2nd Schweinfurt Mission
* screen colors may vary from print colors
Print Size: 32" x 24.38"
all prints are sold unframed
Almost Home
by Gil Cohen
A tribute to the pilots & crewmen who flew and fought
aboard the B-17 "Flying Fortress" in WW II
Just a year or two earlier, the bomber boys could be found in the classroom, on the job, or at the ballpark. Now, aboard B-17s, they bomb the German war machine and targets like Schweinfurt, Regensburg, Bremen, and Berlin.

On today’s mission, they shivered as frost covered their windshields. They gritted their teeth through skies blackened by flak and fighters. They fought, white-knuckled, until the friendly coastline appeared. Intense relief now shows on the crew’s beaming faces. One crewman may be wounded, an engine may be out, but they are almost home.

440 prints autographed by the artist and at least 6 "Black Thursday" veterans, including two pilots.

240 prints autographed by the artist and at least 10 "Black Thursday" veterans, including four pilots. Also includes pilot wings and an 8th AF pin, perfect for framing with your print!

Contact us for re-sale availability

140 prints autographed by the artist and all 12 "Black Thursday" veterans. Each Publisher Proof also comes with the bonus autograph of the late Col. Robert Morgan, the most legendary B-17 pilot of WWII, the pilot of the "Memphis Belle"! (Morgan autograph is separate, and can be framed-in with a print)

Also includes pilot wings & 8th AF pin,
perfect for framing with your print!

A gallery edition of 340 prints, bearing up to 2 veterans' signatures is currently available only to WWII
veterans and select non-profit organizations that promote 8th Air Force history. SOLD OUT
The second Schweinfurt Black Thursday B-17 Flying Fortress mission.
"At dawn, on October 14, 1943, in foul weather, the 8th Army Air Force, also known as the Mighty 8th, dispatched 291 B-17 bombers to the town of Schweinfurt Germany, a flight of some 800 miles. Since this city was vital to the ball bearing industry, it was at the top of the list of strategic targets for the allied forces and had already received a first attack on August 17, 1943.

The bombers were initially protected by friendly fighter escort, which were forced to turn back about half way to the targets. Arriving at the target, the bombers were attacked by an estimated 1,100 enemy fighters firing cannon and large caliber rockets manned by the German Lufwaffenhelfer (LWH) or flak-helpers. The vicious attacks were continued and repulsed until the bombers reached the English Channel on the return flight to England.

The battle brought great loss to both sided. Sixty heavy bombers and 600 airmen perished. Many lost their lives in the burning, badly damaged, crashed planes. Many became prisoners of war. Fifteen additional aircraft were so damaged they could never fly again. On the ground, 276 people died and countless more were injured. Consequently, October 14, 1943 - Mission 115, became known as "Black Thursday" in American military history and one of the greatest air battles of World War II." - courtesy of the 2nd Schweinfurt Memorial Association

We're proud to announce that each veteran signer of "Almost Home" flew on, and fought, the infamous "Black Thursday" second Schweinfurt mission.
Earl Baker, waist gunner, 384th Bomb Group

Louis Bridda
, waist gunner on "La Paloma," 305th Bomb Group

Jay Coberly
, bombardier on “Bucket of Bolts,” 94th Bomb Group

Bill Eisenhart
, pilot of “Wallaroo,” 303rd Bomb Group

Charles Huber
, top turret gunner, 385th Bomb Group

Bud Klint
, pilot of “Luscious Lady,” 303rd Bomb Group

James McClanahan
, bombardier, 384th Bomb Group

Herman Molen
, ball turret & bombardier on “Spirit of the Nation,” 305th BG

Pete Mullinax
, pilot of “Bucket of Bolts,” 94th Bomb Group

John Noack
, pilot of “Bless ‘Em All,” 306th Bomb Group

George Roberts
, radio operator on "Rose of York," 306th Bomb Group

Foster Rodda
, navigator on "Lady Lylian," 388th Bomb Group
A pilot with the 359th Bomb Squadron of the 303rd Bomb Group, William Eisenhart would fly two combat tours in WWII, many of the missions in the B-17 “Wallaroo.”

