M/Sgt Jack Gaffney - Crew Chief / Nose Artist
401st Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group
A Distinguished Veteran
|Jack Gaffney enlisted in October 1941, and after graduating from Air Mechanics School, he was assigned to the 91st Bomb Group in Bassingbourn, England. The first B-17 (specifications) to receive nose art painted by him was called Stinky, which was featured in Life magazine. The second plane he was assigned to, which also received nose art painted by him, was Invasion 2nd, which flew 23 missions before being shot down. He also painted nose art for The Bad Egg, The Sky Wolf, Los Angeles City Limits, Sunkist Sue, The Shamrock Special, and Destinys Child. The following are two stories told by Jack Gaffney about two of his famous B-17s.|
|Jack Gaffney signing "Full House - Aces High"|
|The Shamrock Special|
"The Shamrock Special (LL-Z) was parked outside the 401st hanger for repairs when it was rammed by, ironically, The Careful Virgin of the 323rd Bomb Squadron. Minor damage was done to The Careful Virgin, however, the damage was considerable to The Shamrock Special. The Careful Virgin had its hydraulic system shot up, and it didnt make the turn off the runway onto the taxi strip. It hit LL-Z in the elevator and vertical stabilizer section with its number four engine prop, and rammed the prop dome right through the stomach of the 337 girl painted on the dorsal fin. I had been working on some oxygen lines in the tail section just prior to the accident, when a little voice told me to go out and grab a smoke. Just as I was swinging out of the waist door, I was sent rolling, unhurt, on the grass, only to look back and see my artwork, as well as the tail end of The Shamrock Special, in a state of disrepair.
It went to the sub-depot, where they took it apart at the number six bulkhead by the back of the wings, and replaced it with the good back end of another plane that had its front end messed up. After we got it back from the hanger and did a thorough inspection, Lt. Francis Porada and I took it up for a test flight. We flew around the base a few times and came back for some more adjustments. After another test flight, we declared it ready to go back into combat on December 30, 1943. It flew another twelve missions, to add to its fifteen, for a total of twenty-seven missions. In mid April, 1944, it was reassigned to the Air Force Service Command to become a generals plane, and it was returned to the United States at the end of the war. The plane was originally from the 95th Bomb Group and was known as Easy Aces, having flown only two missions before it was transferred to the 91st Bomb Group. I named it The Shamrock Special when we received it, and it is quite possible that The Shamrock Special was the only B-17 in the ETO with three different pieces of art work painted on it.
Destinys Child was named by the original crew of 1st Lt. Howard Weber, when each crewmember placed their choice of a name in a hat, and the one drawn was chosen to be the name of the plane. S/Sgt Eugene Letalian, who was the assistant radio operator and waist gunner, placed the name Destinys Child in the hat. They left it up to me to decide what to draw on the nose, provided they all agreed with the design. I drew up a character from one I remembered in a comic strip about hillbillies. That character was called Uncle Rafe, and was the kid in diapers with a long rifle. The crew all liked the design, so I went to work and created the nose art, using bubble letters and the Uncle Rafe character. Destinys Child flew 53 combat missions without having to abort due to mechanical failure, and flew 44 plus missions on the original four engines. Destinys Child was shot down over the Mockhau Air Field near Leipzig, Germany on July 20, 1944. Ironically, on that day, Destinys Child was on standby and not scheduled to fly. The tail gunner, S/Sgt Jack Paget, who flew twenty missions on Destinys Child, watched his former plane go down before he was shot down while flying on Liberty Run.
On July 14, 1944, Jack Gaffney received the Bronze Star for the maintenance work he did on Destinys Child. Mr. Gaffney said, all I could think of was here you are, entrusted with a $300,000 bomber, so you had better take good care of it and those who fly it. He was also awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the Victory Medal, the American Defense Medal, the Distinguished Unit Citation with cluster, and the European Campaign Ribbon with six battle stars. After his service in the 8th Air Force, he worked in the grocery business for 41 years, and then retired to focus on his artwork, with scratchboard art as his specialty. He has also announced high school sports for 25 years. An accomplished dancer and singer, he entertained the troops at Bassignbourn, and recalls this memorable event that occurred during an open house at Bassingbourn.
|The story about the young British lady who came to visit Bassingbourn when we had an open house was near the end of the war, when she came up into the pilots section of the plane. She grabbed the pilots relief tube, and placing it to her lips started saying, Pilot to bombardier, pilot to bombardier.|
|Jack Gaffney is one of our Rogue's Gallery members.|
|(Thanks are due Jack for providing photos and stories)|
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