make their way up to the front line. Wounded twice, she didn’t let that stop or slow her down.

What she did in this battle not only earned her the respect of all that served with her, but it got her promoted to Sergeant. Her heroics defined the word “Marine.” She was BELOVED by the Marines. They took care of her better than they took care of themselves – throwing their flak jackets over her to protect her when incoming was heavy, risking their own safety.

Her Military Decorations include two Purple Hearts, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with star, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, all of which she wore proudly on her red and gold blanket, along with a French Fourragere that the 5th Marines earned in WW1.

There has never been a horse like Reckless, and her story deserves every honor and recognition she can receive.

She wasn't a horse - She was a Marine!


Bud Ekins is nothing short of a legend in motorcycling: he was one of the most accomplished off-road racers ever; an extremely successful Hollywood motorcycle stuntman who performed what is probably the most iconic motorcycle stunt in cinema history; and owned one of the largest curated collections of motorcycles in the world.

Born in Hollywood in 1930, and was a mischievous son to a working-class family. Ekins never completed eighth grade. He spent two years in reform school after a joy ride in a stolen car. Later, when not working in his father’s shop, he went hot rodding. Then the roar of his cousin’s Harley hooked him, his world changed instantly when he rode the motorcycle once as a teenager. He bought a used 1940 Triumph and rode it every day all over the undeveloped, untamed land that surrounded Los Angeles at the time. In 1949, his racing career began when he entered into the highly popular and competitive Big Bear Endurance Run. He got serious about racing after that, and by the mid-50s became the top desert racer in Southern California. He even won the district’s number one plate seven times, which is no small feat. He was so good that he was invited to participate in races internationally, where he had some of his most prestigious wins over his career. Two of Ekins’ greatest nemeses were Eddie Mulder and J.D. Williams. Ekins helped launch Mulder’s career when Mulder beat Ekins in the 1959 Mohave Hare Scramble at age 16, when Ekins was an internationally revered off-road racer. Following the Scramble, Ekins helped Mulder get factory sponsorship from Triumph, forging not only a new legend, but a lifelong friendship.

His most famous and possibly closest friend though was Steve McQueen. During the 60s, Ekins owned a Triumph dealership in Hollywood, which became the local hangout for many actors of the day including Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman among others. It was here he first met McQueen and the actors lifelong love affair with off-road racing began, thanks to Ekins. In 1962, McQueen was in Germany filming The Great Escape, and asked his friend to come out to do some motorcycle stunt work for him. Ekins had never done any stunt work for movies before, but decided to give it a shot. Together they devised what is now the most iconic motorcycle stunt in movie history: the impossible jump that McQueen’s character Virgil Hilts makes over a fence while trying to escape from a German army pursuers. Ekins was McQueen’s stunt double for the movie, and performed the legendary jump with ease, launching his career as a stuntman. His career as a Hollywood stuntman went on the span an amazing 30 years, performing stunts in such movies as Bullitt, Hell’s Angels ‘69, The Towering Inferno, Animal House, and The Blues Brothers. In a later interview he remembered, ‘I was just up at Bullitt as a utility driver. McQueen was going to do all of the driving, but the first time he got in the car he spun the son of a bitch out and nearly hit a camera. The stunt coordinator said “Get him out of there!” Then said “Ekins, get into McQueen’s clothes.” They cut and sprayed my hair. He had a different hairstyle. Jay Sebring cut it. He was killed in the Sharon Tate murders. He also used to cut Sinatra’s hair. My kids cut mine.’

During the 60s Ekins represented the United States at the ISDT International Six day Trial, a form of off-road motorcycle Olympics. It was as an enduro competitor that Ekins achieved his greatest international racing success. He received a gold medal at the 1962 International Six Days Trials in East Germany, and was part of the 1964 U.S. ISDT team with his brother, Dave Ekins, John Steen, Cliff Coleman and McQueen. He rode a 650cc Triumph TR6 Trophy alongside teammate Steve McQueen in the 1964 International Six Days Trial. In 1965, again on Triumphs, the team competed at the ISDT on the Isle of Man. Ekins won four gold medals and a silver during his seven years of competing in the ISDT during the 1960s.

