|380th Bomb Group Association||
NEWSLETTER #11 -- June 2002
Crew 24, 529th Squadron, 380th Bomb Group,
5th Air Force|
Artist: Steve Nemirow (oil on canvas, 8'x12', 2002)
This painting is modeled from a 1945 snapshot of Crew 24 taken with their B-24 "Liberator." The original snapshot was taken with Pete LaLena's (Crew 24 waist gunner) camera in March 1945 at the Charleston, SC, Army Air Force Base. The artist is the son of Crew 24 navigator, Nathan Nemirow (DOD 1999). The poem below, "Crew 24 Meets Again in Sarasota," was written by Steve Nemirow. This painting was unveiled at a ceremony at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, on May 18, 2002. This information was provided to the 380th Bomb Group Association by Pete LaLena (Sound Beach, NY).
Copy of Original Photo
Front Row, l to r: Phil Rindone, Flight Engineer; Lauren Smith, Ball Turret Gunner; George Previs, Armorer; Howard Robbins, Radioman. Back row, l to r: Everett Philbrook, Tail Gunner; Nate Nemirow, Navigator; Charles Swanson, Pilot; John Pelligrini, Co-Pilot; Raymond Hopkins, Bombardier; Pete La Lena, Waist Gunner.
The guys in 1945 saw the plain truth unfold from island to island, Henderson Field to Tarawa, to Guam, to Biak, to Okinawa, Slung from the wings of a shining B-24. In no hurry now, the seasons and their minds turn again gracefully, like dancers with long practice. Timelessly twenty in the old photos, the waist gunner stands tall & smiles beneath an engine nacelle; the flight engineer kneels on the wing, wiring shut a troublesome gas cap, glancing up as the camera clicks, at 19, the ball turret gunner grins sheepishly, 50 cal. machine gun ammunition draped over his shoulders, surprises himself, with such a pose, such a shawl. At 74, the flight engineer squints into the white sun on the white sand Florida beach. Not a posed portrait, where the uniforms are pressed, neckties snugged, each insignia in its place. This one is a simple snapshot of men who'd just flown, just stepping down from their plane, floatation vests awry, flight suits, fat-i-gues wrinkled parachutes partly unstrapped (the flight engineer left his chute jammed in a crevice in the back of the plane). They ask this guy on the ground crew to take the picture, beside their bulky boxcar of a bomber. The pilot confident, with hawk-hooded eyes, his tousled hair. The impatient copilot, a youngster looking for a good time. The navigator, the pilot's pal, who he thought should've been a rabbi, but for the war. The flight engineer, competent (but airsick). Tailgunner the oldest at 30. Bombardier, waist gunner in his crash cap. Radio operator, glance askew all these years. The ball turret gunner, how he fit his lanky frame into that damn thing. Each man emphatically alive, young, in the sun. For 50 years the snapshots sat in the photo albums of ten men, then nine, as time wound its moving camera. Then eight. Seven, and the waist gunner started making phone calls.... Fifty years later they gather here. Their affections greet them, unchanged from the war: the awe and reserved respect they held for one another, unchanged; the earned loyalty to their pilot, to the bright constellation of the crew itself. Fingering through the old photos, their wives standing beside, an unchanged crew save for the missing faces, hands, laughter. Also waiting, unchanged: this debt to them, they earned so well, this warm breeze, this smile in a photograph from long ago.