During his first combat tour, Eisenhart participated in the famous “Black Thursday” Second Schweinfurt Mission. During his second combat tour, he became the 359th Bomb Squadron Operations Officer and later a Squadron Commander.

Perhaps his most “notable” mission took place during the September 21, 1944 raid to Mainz, Germany. The 303rd Bomb Group Association’s web site explains why:

Capt Eisenhart was flying as co-pilot with Gen. Robert F. Travis (Commanding General 41st Combat Wing whom Travis AFB was later named after) as Pilot and Air Commander. They were leading the entire 8th Air Force. This was Gen. Travis's 25th and final 8th Air Force mission.

Gen. Travis became apprehensive about his position over the target. He took over control of the autopilot as he turned off the target. It resulted in throwing the entire formation all over the sky. Capt Eisenhart immediately shut off the auto-pilot and got the formation back together by decreasing the angle of bank and degree of turn. This didn't set well with Gen. Travis, but things would get worse . . .

Several months previously, the 359th BS instituted a policy that pilots should not leave the cockpit area during a mission to urinate in the bomb bay. Pilots were advised to crack their cockpit side window, get up on their haunches and let the slipstream carry the urine outside. This effective technique was done on a strict condition that the pilot would personally clean the window area immediately after landing.

During the September 21 mission, Capt. Eisenhart used this method to relieve himself only to discover that Gen. Travis was smoking his cigar and had cracked his window that created a cross draft. Some of Capt. Eisenhart's urine swirled in the cockpit and hit Gen Travis full in his face.

Upon landing, a very upset Gen. Travis chewed out Capt Eisenhart for a full half hour after the mission. He threatened Capt Eisenhart with a court martial and ordered him to immediately take down the bulletin board notice letter on the suggested urination method. He also advised Capt Eisenhart that he was going to award a DFC medal to Navigator Lt George H. Counts and Bombardier Lt Ralph L. Smith but was damned if he would award a DFC to Capt Eisenhart.

Gen. Travis was replaced by Brigadier Gen. Maurice A. Preston as 41st Combat Wing Commanding General a month later and his threats against Capt Eisenhart were never carried out. Captain Eisenhart became known as the only Captain who had urinated in the face of a General and got away with it. Such is how folk heroes are born.

Following WWII, Eisenhart was recalled to active duty in 1948. He served most of his remaining 32 years of service in the Strategic Air Command and flew 42 B-52 and KC-135 missions during the 1971-72 years of the Vietnam War. His most memorable missions of this time included him being the Airborne Commander for two of the "Christmas War" Linebacker II missions.

Eisenhart retired as Base Commander from Rhine Main Air Base, Germany in October 1976 and formally retired from the USAF as a Colonel at MacDill AFB in January 1977.

Today, Eisenhart is active in the 8th Air Force Historical Society, the 303rd Bomb Group Assocation, and the Second Schweinfurt Memorial Association.

Captain Bill Eisenhart
Eisenhart (standing, second from left)
with the crew of
88-year-old John Noack grew up in Port Arthur, Texas. At age 23, he was assigned as a pilot to the 369th Squadron of the 306th Bomb Group, the “First Over Germany.”

Noack was nearly lost on his first mission that he flew as a co-pilot, as explained in this 1943 article that appeared in the Port Arthur News:

“Noack had been in England only a few weeks. It was his first raid over enemy territory (Gelsenkirchen, Germany – August 12, 1943) and his first trip on the B-17 named “Sis.” As the formation of Fortresses approached the target through a screen of antiaircraft fire, a squadron of Nazi fighter planes attacked and one of them scored several cannon hits on Noack’s plane. One
Noack (kneeling, left) with the crew of "Bless 'Em All."

of the cannon shells exploded inside a wing, severing the bracing and connecting structure and causing the wing virtually to flap in the air. Another shell exploded in the plane and flying shell fragments wounded and stunned Noack, knocking him out for several minutes.

The big plane went into a dive, out of control, and fell from 15,000 feet to 7,000 before the pilot could regain control. He continued in the dive thinking to fool the Nazi pilots, but when he leveled off at a low altitude, five enemy fighters attacked the “Sis” again. Gunners shot down two of them and the others fled. The bomber limped home to get her fourth wing replacement. She had so many narrow escapes, with the crew praying each time things seemed hopeless, that the boys nicknamed her ‘The Flying Chapel.’”

