Dan Steele

Photographic Colourist

387th Fighter Squadron in training

I stumbled upon this fantastic photograph of the 387th Fighter Squadron whilst browsing the Fighter Group’s Facebook group recently. I thought it would be a great subject to add some colour enhancements.

The original image can be found on page 12 of Charles Johnson’s 1975 book “The History of the Hell Hawks”.

The squadron were still in the early stages of their formation in 1943 when the image was taken. They trained on the East Coast of the United States, between Dover, Delaware and Millville New Jersey, so it’s likely that the image was set in either location1.

Not long after this photograph was taken, the squadron shipped out to the United Kingdom aboard the Queen Elizabeth.

There are colour photographs that Jonathan Bernstein kindly alerted me of, showing early training P-47’s that have a yellow nose and some with yellow wings. I decided to use that scheme for this image, rather than the squadron’s usual white2.

I’m very pleased with the end result and I hope it helps bring the scene to life. Not all of the pilots made it home which makes it even more poignant to me.

Original Image of 387th Fighter Squadron, found on page 12 of "The History of the Hell Hawks"
Original Image of 387th Fighter Squadron, found on page 12 of “The History of the Hell Hawks”.

The image caption from the book reads as follows.

A group photograph of 387th Fighter Squadron personnel. Sitting on the wing, left to right, Second Lieutenants Clifford L. Thomas, Thomas E. Stanton, Mahlon T. Stelle, (KIA June 7, 1944), Robert E. Robinson, Joseph W. Faurot, First Lieutenant James E. Hill on top of the engine, Second Lieutenants John W. Motzenbecker, Andrew W. Smoak, George E. Robinson, Harold B. Johnston, (killed at Gosfield England on February 13, 1944), Homer G. Bulard. Standing on wing, left to right, Second Lieutenant Harold W. Cowper, Jr., First Lieutenant Louis T. Houck, Second Lieutenants Russell E. Gardner, Edward F. Boles, (KIA June 30, 1944), Karl M. Kloeppel, Jr., and Henry F. Vagts. On the ground in the center is First Lieutenant Ralph P. Warshaw, Engineering Officer. All others are unidentified. (H. Vagts)

Johnson, Charles R 1975, The History of the Hell Hawks, Self Published
  1. https://www.hellhawks.org/history.html
  2. https://www.facebook.com/jonathanbernsteinaviation/

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  1. nancy putnam November 7, 2021

    .mahlon t stelle is my father

  2. Maureen seel July 16, 2022

    Henry Vagts was my father

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