Ekins helped pioneer the sport of desert racing in 1964 when he and his brother Dave rode a motorcycle almost the entire length of Mexico's Baja California peninsula in 39 hours and 48 minutes under gruelling conditions to set the Tijuana to La Paz, Mexico record. Their speed record provided a challenge for other off-road competitors with both, motorcycles and four wheeled vehicles. One of these challengers to Ekins' record run was Ed Pearlman, who decided to organise a yearly off-road race that became known as the Baja 1000. He also participated in many of the early off-road racing events including the Mint 400 and the Stardust 7-11 in Las Vegas. In addition to motorcycles, Ekins raced four wheeled off-road vehicles. He raced alongside Steve McQueen in the inaugural Baja 500 in 1969 and won overall. He worked with fellow Off-Road Hall of Fame Inductee, Vic Hickey for five years, helping him to build the Baja Boot racer and drove three races for Steve McQueen and Drino Miller, another Off-Road Hall of Fame Inductee.

After retiring in the late 90s, Ekins continued to own and run a vintage motorcycle shop in Hollywood. While running the shop, Ekins truly started collecting motorcycles. His goal was to own one of every brand of motorcycle to have ever been made in America. While he never completed his objective, his collection boasted over 150 motorcycles, and featured bikes from 54 American brands, most of which were made before World War I. He was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, and his influence and legacy continues to thrive in today’s motorcycle community, culture, and heritage.

On August 7, 1942 at 0910 hrs the ramp of an American Landing Craft lowered into the surf of 'Red Beach' 6,000 yards east of Lunga Point on an obscure island in the Solomon Islands chain called Guadalcanal. The men of the 1st Marine Division who ran up the beach that morning had no idea they were beginning a bloody, six-month battle that would be the first United States victory on the ground in the Pacific theatre in the Second World War.

Deemed almost sufficiently trained for its first exposure to combat, the 1st Marine Division, after traveling via train to San Francisco, boarded the transport USS John Ericsson, which carried them to Camp Paekakariki outside Wellington, New Zealand. Upon arriving in Wellington in July, the Marines were scheduled for another six months of training, but those plans were quickly cancelled. It was there that the Marines learned they would take part in the first land offensive against the Japanese on Guadalcanal. An airfield there was 90 percent complete, and the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C., did not want the Japanese to finish it. The official history said, “They feared that the establishment of such a base might presage a thrust southeastward that would sever the line of communications between the United States and Australia, and plans were quickly changed to focus the counteroffensive on the seizure of Guadalcanal and Tulagi.” The invasion force was assembled in such haste that the Marines had only enough food for 60 days and enough ammunition for 10 days of heavy fighting.

The first three major land engagements on Guadalcanal would all involve the same objective of trail or road access to Lunga Airfield, the island’s airstrip. The division departed Wellington and steamed to the Solomon Islands for Operation Watchtower. At 4:30 am on August 7, 1942, the Marines were awakened on board ship, and a hot steak and eggs breakfast was offered to those who had the stomach for it. A fierce naval bombardment commenced, hitting Guadalcanal and the smaller nearby island of Tulagi, as well as two small islets, Gavutu and Tanambogo. The Marines’ landings that morning caught the enemy by surprise and with a small force; only after their airfield was complete did the Japanese plan to bring in large numbers of crack troops to Guadalcanal. The invasion force was split into two groups. The 1st and 5th Marine Regiments came ashore first at Red Beach. McKelvy’s 3rd Battalion, which included the four second lieutenants of K Company, was in the third wave to hit the beach. Colonel Merritt Edson and his Raider Parachute Battalions, with the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment, faced suicidal resistance on Tulagi and its two islets, a foreshadowing of the fierce fighting to come on Guadalcanal. But the Tulagi islet areas were secured by the second day.

After hitting the beach at Guadalcanal on August 7, the Marines of K Company, along with the rest of the 3rd Battalion, were ordered to seize a terrain feature known as the Grassy Knoll (aka Mt. Austen). At an elevation of 1,000 feet, it overlooked the airfield and part of Guadalcanal’s coast and was therefore an ideal tactical acquisition. The Marines soon found out it was three miles inland, rather than just one mile as their maps indicated.

The Marines, however, did manage to capture the Lunga Airstrip, along with its warehouses and construction equipment that was quickly deployed to finish building the airfield. After taking the airstrip, the Marines promptly renamed it Henderson Field in honour of Major Loftus Henderson, a Marine Corps aviator killed in the Battle of Midway. The warehouses contained Japanese food - canned crab, fish heads, and rice - that had been contaminated by worms. Third Battalion Doctor Ben Keyserling passed by the chow line, administering the malarial depressant Atabrine and advising the Marines not to pick the worms out of their rice. “It’s going to be the only protein you get, so leave them in there,” he said. Also captured were large amounts of Japanese whisky and saké. Lt. Col. McKelvy immediately ordered the alchol off limits to everyone except (no surprise) himself. His men remember him being a bit tipsy at times.