After Noack’s fifth mission, he was awarded the Air Medal and after his seventh mission he was promoted to Aircraft Commander and given a crew of his own. Assigned to the B-17 “Bless ‘em All,” Noack flew on the famed October 14, 1943 “Black Thursday” Second Schweinfurt Mission where his top turret gunner and radio operator were both seriously wounded and his plane shot “full of too many holes to count.”

Later, on the December 11, 1943 mission to Emden, Germany, Noack and “Bless ‘em All” were shot down by flak. Lt. Col. Dudley Fay, the commanding officer of Noack’s division, wrote the following account to Noack’s mother, describing her son’s shoot-down:

“They came in high over the target and the flak was extremely heavy, and your son’s number two engine got a direct hit which completely knocked it off the plane. They were thrown partially over from the impact and plenty of oil and gasoline was seen to come out. However, John righted the Fort and continued the short distance he had to go in order to be directly over the target, whereupon, he released his bombs and started for the Holland border under what looked like complete control. His ship was definitely not on fire, but steadily losing altitude and unable to keep up with the formation.”

Noack and his crew survived the shoot-down by ditching the damaged B-17 in the North Sea but they were subsequently captured and held as P.O.W.s until the war’s ending.

Today, Noack is a self-described “man of leisure” who enjoys golf, playing card games on his computer, and being, “a very happy person with a very happy marriage” to his wife of 62 years!

B-17 Flying Fortress pilot John Noack.
Lieutenant John Noack
B-17 pilot Noack today, comparing his likeness with the pilot in "Almost Home"
by Gil Cohen. By coincidence, both men look extremely similar!
Now age 92, Pete Mullinax grew up in Chesnee, South Carolina. At age 27, he was assigned to the 332nd Squadron of the 94th Bomb Group as pilot of the B-17F “Bucket of Bolts.”

Mullinax’s 9th mission took him to Schweinfurt, Germany, as part of the legendary “Black Thursday” raid, in a substitute B-17 ominously named “Spare Parts.” During that mission, “Spare Parts” became one of the 60 B-17s lost that day, an event that Mullinax described in his book “Foes by Fate . . . Friends by Choice,” and below:

Mullinax (kneeling second from right)
with the crew of "Bucket of Bolts."

The air battles continued until we lost our number four engine, which I feathered immediately, to reduce the drag on the plane. This meant we could not keep pace with the group to take advantage of their much needed fire protection from the

German fighters. So we became a “straggler,” falling behind and we knew we were a sitting duck . . .

German fighters spotted our feathered propeller and they attacked in full furry from all directions . . . a blast of 20mm explosion caught my side of the airplane near my left knee—raking my seat with bullets and making the cockpit appear like a mass of Christmas lights, firecrackers and sparklers being lit at the same time. The exploding bullets hit my seat, injuring my left arm, my side, and my leg while raking the plane’s left side and wing. The

attack set the number two engine on fire . . . the German fighters continued their attack, how many of them, I don’t know. They succeeded in hitting the plane and starting a fire in the right wing as well . . . I knew that the plane was mortally wounded . . .

With “Spare Parts” in flames, Mullinax gave the order to “hit the silk.” Bombardier Jay Coberly (also a signer of “Almost Home”) helped Mullinax into his parachute and “kicked” him out the escape hatch, following soon after himself. After reaching the ground, Mullinax was captured and eventually taken to Stalag Luft 1 on the coast of the Baltic Sea, where he remained until the war’s conclusion.

Today, Mullinax is an ardent crossword and jigsaw puzzle maker. He enjoys visiting his daughter’s bar, daily, for a Scotch. He keeps in touch with his surviving crewmembers and is even dating a younger woman of age 79!

Mullinax (L) with his friend and fellow pilot John Noack.
89-year-old Wilbur “Bud” Klint grew up in Chicago. At age 24, he was assigned as a pilot with the 427th Bomb Squadron of the 303rd Bomb Group, the “Hells Angels.” He flew his first combat mission on August 16, 1943.

