A Few Great Captains II Collage

Presented is a wonderful collage including signatures and photos of some of the most influential figures in the Army Air Force and the birth of the U.S. Air Force. Each individual was involved in WWI and/or WWII. Some men were aces who proved the usability and effectiveness of airpower, while others were brilliant leaders who paved the way for U.S. victories and the development of a new military branch. This beautifully framed collage includes six photos, two signed cards, one signed letter, and reproduction WWI Army Pilot wings. One photo of a biplane is signed by Claire Chennault, Hap Arnold, and Hoyt Vandenberg. The other photos depict William Mitchell, E. V. Rickenbacker, Claire Chennault, Hap Arnold, Carl Spaatz, and Hoyt Vandenberg. The 1942 letter to Elwood Maurer was written and signed by Major General Carl Spaatz while the two cards were signed by Rickenbacker and Mitchell. This impressive collection of famous pilot signatures are framed together according to archival standards, allowing this memorable work to hang immediately and survive for a long time. Each individual included has his own unique story and impact on the U.S. military:

William “Billy” Mitchell

Billy Mitchell’s photograph is at the top right of the collage and the right-most signature card. Mitchell served as an Army Officer in WWI and was an early and ardent advocate of an independent Air Force. The first American airman to cross enemy lines in WWI, Mitchell was named Lieutenant Colonel on the American Expeditionary Forces in June 1917. Although his relentless pushing for an independent air force earned him a court martial and demotion, eventually his ideas were put into place and in 1946 Congress produced a medal in his honor and presented it to his son.

Henry H. “Hap” Arnold

Hap Arnold, shown shaking hands with Spaatz in the top center photo, has signed the bottom photo of a biplane. H. H. Arnold was the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force and was instrumental in the planning of aerial attacks against Japan and the daylight bombings raids on Germany in WWII. He was heavily involved with and developed many of the fateful strategic decisions made during WWII. Instructed by the Wright Brothers, Hap Arnold’s pilot career led him to eventually help create the world’s most impressive Air Force.

Edward “Eddie” Rickenbacker

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was the most celebrated U.S. air ace of WWI. Shown in the middle left photo, Rickenbacker’s signature and inscription is on a small card just below. In a time when aerial battles were novel, Rickenbacker became the nation’s first fighter squadron commander. He accumulated twenty-six victories and led the 94th Aero Pursuit “Hat-in-the-Ring” Squadron as the first all-American fighter squadron to engage in combat.

Carl “Tooey” Spaatz

Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, shown shaking Arnold’s hand at the top photo, wrote the central letter of the collage. During WWII, General Spaatz served as a commanding general of the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa and in February 1943, he assumed command of the Northwest African Air Force, which he organized. Spaatz took command of United States Strategic Air Forces in January 1944 and led the air war against Germany until the war's end in Europe. In July 1945, Spaatz moved his headquarters to the Pacific Ocean Theater. It was there that he received the order from the War Department for the 20th Air Force to drop atomic bombs on Japan. After the war, Spaatz became the first Chief of Staff of the independent U.S. Air Force in 1947.

Claire Chennault

Claire Chennault’s signature is one of the three on the bottom most photo of a biplane, just to the left of his photo in the bottom right corner. Famous for his leadership in the face of overwhelming odds, Claire Chennault put together one of the most effective aviation units of all time. Chennault is widely known for his CAT airlift delivering supplies to communist-beseiged villages and the grand accomplishments of the Flying Tigers. Otherwise known as the First American Volunteer Group aiding China in its conflict against invading Japan, the Flying Tigers were given the nick name largely because of the large-toothed smile on the nose of their planes, as seen in the portrait of Chennault here. The group not only was created secretly by an order of President Roosevelt, but were also responsible for destroying almost 300 enemy airplanes and were highly active in the Pacific theater after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Today, Chennault, his men, and the shark-toothed planes are some of the most celebrated military symbols of the Second World War.

Hoyt S. Vandenberg

Shown at the bottom left, Hoyt Vandenberg was the third to sign the biplane photo at the bottom center. Vandenberg was instrumental in developing airpower strategies that won key Allied victories in North African, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns during WWII. Not only was he popular with the public and icons such as Marilyn Monroe, but the handsome Vandenberg played a major role in planning the air support for the Invasion of Normandy, earning the Distinguished Service Medal (among many medals and awards). Overall, he commanded the 9th air force in WWII allowing for Allied advances through Europe and into Germany, eventually becoming a General in the newly independent U.S. Air Force.


Overall near fine condition. The collage’s reproduction photos are clear and have no cracks, creases or fading. The letter is clean and bright with only two horizontal creases from where the paper was originally folded. The Mitchell signature card is bright and without damage. The Rickenbacker signature card is slightly soiled, but the handwriting is still clearly visible. The wings are clean and without damage. All aspects of the collage are framed together in an attractive, archival quality frame with UV protective glass.

Framed Dimensions: 47.5" H x 43" W x 2" D

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