The Marines' good fortune did not last long. On the evening of August 8, Rear-Admiral Frank Fletcher decided to withdraw the three aircraft carriers that were providing air cover for Vandegrift's transports. Later that same night, a Japanese cruiser task force sank one Australian and three American cruisers in the waters near Guadalcanal. The naval battle would come to be known as the Battle of Salvo Island and it was the first of a series of clashes to decide the control of the sea around Guadalcanal. In the next six months the United States would lose two aircraft carriers, seven cruisers and 14 destroyers while the Japanese lost one aircraft carrier, two battleships, four cruisers and 11 destroyers. The transports fled the next day taking with them 3,000 Marines who had not had time to disembark and much of the division's ammunition and heavy artillery. Another 6,000 men of the 1st Marine Division were dug in on Tulagi Island 20 miles away. The 10,000 Marines on Guadalcanal were on their own.

The campaign was a race between the Marines and the U.S. Army and the Japanese Imperial Army to concentrate enough force to defeat each other. The difficulties of gathering those troops were compounded by the alien and hostile environment of the jungle on Guadalcanal. But the day before the first 12 Douglas Dauntless dive-bombers and 19 Grumman Wildcat fighters arrived, the Japanese launched their first counter-attack. On August 20, 1,000 soldiers led by Colonel Kiyono lchiki attacked Marine positions on the left flank at the mouth of the llu River. But the Japanese underestimated the American strength, a mistake they would repeat several times in the campaign. Thinking there were only about 2,000 Marines on the island, lchiki's men attacked in three waves and were mowed down by the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment. More than 800 Japanese were killed and lchiki committed suicide.

The Japanese brought more soldiers to Guadalcanal on destroyers that travelled only at night to avoid the planes on Henderson Field and by September 12 had assembled a force of 3,000 men. Major-General Kawaguchi attacked from the south across a hill that became known as Bloody Ridge because of the intense fighting on the slopes. Colonel Merritt 'Red Mike' Edson's elite Raider battalion and parachute battalion bent under the assault, suffering 40 dead and 103 wounded, but did not break. Kawaguchi was not so fortunate and lost 600 killed and 600 wounded in two nights vicious fighting. On October 9, the Japanese made a third and final attempt to drive the Marines into the sea when Lieutenant-General Harukichi Hyakutake gathered a new force of 20,000 men plus heavy artillery and planned to strike at the American centre and right simultaneously. but the terrible terrain made exact co-ordination between the two columns impossible and they attacked 24 hours apart.

That might not have been fatal except the Marines had received their own reinforcements in the weeks before the attack. More Marines and the U.S. Army's 164th Regiment brought American strength on Guadalcanal up to 23,000 soldiers. In addition, a second airstrip was built for fighter planes. Hyakutake attacked and was slaughtered on the American defences. On December 9, the battle and jungle weary 1st Marine Division was withdrawn and in its place were the Americal Division and the 25th Division, both army formations, and the 2nd Marine Division for a total of 50,000 men under Major-General Alexander Patch. Hyakutake had less than half that number and a critical shortage of supplies left his men weak and sick. In January of 1943, Patch fought his way down the length of the island, overrunning Hyakutake's headquarters on the 23rd of that month. The Japanese managed to evacuate 13,000 soldiers by night and the campaign ended on February 8, 1943. In total, the United States lost 5,600 casualties of which 1,500 were killed while the Japanese lost an estimated 24,000 dead.

The new Eastman 1st Marine Division t shirt celebrates the grit and courage of these men, an exact reproduction, researched, developed and manufactured in Japan by the best in the business. Constructed with a special thread called ‘Raffy’, which is a combination of American Supima cotton, Egyptian cotton and Turfan cotton, it replicates the look and feel of vintage fabric. Because these cottons all have different length staples, the thread has a distinctive texture that is similar to vintage fabric. This specialised thread is then woven on rare vintage circular knitting machines, so the body is a complete tube with no side seam, known as ‘body-size’ - just like the originals. Finally, the dying and sewing construction is impeccably matched to the original, rendering a recreation that is second-to-none.

Since I was 14 years old, when I first saw a photo of one in a magazine, I dreamt of riding and owning an XR - I mean a real one - the nasty, snorting, flat track race version. The Harley Davidson XR-750 is nothing short of a legend among motorcycles. The bike has more AMA wins that any bike in history, and it’s been called “the most successful race bike of all time.” Besides its well-known flat track dominance, the XR-750 was the favoured jump bike of Evel Knievel, and versions have competed successfully in road racing and hill climbing — where a nitrous-injected version of the engine was estimated to top 150 horsepower!