Klint was co-pilot on the B-17 “Old Squaw” for the September 6, 1943, mission to Stuttgart, Germany. The 303rd Bomb Group’s website relates what happened to the crew of the “Old Squaw” during that raid:

The target was circled several times which consumed gasoline. Knowing that crashing in France or ditching was probable, the crew threw overboard all non-essential items. After passing the French coast and lagging behind the formation, all guns, ammunition and other items were discarded. The #1 & #2 engines had quit running because of no fuel. The radio operator was busy sending out SOS signals. Soon the #2 engine quit and Lt Hullar and Lt. Klint ditched their B-17 near a boat they had seen (approximately five miles off the coast of England). All men were rescued by an Air-Sea Rescue boat that soon arrived. The crew, with the exception of S/Sgt Marson, who has a ruptured eardrum and a wrenched knee, were transported back to Molesworth.

Following the ditching, Klint returned to combat and flew what he considers his toughest mission, the October 14, 1943, Second Schweinfurt Mission, often called the greatest air battle of WWII and known to those who flew that day as "Black Thursday."

He was upgraded from co-pilot to pilot on December 29, 1943, and flew his last nine missions as a pilot in command of the B-17 “Luscious Lady.” His 25th and final mission was on February 20, 1944. Klint went on a two week public relations tour of British aircraft factories after completion of his combat tour. He then returned to the USA and finished the war as a four-engine bomber instructor.

Today, Bud is active in the 8th Air Force Historical Society, the 303rd Bomb Group Association, and the Second Schweinfurt Memorial Association.

Klint with his crew and the B-17 "V-Packet."
Klint at the 303rd BG's Molesworth base.
Veterans of "Black Thursday." L-R: Bud Klint, George Roberts, John Noack, Jay Coberly, and Pete Mullinax.
A dead-eye gunner in the sky, 84-year-old Herman “Mo” Molen is also celebrated as one of a handful of P.O.W. escape artists who actually succeeded in escaping from a German P.O.W. camp. In fact, Mo escaped twice from the Stalag 17-B camp in Krems, Austria.

Stalag 17-B was far from where he grew up as a farm boy in Greeneville, Texas. Across the street from him lived a quiet, anti-social kid whom he later came to know as Audi Murphy, who became WWII’s most decorated soldier.

At age 19, Mo enlisted in the Army Air Forces and became a ball turret gunner with the 343rd Squadron of the 305th Bomb Group, “The Can Do Group.” Taller then most ball turret gunners, Mo barely fit in the turret and had to cock his head to the side of the gun sight. This unusual position saved his life on July 4, 1943 during a bombing mission against German sub pens, when a FW-190 attacked his aircraft fired a 20mm cannon round

that slammed into his turret, directly through the gun sight where his head should have been. Shrapnel from the near miss sliced across his right cheek and impaled in his forehead, permanently scaring his face. Mo was out of commission for a month as he recovered from his wounds.

Not wanting to push his luck, Mo became a toggleier (an enlisted bombardier) aboard the B-17 “Spirit of the Nation.” On his 25th mission, the “Black Thursday,” Second Schweinfurt Mission, Mo volunteered to fly as a replacement bombardier/toggleier, not knowing where the mission was headed.

Mo remembers what happened that day over Germany: “We got hit, but I did not know the extent of the damage until I looked up into the cockpit and the co-pilot motioned for me to bail-out. The navigator had flesh founds caused by flying shrapnel when the rocket or missile hit our plane. I was right beside him and all I got was a cut on the back of my neck. The bombs had been salvoed from the cockpit and the bomb bay doors were hanging open.

The escape door in the nose of the plane was very small and hard to bail out of. The navigator was sitting there, limp as a dish cloth. I looked and was afraid that if I pushed him out, his arms and legs would hit the bomb bay doors and tear him up. Rather than take the chance, I pushed him up through the cockpit, into the bomb bay, and shoved him out.

I ask myself over and over again, “Should I have gone ahead and shoved the navigator out (of the escape hatch) and then got out myself? Just maybe my co-pilot (Lt. Boggs) would have gotten out safely (since he stayed with the plane longer, so others could get out) . . . instead, he went down with his plane and was reported killed. After I was captured, the Germans couldn’t connect me with any crew that had been captured as I did not show up on any paperwork. I could only tell them my name, rank, and serial number.

