Painting depicts attorney's father in WWII fighter plane

By TODD GLASSCOCK | Cleburne Times-Review, Texas | Published: March 15, 2017

CLEBURNE, Texas (Tribune News Service) — Somewhere high above the clouds over Southeast Asia, three P-51 Mustang fighter-bombers patrol the skies.

Leading the patrol is Lt. James Lowell Mason in his “Sweet Chariot,” the nickname he gave the plane.

This image comes from an oil painting by artist Dale Adkins, a painting commissioned by Cleburne attorney Bill Mason to honor his father, a World War II fighter pilot who flew the P-51 with the 1st Air Commando Group in the China-Burma-India theater of operations against the Japanese.

His dad entered the war in 1945, Mason said. The China-Burma-India theater was one of the tougher theaters of the war, given that for most of the war the countries were behind enemy lines.

Air units like his father’s often worked closely with British forces, as well as Chinese nationalist forces throughout the war.

Adkins met with Mason at the Cleburne Municipal Airport on Monday to deliver the painting in person.

“The P-51 plays a very significant part of aviation history,” Adkins said.

Adkins himself was a figther pilot, putting about 125 hours in flying P-51s. He also flew F-86 Sabre fighter jets in the Korean War.

The P-51 was instrumental in the success of the air war in both Europe and the Pacific, and in the China-Burma-India theater often provided support for special forces units on the ground, according to various histories. Some of the planes were outfitted with cameras for aerial observation.

Adkins, of Gordonville, is mostly known for his Western art, in particular his cover artwork for the novels of Louis L’Amour. But, he also has a passion for aircraft and aviation and usually paints military aircraft.

The municipal airport has several of his prints.

“I saw his prints here,” Mason said of how he discovered Adkins’ work while visiting the airport.

He gave Adkins a call and commissioned him to do a painting of his dad in his fighter.

Mason supplied Adkins with photos from his dad’s service years, many of which are in black and white.

But, Mason was also able to provide Adkins with one color photo of his dad’s plane, one he found surprisingly enough on the Internet.

He said he was searching around for information about his dad’s unit and plane when he found the photo online. He recognized the plane by its nose number – 29 – and by its name, “Sweet Chariot.”

The planes in his dad’s unit were also distinguished by their black lightning bolt on the fuselage and a black exclamation point on the tail.

He said he wasn’t sure what the exclamation point meant. Earlier planes in the unit had question marks on the tail.


©2017 the Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas)
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