Prior to 1969 the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) rules for the AMA Grand National Championship were deliberately structured to favour side-valve engines rather than overhead-valve engines. The result of this was to favour American made bikes such as those from Harley-Davidson with their side-valve engines, and to disadvantage the overseas competition which was mainly from British motorcycles especially Triumph, BSA, and Norton. The AMA rules prior to 1969 allowed side-valve engines of up to 750cc capacity but OHV engines were limited to 500cc. With their 50% engine size advantage the odds were stacked in the favour of the side-valve bikes. The British motorcycle manufacturers put up with that for a while but by the late sixties their market in the USA for bikes around 500cc was shrinking and customer demand for bikes in the 650cc and 750cc classes was increasing. So the British worked to get the AMA to level the playing field and in 1969 the sought after rule change was enacted so that both side-valve and overhead-valve engines of up to 750cc were allowed in the AMA Grand National Championship. The effect of this on Harley-Davidson was to precipitate the need for a new OHV-engined racing bike that could successfully compete against the Brits and keep the Stars and Stripes at the forefront of AMA competition.

To create their new OHV racing motorcycle engine Harley-Davidson did not have to start from scratch because they already had an OHV V-twin racing engine based on the Sportster XLR, the problem being that engine was a 900cc (55 cu. in.) unit that would need to have its capacity reduced to 750cc. To accomplish this Harley-Davidson engineers decreased the engine's stroke from 3.81" to 2.983" and increased the bore from 3.0" to 3.2" bringing the engine in just under the 750cc maximum. That engine, based on the Harley-Davidson Sportster XLR, featured the four camshaft design originally created by Bill Harley back in 1929. This design provided an individual camshaft to operate each of the four valves, and although this might sound needlessly complicated, it had the advantage that each push-rod was kept at the best angle for the camshaft to operate the rocker arms and it enabled fine tweaking of the cam timing.

The cams were connected by gears to the crankshaft and formed a rugged and reliable system. This new engine with its compression ratio of 8.5:1 had iron cylinder heads, something which was to prove problematical with engine overheating leading to these engines being nicknamed “waffle irons”. Ignition was provided by a magneto mounted on the cam covers. The XR-750 Harley-Davidson flat track race bikes with the Iron Head engine raced in the 1970-1971 season. They were reasonably successful when the conditions were cool and the races were on the short side but were not competitive when conditions were hot and/or the races were long.

Although it has been tweaked and refined, today’s XR750 racers are very similar to the first “alloy” versions from 1972. Sharing direct lineage with earlier Harley production racers, the WR and the venerable KR750 both side-valve engine designs, the first XR750 appeared in 1970; the infamous “iron” XR. Starting in 1969 on dirt and 1970 on pavement, the new rules allowed a 750cc limit for all engine designs. Dick O’Brien and the Harley team began a crash course and came up with the new XR750, which in basic design was a destroked iron cylinder Sportster engine. The engine was housed in a proven KR-style swingarm chassis with Ceriani forks.The striking orange and black bodywork was the design of the Wixom Brothers. The engine made competitive horsepower, but the heat it produced led to self-destructive tendencies. Though the bike scored a respectable number of victories from 1970-’71, it also broke a lot. While stop-gap measures such as oil coolers and reduced compression helped, the factory knew what the trouble was and was concurrently building the improved “alloy” engine model. When it debuted in 1972, there were still teething problems to solve, but the basic package was a winner.

The factory produced small batches of the complete machine in 1972, 1975, 1978 and 1980. Since then, only the engine has been available, with the customer choosing an aftermarket frame from manufacturers such as Knight and C&J. The XR750 has met and defeated many foes over its 40+ years in competition. It is today facing renewed challenges from talented teams fielding machines from Kawasaki, Ducati and Triumph. The reason for Harley-Davidson’s domination is often speculated. In short, it is a purely American design for the purely American sport of half-mile and mile dirt track racing. Its tractor-type power from the 45 degree twin is the perfect tool for that purpose. Times may have changed around the XR750, but it is still out there accomplishing its intended goal; AMA Pro dirt track domination.

Beyond racing, the XR has also achieved notoriety as the chosen stunt bike of the legendary Evel Knievel. Robert Craig Knievel was an American daredevil and entertainer. He performed some of the most death-defying stunts on this 1972 Harley-Davidson XR-750. During his career, Knievel suffered 35 to 40 broken bones as a result of his daring stunts. In 1965, he starred in his own daredevil show bringing national attention to his stunts. His shows were televised nationwide. His show featured motorcycle "wheelies,” off-beat vehicles and jumps over rows of automobiles, trucks and buses. Knievel rode this motorcycle during some of his most spectacular jumps. His custom 1972 Harley-Davidson XR-750 was made of steel, aluminium and fibreglass, and weighed approximately 300 pounds. In 1975 he used it to jump 14 Greyhound buses.