Not having the proper information, they carried me as an ‘M.I.A.’ Missing-In-Action statistic. As I said, when the co-pilot was reported killed, the military and my family took it for granted that I had been killed when the plane crashed and burned.”

Captured by the Germans, Mo was transferred to Stalag 17B, the camp immortalized in Billy Wilder’s film “Stalag 17.” With a smile on his face Mo insists, “William Holden played me in the movie!”

Mo’s first escape saw he and a French P.O.W. cut through the camp’s perimeter fence on Easter Sunday 1944. Molen remembered, "We knew that cutting fences was a great way to get shot . . . we were just counting on the guards not expecting anyone to try it.” He and the French P.O.W. we recaptured five days later, not far from the camp, unable to surmount the foot-high snow and freezing temperatures of the area.

Mo’s 2nd escape took place on January 3, 1945. Mo and five others bribed the guards to look the other way. For two months, Molen managed to hide and avoid German patrols until Austrian civilians discovered him and turned him in. Amazingly, he was not shot and instead was re-incarcerated until American forces liberated him on May 5, after his German captors forced the P.O.W.s on a 124 mile march to avoid the advancing Russians.

Mo flew reconnaissance missions in Korea and Vietnam before retiring as a Master Sergeant in 1969. Today, Mo is active in veteran organizations like the American Ex-Prisoners of War of which he served as a past National Commander. He enjoys his retirement and still goes for a spin in his speedy, red, Mazda RX-7 sports car.

Mo's turret after the July 4 FW-190 attack.
Mo's B-17F "Spirit of a Nation"
The barracks at Stalag 17B, a P.O.W.
camp for enlisted airmen.
Now age 92, Jay Coberly grew up in Cumberland, Maryland. Originally a member of the joint Maryland/Virginia National Guard unit, the 29th Division, (which would earn immortality when it was decimated at Omaha Beach on D-Day), Jay applied and was accepted into the Army Air Forces and became a bombardier in the 332nd Squadron of the 94th Bomb Group. He was assigned to the B-17F “Bucket of Bolts” flown by “Almost Home” signer Pete Mullinax.

On his 10th mission, the “Black Thursday” Second Schweinfurt raid, Jay was aboard a substitute B-17 called, “Spare Parts,” when they were hit by fighters in both wings, which punctured the gas lines and caught fire. Pilot Pete Mullinax ordered his crew to bail out since flames engulfed the wings. After helping his pilot through the escape hatch, Jay followed and had a successful parachute opening. He was captured while trying to remove

his heavy flying boots so he could run faster, and became a P.O.W. held at Stalag Luft III, the camp depicted in the movie: “The Great Escape.”

Today, Jay spends much of his time onboard a house boat he built at Norris Lake, in Tennessee. He enjoys fishing or just drinking beer, depending on if the fish are biting. He insists that his longevity has been achieved by surrounding himself with young people like his grandchildren.

Now age 87, Charles Huber grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. At age 21, he was assigned as a top-turret gunner and flight engineer with the 548th Bomb Squadron, 385th Bomb Group known as: “Van’s Valiants.” Charles would fly a total of 35 missions, burning out his twin .50 machine gun barrels on many of them. On one such mission, he shot down an FW-190 during its frontal attack with crack shooting and, as Charles proudly exclaims, “thanks to the help of the Sperry self-computing gun sight!”

Although Charles is a veteran of the Second Schweinfurt Mission and other big raids over Germany, his most memorable B-17 mission does not involve combat at all. Charles and his crew were once ordered to report to a B-17 on the flight line, which to his surprise had a boat slung underneath its belly. There, they were informed that RAF Bomber Command had encountered severe losses and needed air/sea rescue assistance to save their crews down in the English Channel. Airborne over the channel, Charles’s crew began their search and located several bomber crewmen bobbing in the surf, clinging to an aircraft wheel.

"Almost Home" signers Lou Bridda (L)
and Charles Huber (R).

After deploying a smoke marker to check the wind, they dropped their rescue boat which was lowered softly into the sea by two large parachutes. Upon hitting the water, the boat’s automatically-activated lifelines triggered rockets that shot ropes in multiple directions to aid the crew in reaching the boat. Soon after, Charles saw the RAF crewmen pulling themselves into the boat, making his first and only air/sea rescue effort a success!

