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1.800.720.8574308.697.3493sjonson@swnebr.net

Fly Boy looks up to the sky Army Air Corps model completed for 20th Century Veterans Memorial

Poised in mid-stride, he could be walking to his B-17, warming up on the runway at Snetterton Heath, West Anglia, ready to leave the English coast and head for Berlin.

 

Cambridge artist Sondra Jonson presented the scale model of the fifth sculpture for the 20th Century Veterans Memorial to the board of directors Thursday. The Army Air Corps navigator has his map case under his arm, and his gloves clutched in his hand.

 

"We are calling him 'Fly Boy' for now," Jonson said.
Jonson used a model for the face and body for the figure, and created the uniform based on a World War II navigator uniform borrowed from the Cambridge Museum. The map case and boots were replicated from actual items for display at the WWII Museum in Greenwood, near Omaha.

 

The heavy boots had rubber soles and leather uppers, Jonson said. (Actor/singer Gene Autry was the only one in the Air Corps allowed to wear cowboy boots.)

 

"His hair is kind of long," one board member said.

 

"That's typical," Jonson said. "They didn't have flattops the way they do now."

 

Army Air Corps navigator 1/Lt. Marshall Stelzriede of Orient, Ill., kept a journal of his service between 1942-1945. Stelzriede was assigned to the 96th Heavy Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force in Snetterton.

 

"Dressing for the day meant donning winter woolies, then GI pants and shirt under a summer flying suit," Stelziede wrote. "Two pairs of heavy woolen socks were worn under GI brogans, and a cap and heavy jacket completed our dress until just before take off.

 

"We would put on our heavy, wool-lined flying suit and fur-lined boots, a wool-lined helmet, earphones, a throat microphone, a parachute harness and heavy gloves, with silk gloves underneath."

 

Silk glovers were used when the navigator needed to use a pencil, or fire a machine gun. Temperatures in the unheated B-17's dropped to minus-25 degrees at 30,000 feet, and bare skin would stick to cold metal.

 

The Army Air Corps sculpture will join those of a World War II pilot, a Vietnam-era infantry man, and a female medic already in place at the Memorial.

 

Jonson was selected as the artist for the final two pieces planned, the Army Air Corps and member of the Coast Guard, after the death of North Platte artist and sculpture Ted Long. Long had nearly completed the statue of a Marine at the time of his death. Long's son, Tom will finish that work.

 

Both the Army Air Corps and Coast Guard sculptures will be installed by Veteran's Day Jonson said.

 

"It is difficult to imagine," Stelzriede wrote, "What the sky looked like with 700 to 800 B-17s and B-24s in the air."

 

In the faraway, determined gaze of Fly Boy, one can almost see the shadows of those planes, passing the White Cliffs of Dover and heading into the heart of Germany.

 

"It's wonderful," said 20th Century Memorial board member Don Craig. "It's just wonderful."

By Diane Wetzel
The North Platte Telegraph
June 22, 2007

Cambridge artist Sondra Jonson presents the scale model of the latest 20th Century Veterans Memorial sculpture, World War II Army Air Corps "Fly Boy," to the board of directors Thursday.

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Sondra Jonson

www.sljonsonstudios.com

716 Nelson St

Cambridge, NE 69022

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