The XR-750 was a bike that Harley-Davidson may not have wanted to create back in 1969 when they were between a rock and a hard place and they just plain had to. But in taking on that design challenge Harley-Davidson created one of the greatest bikes in the history of American motorcycling. It was and still is a bike that Bill Harley would have loved. Harley-Davidson recently brought out a new flat track dirt race bike, the XG750R. It looks like it should prove to be a worthy successor to its XR-750 godfather - but it certainly does have big boots to fill.

When soldiers of the 16th Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division landed at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, photographer Robert Capa, in the employ of LIFE magazine, was among them. Perhaps the best known of all World War II combat photographers, the Hungarian-born Capa had made a name for himself well before climbing into a landing craft with men of Company E in the early morning hours of D-Day. He risked his life on more than one occasion during the Spanish Civil War and had taken what is considered the most eerily fascinating of all war photographs. The famous image reportedly depicts the death of Spanish Loyalist militiaman Frederico Borrell Garcia as he is struck in the chest by a Nationalist bullet on a barren Iberian hillside.

Capa was known to say, "If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough." On D-Day, he came close once again. With Capa standing in the very stern, his landing craft mistakenly came ashore at the section of Omaha Beach dubbed "Easy Red." Then the ramp went down. "The flat bottom of our barge hit the earth of France," Capa remembered in his book Slightly Out of Focus. "The boatswain lowered the steel-covered barge front, and there, between the grotesque designs of steel obstacles sticking out of the water, was a thin line of land covered with smoke — our Europe, the 'Easy Red' beach. "My beautiful France looked sordid and uninviting, and a German machine gun, spitting bullets around the barge, fully spoiled my return. The men from my barge waded in the water. Waist-deep, with rifles ready to shoot, with the invasion obstacles and the smoking beach in the background gangplank to take my first real picture of the invasion. The boatswain, who was in an understandable hurry to get the hell out of there, mistook my picture-taking attitude for explicable hesitation, and helped me make up my mind with a well-aimed kick in the rear. The water was cold, and the beach still more than a hundred yards away. The bullets tore holes in the water around me, and I made for the nearest steel obstacle. A soldier got there at the same time, and for a few minutes we shared its cover. He took the waterproofing off his rifle and began to shoot without much aiming at the smoke-hidden beach. The sound of his rifle gave him enough courage to move forward, and he left the obstacle to me. It was a foot larger now, and I felt safe enough to take pictures of the other guys hiding just like I was."

Capa was squeezing off photographs as he headed for a disabled American tank. He remembered feeling "a new kind of fear shaking my body from toe to hair, and twisting my face." With great difficulty his trembling hands reloaded his camera. All the while he repeated a sentence that he had picked up during the Spanish Civil War: "Es una cosa muy seria" ("This is a very serious business"). After what seemed an eternity, Capa turned away from the beach killing zone and spotted an incoming LCI (landing craft, infantry). He headed for it. "I did not think and I didn't decide it," he later wrote. "I just stood up and ran toward the boat. I knew that I was running away. I tried to turn but couldn't face the beach and told myself, 'I am just going to dry my hands on that boat.'"

With his cameras held high to keep them from getting waterlogged, Capa was pulled aboard the LCI and was soon out of harm's way. He had used three rolls of film and exposed 106 frames. After reaching England, he sped by train to London and delivered his precious film for developing.A darkroom technician was almost as anxious to see the invasion images as Capa himself. In his haste, the technician dried the film too quickly. The excess heat melted the emulsion on all but 11 of the frames. Those that remained were blurred, surreal shots, which succinctly conveyed the chaos and confusion of the day and became known as the Magnificent Eleven.

