Saturday, July 14, 2007

Art Review: Ben Bennett's Squawkin' Chicken

'Last Man Standing' by Heinz Krebs, shows DeWayne Bennett's plane trying to limp home after a mission to Schweinfurt, damaged and under heavy attack. Ben brought her home.

One of my advisors this summer on my Air Corps novel is my old friend DeWayne 'Ben' Bennett.

Ben was the command pilot on the 384th Bomb Group B-17 'Squawkin' Chicken' during World War Two. He remains dedicated to preserving the history of the air war, and currently serves as a tour guide at the 390th Museum in Pima, Arizona. His memory is sharp, his humor is always a treat.

For many years the aviation art industry has flourished through the painting of famous scenes from the air war. Artists will select a scene, research it thoroughly, and then reproduced it in incredible detail. The artist will then have participants in the battle counter-sign the print, and these signed prints sell very well to historians and collectors. The price of a signed print can run hundreds of dolllars.

This painting, entitled 'Last Man Standing' is by artist Heinz Krebs. It shows Ben's 'Squawkin' Chicken' limping home after a tough raid to Schweinfurt, Germany in 1944. German fighters attack, moving in for the kill. But Ben and the crew make it back to fight another day. This print is signed by Ben and two of the German Luftwaffe pilots who served in the JG-1, the fighter group that attacked the plane. This print is still a great bargain at a little over a hundred dollars, signed by the artist, Ben, and two Luftwaffe fighter pilots. You can see it at

In a side note, Ben introduced me to a friend of his named Charlie Johnson, in 2000 or 2001. Charlie was a gunner who was shot down on a mission and became a POW. He became a friend of my youngest daughter, and the class learned about him and in return wrote him a thank you letter for his service as part of a history unit. Sadly, Charlie passed away shortly after this.

Ben and crew. Ben is back row, far left.


Dewayne said...

Dear Rob:

Thank you for the great Art Review. It was well done and very flattering to me. As you know I was a farm boy working with a team of mules (Tom & Jerry) when I joined them Aviation Cadets. It was working with that team of mules that made me such a good ordinary pilot. Yer fren ben

Les said...

Dear Ben,

Hello, my name is Les Poitras. My grandfather was a ball-turret gunner with the 100th Bomb Group, 351st Squadron and flew missions from June 29th - November 2nd, 1944, over Germany, at the ripe old age of 23.

For the past couple of years, I have been studying the history of the ETO Air War in WWII by reading books, including Rob's. I know you guys don't like to be called heroes and that you say the heroes are those who didn't come back, so I'll just say I'm awe inspired by the tremendous bravery that you young men showed in WWII. It almost seems hard to believe what you guys had to go through and then come back and adjust to normal lives, so many of you going on to become successful in civilian life as well. I am so awe inspired by the incredible amount of bravery you showed, that I have to come back and keep reading books, again and again. It is a fascinating history and it's clear to me why yours is called The Greatest Generation.

I am proud to be American, proud of our flag and thankful to you and men like you for the freedom that we enjoy today.

Your Admirer,

Cheryl Koehne said...

My grandfather, Lt. Col. George H. Koehne, Jr., is second from left, back row, standing next to Ben. He was the Commander on this particular mission. He was a member of the 384th Bomb Group, Unit 544. I am trying, in vain, to find anyone who knew him and can tell me why they called him Snapper.

Cheryl Koehne