At 94, Maj. Fredric Arnold (ret.), Sole Surviving Member of his WWII P-38 Class of 42J Group, is Sculpting A Monumental Bronze Sculpture in Memory of the more than 88,000 WWII US Airman Killed in Action
Ever since my early childhood, I’ve been an artist. Fine art. Commercial art. You name it. This project, however, is special. It is my magnum opus… The most challenging from an artistic point of view, but more importantly, the most meaningful to me. I am putting my heart and soul into this work.
The narrative below describes the overall origins of this sculpture. Bear in mind, however, it is comprised of twelve individual figures. Each figure has its own story and its own meaning. I hope you’ll also take the time to read each of the twelve stories posted under the “Gallery” menu heading.
Thank you for your interest. Here is the background behind this work of art:
Of fourteen original members of my original group of Class 42J P-38 fighter pilots, only two survived six months of combat: myself and Jim Hagenback. Much of our survival was due to luck. Years later, we vowed to each other that whoever was left standing would do something to honor the twelve. Lest We Forget: The Mission stemmed from our deep gratitude to the twelve original members of their Group that didn’t survive to live their lives in peace.
As I work to complete this monument, I am 94 years old and the last man standing of my original group. I am honor bound to fulfill my oath. To my knowledge, I am the only commercial artist to live through combat as a US WWII fighter pilot in the North African theater of operation. Turning to my art, the idea of the sculpture grew out of an intense memory of the quiet bravery of my comrades attending a mission briefing as we recommitted to executing the day’s mission, even while flanked by the memory of our fellow pilots killed in recent combat.
Although the sculpture began as a testament to the twelve pilots in my squadron, the scope of the work has grown. Now the twelve individuals figures are dedicated to the memory of the more than 88,000 U.S. aviators who gave their lives during WWII. I am honored that three former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former Senator have endorsed the deep meaning of my sculpture.
Arrangements have been made to loan Lest We Forget: The Mission to the National WWII Museum for exhibition on their 6-acre campus. In time, we hope it becomes an iconic image linked to WWII aviators just as the famous Iwo Jima sculpture memorializes the sacrifices borne by the Marines.
The photo shown below is the original tabletop version of the work. The sculpture depicts twelve life-sized fighter pilots during a mission briefing. The lighter colored spirits of aviators already killed in action look over the shoulders of those still alive. All are destined to die. Please view the Gallery pages on this website to see images of the life size figures completed in clay. These are being cast in bronze with the help of tax-deductible donations from supporters.
I invite you to watch the videos on this site to hear about the history and significance of my project.
Thank you for your interest and support,
Major Fredric Arnold (ret.), Founder and Sculptor