Capa's D-Day photos have become classics. One of them, depicting a GI struggling through the churning surf of Omaha Beach, has survived as the definitive image of the Normandy invasion. He went on to photograph the Arab-Israeli war in 1948. He also photographed his friends Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso, as well as film star Ingrid Bergman, with whom he reportedly had a love affair. After that, having cheated death so many times, Capa vowed never to risk his life in wartime photography again. In 1954, however, he agreed to supply LIFE with some photos of the escalating conflict between the French and the Viet Minh in Indochina. That spring, while attempting to get as close to the fighting as possible, he stepped on a land mine and was killed at the age of 40. Robert Capa is one of many wartime photographers who have risked their lives and made the ultimate sacrifice to capture the essence of desperate combat on film. Frozen in time and etched in our collective memory, the D-Day photos speak volumes about courage and sacrifice

Steve McQueen was a well known motorcycle and car fanatic and a seasoned off-road racer. During some Baja races he was behind the wheel of a Super Jeep known as 'the Baja Boot', built by Vic Hickey of the now-defunct Con-Ferr Incorporated in Burbank, California. There was a feature on the Jeep and its assembly in the Sept. ’69 issue of Rod & Custom (where it was a finalist in the running as a ’69 Street Rod of the Year?!). They call it a Universal Jeep here, not a CJ5 but love it or hate it, this Jeep with chrome roll bar was cutting-edge back in 1969 for a street-driven 4x4, and probably used as a prerunner for desert races. This Jeep was rumored to been sold to Sonny Bono of Sonny and Cher fame and went to his house in Palm Springs. After Mr. Bono’s untimely death in 1998, the trail of ownership and current whereabouts of this classic seems to have gone cold.

Below is the original article from Rod and Custom with all of the Super Jeeps Tech Specs

125 mph, Streetable & Virtually Bombproof, It’s… Super Jeep!

Let’s not ponder the morality of stuffing the price of small house into a vehicle like a Jeep even though the result would put most muscle cars to shame on the road and do the same to nearly anything you care to name except a Baja Boot off the road. When you hire other folks, particularly specialists, to do your work for you and you want it done now and you crank in more running changes than a woman dealing with an architect, it’s going to cost, baby.

With a modicum of one’s own labor, the help of friends and neighbors, and a rational approach, almost anyone can come up with the equivalent of the example under discussion at less than half the cost. Either way you cut it, the result is desirable property.

Super Jeep came into being when a customer (who shall remain nameless) came to Con-Ferr Incorporated in Burbank, California, and told owner Pete Condos that he wanted the ultimate Jeep. It had to be fast, it had to be safe, it had to handle with the ease of a sports car, it had to look good, and above all else it had to be owner-proof. This last was the kicker; the customer is known for a weighty right foot and more guts than a packing plant. An additional request was that all parts be new, which, in the light of the construction techniques that followed, was hardly a necessity.

For openers, the customer purchased a basic V-6 Universal Jeep, the stripped variety that retails for around $3,000, and then said, “Go.” Condos trundled the thing over to his manufacturing plant, where it was dismantled totally to the bare frame. Plant foreman Chuck Atkinson took the latter item in charge and boxed every rail, including the crossmembers. Every juncture that was riveted he also arc welded, leaving the rivets in place for added security. At the rear, two fabricated plate spring perches were added outboard on each side and an extra shock mount was welded at each corner. A bracket to carry a Saginaw power steering unit was added to the left front. At each side on the rear a pair of three-leaf springs was installed, each carrying a pair of flat, unclipped overload or antibottoming leaves. Special fabricated boxed shackles held these at the rear. Springs at the front are standard but held with heavy plate shackles. Under these went the standard Jeep front axle equipped with Warn hubs.

Two spring units are used on each end of the rear axle. Three leaves are clipped, and two are used for overload. The ends of the dual springs are shackled to special boxes fabricated from plate.

At the rear is a Jeepster rear axle, used because it carries its third member in the center instead of being offset. The reason for this is that the entire powertrain was replaced by a high-performance 350 Chevy engine with a Turbo Hydramatic transmission. The long tailshaft extension and the Dana transfer case, which has its rear output shaft at the top, required that the rear axle carry a centrally located third member. Beginning to get the picture?

A bulletproof chassis needed to be coupled with the kind of total power that propels the Chevy Baja Boot. To further the hard-landing capability, vertical plates were welded across the tops of the axletubes to the third member cases to prevent axletube buckling. Double Koni shocks were mounted on all four corners. Wide-rimmed wheels with Inglewood Stagger Block tires completed the rolling gear.

Now came the trimming (and the running changes that we won’t detail here). Suffice it to say that the “take it off, put it back, take it off” routine sent the man-hour cost into an orbit that would confuse Houston Control. Con-Ferr’s wiring whiz, Dick Bowman, replaced all the stock conduits with quick-disconnect looms and an open fuse block so that if one circuit went out only that circuit would be affected and any part of the body could be removed without disrupting the whole system.

In its first, or competition, form, Super Jeep was equipped with a fiberglas sic hood and fender unit. Though light and strong, the owner decided that the steel stock pieces were what he wanted.