Today, Charles lives in Delaware, is active in the 2nd Schweinfurt Memorial Association, and does “a whole lot of fishing and crabbing!”

Gil Cohen has had a long career as an artist, illustrator, teacher and historical painter.

Cohen, having studied under renowned illustrator and author, Henry C. Pitz and World War II combat artist, Albert Gold, graduated the Philadelphia Museun School of Art ( now the University of the Arts ) in 1953. Years later, Gil returned there to teach figure drawing, anatomy and illustration from 1966 to 1986, eventually chairing the Continuing Studies Illustration Program.

Prior to beginning his art career, Gil spent two years in the army. During that time, he was stationed outside of Frankfurt, West Germany as an artist with the 513th Military Intelligence Group, US Army Europe, during the height of the Cold War.

Cohen’s primary career has been that of a freelance illustrator and painter of historical subjects. Clients during this 50 year plus span of time have included: The U.S. Information Agency, The National Park Service, Paramount Pictures, Bantam books, Harlequin Books, Random House, Holt Rinehart & Winston, Warner-Lambert, The U.S. Coast Guard, The National Guard Bureau, and Boeing & Sikorsky Aircraft Companies.

Gil Cohen’s passionate interest in aviation started as a youngster during the Second World War. Gil became quite proficient at identifying the many types of aircraft that flew over the Philadelphia area where he was born and raised. Many years later he was able to blend three of his deep interests ( painting, history and aviation ) and would go on to produce his stunning series of paintings depicting scenes of Eighth Air Force activities during World War II. Gil’s emphasis in this series was not only to depict a specific moment in history, as well as actual aircraft, but most importantly, the human element; i.e., human task at hand, emotions being experienced and energy released.

A Gil Cohen self portrait

The original oil paintings of the series based upon the Eighth U.S. Army Air Force during World War II are in private collections around the world. Limited Edition reproductions of this series are marketed worldwide; some of which are sold out and are only available on the secondary market.

A one-man show of Gil Cohen’s Aviation paintings, including the well known Eighth Air Force series, was exhibited at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum in Savannah, Georgia from December, 1988 through May, 1999.

Cohen, Artist Fellow, former Vice-President and former Exhibition Committee Chair of the American Society of Aviation Artists ( ASAA ), is currently filling the Ren Wicks Founder’s Chair of ASAA. Cohen is a four time winner of “The Award of Distinction” of ASAA juried exhibitions as well as the ASAA Service Award in 2007. He is also the recipient of the British Guild of Aviation Artists “Best of Show” by an American artist and the “Best of the Best” award sponsored by Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine. Cohen has conducted artist’s workshops on the topic, “The Human Figure in Pictorial Composition” for ASAA.

Gil Cohen’s paintings have been exhibited at the New York Society of Illustrators, The National Parks Civil War battlefield sites of Appomattox Court House, Gettysburg, Mannasas, Chickamauga, and Petersburg, The Kosciuszko Museum and The Art Alliance in Philadelphia, The Kennedy Center in Washington,D.C., The Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, The Royal Air Force Museum in London, The U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, as well as the Mighty Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum.

For several years Cohen served on the Board of Directors of the New York based Society of Illustrators chairing the Government Services Program which oversaw the Air Force Art Program. In that role he had sent many artists around the world to depict the mission of the U.S. Air Force. His own travels with the Air Force have taken him to such places as war-torn Bosnia, Somalia, Central Asia and Israel. Paintings generated from these trips are donated to the U.S. Air Force Art Program.

In July 2005, a reception of Cohen’s aviation prints was held at the Duxford Flying Legends Air Show in England. Guests signing Cohen’s prints included 22 WW II veterans of the Royal Air Force. Another Duxford reception was held the following year featuring RAF Pathfinder veterans and former members of the famous Eagle Squadron.

Gil Cohen and Valor Studios wish to thank the following individuals for their assistance:
The staff of the Dover Air Mobility Command Museum, Mark Copeland, Mike Faley, Robert Hill, Jack Lefferts, Julee MacDonald,
Donna & Nicholas Medaglio, David Menegaux, Michael, Mike & Brenda Olenick and Greg Roos.