Nose Art and Pilot Portraits
Rarey's nose art appeared on all the aircraft of the 379th FS, as well as on many of the planes in the 377th and 378th. He even created insignias for non-pilot friends, such as Doc Finn, the group doctor; Don Marsden, the squadron weatherman; and Bill French, the group executive officer. He painted a watercolor of each insignia on 12 x 18 inch paper, each insignia accompanied by a portrait of the pilot. For a time these paintings hung in the Nissan hut ready room at Wormingford. The nose art and portraits below have been scanned from the originals.
Click on a picture to see a bigger or more complete version.
I'm sorry to report that Pilot K.C. Geyer died in March of 1996 in Redding, California. A couple of years ago my wife and I had dinner with him and his wife, Gerrie, in Redding, and I'm happy that I had a chance to know him. He was a true original. Feisty does not begin to describe K.C.'s brand of individualism. His harsh, dark, but wryly humorous view of his war experiences was a rich source for me. He told me, "Your dad didn't like me much. I was too gung-ho for him. I used to get after any pilot who returned from a mission with unused ammunition. All I wanted to do was kill Germans. People like your dad shouldn't have to fight wars. Wars should be fought by people like me." Of all the veterans I've talked with, K.C.'s memories seemed to haunt him the most. When he sat down to write some notes on the drawings for me, he complained bitterly that it was unpleasant for him to remember. His insignia, "Stud," is shown in the drawing of my dad painting cowlings in Volume III.
Hugh Houghton had been an aspiring actor before the war, and was now one of my father's closest friends. He was killed
in action in April 1944, which Rarey commemorated with a drawing in Volume IV.
Joe Laughlin was the squadron commander.
He later married Audrey Kitts, widow of Kenneth Kitts, who was the first 379th flier to
be killed in action. Colonel Joe and Audrey now live in Claremore, Oklahoma.
Bob McKee was my father's wing man
on his last mission. Bob and his wife live in Dallas, Texas. He provided
many of the annotations for the drawings. He's written a book, "One Fortunate Fellow," recounting his many
close brushes with death.
John Shumway was a
19-year-old boxer who had fought professionally. He was one of the pilots living in Rarey's Nissen hut.
He now lives in Santa Barbara, California.
The insignia on Jim Ashford's P-47 reflects his Hawaiian home, where he still lives. Jim contributed many lucid notes on Rarey's drawings, shown both here on the website and in the book, Laughter and Tears. For this I am much indebted to him.
Gordon Larsen's insignia, "The Deacon," reflects his devout Mormonism. Rarey's hut-mate in good standing, the Deacon abstained from the drinking and smoking that was rife among the pilots.
No one in the group had heard anything of the Deacon for 52 years. Talking with Audrey Laughlin on the phone one day I wondered aloud as to the Deacon's whereabouts. "Hmm," she said, "I'm pretty sure he was from Salt Lake." A call to directory assistance found him immediately. He attended the 1997 362nd group reunion. Larsen is a Mormon Bishop in Salt Lake City.
Ed Abdallah was the first member of the 379th to be shot down. When he bailed out, the canopy slammed shut on his legs, breaking both of them. One leg was amputated in a German POW camp. He returned home in the fall of 1944, traded out by the Red Cross.
His aircraft bore the only example of "cheesecake" nose art that Rarey did. Notice the can-opener in Abby's hand - a tool for opening the armor of "Abby's Amazon."
Linda and I had dinner with the Abdallahs in Las Vegas, their home, when we attended the Air Force 50th birthday party in April, 1997.
Ken Kitts was the first 379th pilot to be killed in action.
Rarey's letter: "Betty Lou - I didn't write about Kitts - well, I don't know why. We were shooting up trains in France. They were loaded with tanks and armored cars and there was quite a bit of flak. A hunk of the damned stuff hit Kitt's ship and it just didn't get him back. He tried to hit the silk but didn't make it. That's all. You mustn't think too much about such things. Our losses here aren't much heavier than when we were training in the States. I'm awfully sorry for Audrey and will write her her if you think I should - but I don't think it would help."
Kitts' widow, Audrey, later married Joe Laughlin, the squadron CO.
I met Bob Doty at a 362nd reunuion in Arlington VA in 1995. A cheerful, out-going man, he had many fine reminiscences about Rarey and Bill Flavin, my step-father.
It was Bob who smuggled Rarey's journals back to the States and delivered them to my mother in the fall of 1944. The journals would have been classified by the War Department and no one knew how long it would take to wrest them away from the government after the war.
The nose art on Doty's ship, "Dudge," is one of Rarey's best.
Robert "Blackie" Barnes was killed in action on a mission to Durval, France, on July 7, 1944, ten days after Rarey's death.
Lt. Clough Gee III was a West Pointer, KIA a few weeks before my father and the only other member of the 379th to be buried in the same American cemetery in Normandy.
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