The body, which unbolts with ridiculous ease, had been sanded and repainted and given a whole gaggle of detail changes. The stock gas-fill port on the left was covered over. Hinges, clamps, and a glovebox door were chromed. A full set of Stewart Warner instruments was let into the dash. A central console was made up out of sheet stock to carry the Hurst shifter and special brackets and rails made from 1-inch-square tubing to carry the wiggy Solar Plastics bucket seats. These last, when properly upholstered, have to be the most comfortable, supportive seats ever to be put into an off-road vehicle. Running up from the Camaro Saginaw steering, the steering shaft terminates with a small foam padded wheel. This 13-inch item is all that’s necessary thanks to the power steering, and it imparts a sensitivity totally incongruous with the sheer beef of it all.

In place of the stock underseat fuel tank, two 15-gallon saddle tanks are stuffed up into the rear corners behind the wheels, and one big stainless steel 30-gallon tank rides under the body behind the rear axle. We don’t have any figures at hand, but it would seem reasonable to suspect that cruising range would be from 300 miles in rough country to 600 on the road—and you know there has to be a gas station somewhere in a radius that large.

Chuck Atkinson fits the 30-gallon main tank up into frame. Two other tanks ride in the rear body corners.

Due to the fact that the car was originally scheduled to be raced, not to mention for peace of mind, a full Con-Ferr rollcage was constructed. This is a stock item available from Con-Ferr and is, when mounted as intended, in accordance with the strict rules of the National Off Road Racing Association. Sharp-eyed, rules-conscious readers may spot something haywire about this particular installation, however. Chrome on a stress part, especially a roll bar, is looked upon with deep suspicion by tech inspectors and is subject to a thumbs-down unless accompanied by a certificate to the effect that it has been baked to alleviate any hydrogen embrittlement that may have occurred during the plating process. Not only is this cage chromed, but the man doing the plating cut it apart at the upper corners to get it into the plating tank and then put it back together with bolts and flanges with bolts placed in sheer! The customer accomplished this bit of instant turn-down all by himself over Condos’s kicking and squirming body. The result is great for kids to swing on but it would be laughed out of any responsible inspection lane on sight. Imitators be warned.

Originally a ’glass hood and fender assembly was installed for a significant reduction in weight, but an unfortunate prior experience with a hasty installation on another vehicle persuaded the customer to revert to the stock item. Not that the ’glass front end is a poor unit—it isn’t. It just needs proper holddowns due to its light weight.

The powerhouse: a 350 Hi Perf Chevy with upswept headers. The Hayden trans cooler keeps things cool in the Turbo Hydro.

As noted, underneath the hood lies a Hi Perf 350 Chevy V-8. Except for headers and a Carter AFB, iti s box-stock. The control words here are “Hi Perf”; this isn’t the little old lady’s 350 but a hulking, brutal torque producer that’ll pull stumps and still rev up a storm on demand. It sits in the hole as though it had been built just for that purpose. Up on the left side of the firewall is the Hayden trans-cooler, keeping the Turbo Hydro cool when the going gets rough. The header installation, thanks to the room available, has branches that sweep up and out, allowing welcome access to the plugs.

Looking back on the whole assembly operation, it was—except for the pressure and the cut-and-try necessary in such a total rebuild—remarkably simple once all the factors were known, very much reminiscent of building a roadster back in the days when good, fresh roadster bodies were available. The result, in terms of raw brutality, has to be the greatest virility symbol since the Cadillac-Allard.

73 years ago on April 8th, 1944 the fate of British troops in Burma was being decided over a small asphalt tennis court. This court lay on what was once a calm and scenic plateau, overlooking the District Commissioner of Naga Hills’ bungalow. But in the spring of 1944 the entire region exploded into battle.

The British, Indian and American troops in Burma and Eastern India had been steadily pushed back by the advancing Imperial Japanese Army, who had their eyes set on advancing into India itself. On the 4th of April, they launched a massive attack against the British positions on the Kohima Ridge. This ridge was barely a mile long, and only a few hundred yards deep. Despite its high slopes, the Japanese attacked in force, pushing the British into defensive positions as they laid siege. By the 6th, the British had lost access to their water supplies in the south and were desperately trying to hold on to what positions they left.

The District Commissioner’s Bungalow sat at the northern end of the British defensive line and was first attacked on the 8th of April. The Japanese suffered heavy losses but kept pressing forward. Finally, despite the best efforts of the British troops they broke through the line. Under covering fire from a BREN gun, the British troops were able to retreat to the highest point in the compound, the tennis court. The Battle of the Tennis Court had begun.

