- B-24J and P-51"Among the Columns of Thor" has a double meaning to it. In Norse mythology, Thor is the god of thunder and war. These B-24 bombers from the 409th Squadron, 93rd Bomb group, are in column formation, literally flying among Thor's cloud columns as they return from their targets deep in Germany. They are escorted by P-51 fighters of the 3361st Fighter Squadron, 356th Fighter Group. The paint scheme on the engine cowling of "Jersey Jerk," Donald Strait's plane, was designed by Freddie Schlack, another young pilot in the squadron. That pattern became the official scheme for the entire fighter group. Squadrons within the group would use different colored rudders to identify themselves. The deep, ominous colors at the right of the image represent war, whereas the left side is painted with lighter colors, signifying peace. The silve color scheme of the planes can also represent Allied superiority and the coming end of the war. Naturally, the aircraft are flying from the darkness into the light. Countersigned by Donald J. Straig, commander, 361st Fighter Squadron; Clinton DeWitt Burdick, pilot, 361st Fighter Squadron; K. O. Dessert, commander, 409th Bomb Squadron; and Edwin C. Baker, pilot, 409th Bomb Squadron.
- The Artist
- Phillips grew up loving art but never thought he could make it his livelihood. At college he majored in criminology and he had been accepted into law school when four of his paintings were sold at an airport restaurant. That was all the incentive he needed to begin his work as a fine art painter. Bill Phillips is now the aviation artist of choice for many American heroes and the nostalgic landscape artist of choice for many collectors. Bill's strengths as a landscape painter are what gave him an edge in the aviation field - respect and reverence for a time and place. When one sees his aviation pieces, thoughts are about the courageous individuals who risked their lives for our freedom. In Bill's landscapes, the viewer understands fully what that freedom is ... the precious values that make life worth living.
After one of his paintings was presented to King Hussein of Jordan, Phillips was commissioned by the Royal Jordanian Air Force to create sixteen major paintings, many of which now hang in the Royal Jordanian Air Force Museum in Amman. The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum presented a one-man show of Phillips' work in 1986; he is one of only a few artists to have been so honored.
In 1988, Phillips was chosen to be a U.S. Navy combat artist. For his outstanding work, the artist was awarded the Navy's Meritorious Public Service Award and the Air Force Sergeants Association's Americanism Medal. At least one of Phillips' works was chosen in the top 100 each time he entered "Art for the Parks," the prestigious annual fund-raiser for the National Park Service, and he received the Art History Award from the National Park Foundation several times.
September 11, 2001, hit Phillips very hard emotionally. Out of his distress came the painting A Prayer for My Brother. Fine art prints of this piece have been placed in many fire departments across the country, with a portion of the proceeds going to help families of fallen firefighters.
In 2004, he was chosen by the National Park Service to be the first Artist in Residence at the Grand Canyon where his assignment included paintings to interpret the park's purpose as a place of pleasure and its importance as a national treasure.
He is regularly invited to participate in the annual Masters of the American West Exhibition and Sale at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, an invitational for the top artists in the US. Bill is currently working on a large project documenting the Los Angeles Fire Department which will be placed in their museum. In October, 2013, the artist was inducted into the Oregon Aviation Hall of Honor, along with Doolittle Raider co-pilot Robert Emmens.