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A Pilot's Story

As far back as I can remember I have had my head and my heart in the sky. My first flight was in a  J-1 Standard with the Gates Flying Circus at  Ithaca, New York in  1927.  I later graduated from Pratt, The Art School, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Six months later I enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps Aviation Cadets. I graduated from flying school five days after Pearl Harbor as a 2nd Lieutenant and Pilot. Less than a month later I was a co-pilot on a B-17E that departed MacDill Field at Tampa, Florida and ended up in Java .


My introduction to combat was short lived as by the time we arrived at Malang, Java, it was time to leave.  Japanese Zeros were destroying our B-17’s on the ground. I escaped Java on a Dutch freighter and five days later we landed at Perth, Australia.  I flew bombing missions  from  Australia and New Guinea as a member of the 19th New Bomb Group for the remainder of 1942.. Our most frequent targets were the air fields at Rabaul and the shipping in Simpson Harbor.


After 24 years of active duty in the USAF, I retired as a Lt. Colonel and Command Pilot.  My last assignment was Director of Graphic Arts at the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. preparing briefing materials for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense in their appearances at the White House and before Congressional committees.  I spent an additional fourteen years as an Office Manager at Comsat (Communications Satellite Corporation) in Washington, D.C.


When I fully retired, my wife and I moved to Florida and I continued my aviation art.  My paintings have been displayed  in the EAA Air Adventure Museum, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in the Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola, Florida and in corporate offices and private collections.  I am an Artist Member of ASAA  (American Society of Aviation Artists).


I prefer to tell stories in my paintings.  I enjoy researching and painting experiences I have witnessed in combat.  I am attempting to factually record some of the United States aviation activity in the first year of WWII in the South Pacific.  This was a time when there was some doubt that the Japanese conquest of the area could be stopped.  Not many paintings exist of the United States Army Air Corps participation in the futile missions flown from Java or from Port Moresby and Australia in the first six months of 1942. It was a time when you flew with what you had and hoped you could do it again.


-- Paul Eckley

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