Even on this first day, the fighting was incredibly gruesome. The Japanese refused to stop their onslaught, and likewise the British refused to stop their defence. One British soldier from the Royal West Kent Regiment took cover in a trench, only to find it almost immediately overrun by Japanese troops, pushing him to the ground. He was pressed into both the mud, and his dead comrades around him while his enemies stood on top of him, and piled ammunition about him. Under the cover of darkness, he managed to escape across the small strip of land between the two sides. Once back in the British lines, he took up the fight and helped to continue the British defence.

Only yards away from one another the two sides kept up a constant barrage of fire. Between Easter Sunday, April 9th and April 10th, the Japanese launched infantry attacks almost every 30 minutes. The Japanese General Sato knew that his troops would soon have their supplies cut off by the monsoon rains. His men needed to achieve victory and secure a strong defence as soon as possible. The British, likewise, knew that they only had to hold out for a matter of weeks before they would be saved by the monsoons.

But this intense fighting took a toll on the British troops. A Company, of the 4th Battalion Royal West Kents, had been dug in behind the tennis court for three days. Their casualty count was high and their ammunition low. Stretcher bearers would sneak forward at night to pull wounded soldiers out of forward positions. But even after being saved, and taken to the field hospital, the men weren’t out of combat.

One of the greatest horrors of Kohima was that the British wounded had to be treated in clear view of Japanese positions. They had dug a deep trench for use as a hospital, from which the British troops could see the Japanese mortar teams firing on them and their comrades.

There was no good way to relieve the lack of ammunition for the British troops. But something had to be done, and one Sergeant from the Royal West Kents took up the job. On multiple occasions, he ran to the forward fighting positions carrying as much ammunition as he could. After it was distributed among the men, he would then sprint back to the supply depot. He repeated this for during much of the fighting on the ridge and under constant artillery and rifle fire from the Japanese. By the 13th, A company was relieved by B Company, with fresher troops and ammunition. But when they got into position by the court they realised how terrifying the battle had become. The Japanese troops had pushed to one side of the court, with British troops slightly up the hill on the other side.

As rifle ammunition became scarce, something very strange happened. Men started throwing grenades from one line into the other. Troops there that day described it as almost a snowball fight, but with small deadly explosives. Men would toss a grenade, and duck. If a grenade came into their own trench, they would either try to throw it back or run for cover, a difficult task in a small slit trench. But the British artillery had picked up the fight against the Japanese, and on the 14th and 15th, no attacks came, much to the surprise of the British troops there. But this brief respite wouldn’t last and on the 17th the Japanese launched their final assault of the battle. They took the British Field Supply Depot, and Kuki Piquet, both on hills just south of the tennis court and bungalow. The Allied forces were now trapped in the northeastern section of the Kohima ridge. The Japanese gains wouldn’t last. The British responded with Artillery and forced them back with the help of a relief column from the 2nd Division, which had been fighting through the jungle to reach Kohima. The tide had turned, and the British started pushing back. But at the tennis court, the Japanese were holding out.

An Indian unit, the 1st Battalion of the 1st Punjab Regiment, had taken up where the Royal West Kents left off. Arriving at the trenches on the 18th, they were almost immediately met with a grenade match, like the one on the 13th. Again the tennis court saw some of the toughest action of the entire battle. One man, Jemadar Mohammed Rafiq, earned a Military Cross while there. He had lost all three of his section commanders and organised a rifle section from the remnants. He then led a charge, killing 16 Japanese troops and taking their forward trenches. But this small advance didn’t last. The British and Indian troops at the tennis court were pushed back between the 18th and the 24th. By the 24th they had been replaced by D Company, Berkshire regiment. Over the next three weeks, the intense fighting for this small strip of land continued. The Japanese picked up their constant attacks, despite high casualties. The British couldn’t advance forward, or move during the day due to snipers. Finally, they were able to bring up Lee Grants Tanks, pulling, pushing, and driving them up the steep slopes until they were in position. The tanks started pushing forward, firing almost point blank range into the Japanese defences. On May 10th, the tennis court was cleared, and by the 13th, the bungalow as well. The Battle of the Tennis Court saw some of the hardest fighting of the entire Burma Campaign, with men only yards from one another. This infantry battle, fought in what was once a serene jungle resort saw over 4.600 British casualties, and 5,700 Japanese. Neither side was willing to give in, and the combined British and Indian defence there came to symbolise the British Empire’s refusal to give in to Japanese aggression. They held their ground for over a month, against constant infantry attacks, grenades, shelling, and lack of supplies.