Many aspects of this project are unique. This page addresses many of the questions and answers raised by program supporters. If you have further questions that are not addressed here, please use the Contact tab to send us a message.
Why did you choose to depict a Mission Briefing?
When asked to visualize scenes of WWII aviation, many think of the aircraft of that era or stylized dogfights unrealistically portrayed by Hollywood. Almost none of the public stop to think, however, about the daunting challenge which faced these young (typically 19-21 years old), ill-trained (90 hours total flight time) pilots prior to each mission.
During much of the war, the death rate among fighter pilots was so high that, statistically, it was a certainty that none of us would survive 50 missions to come home. In spite of that knowledge, each pilot made the conscious decision to board their aircraft and leave the safety of their home base to fly toward the battle. Day after day. The scene depicted by this sculpture is intended to capture a poignant moment in time when the mission is laid before the squadron and each pilot recommits himself to go again, even as they feel the presence of pilots already killed and not yet gone or forgotten.
In truth, we faced a harrowing real life example of Russian Roulette.
What is a “maquette”?
An artist rarely if ever sculpts an original in life size. It is much more common to work in a smaller scale to more easily experiment with different poses and work out the details of the larger sculpture. In my case, I spent over a year working at this smaller scale to create a table-top sized model of Lest We Forget: The Mission. This smaller original work is called a “maquette” (pronounced MA-ket), from the French word meaning scale model. Using the maquette as a guide, it is then possible to focus on the enlargement sculpting process. Working with the assistance of Sutton Betti, a gifted sculptor in his own right, we refined and enlarged the smaller work to create life-size originals. How much does a man-sized hunk of clay weigh? About 250 pounds! To complete all twelve figures, we used more than 3,000 pounds of clay! Once each clay original was complete, we pass the originals off to the mold maker, completing the original sculpting process.
Can you describe the “Lost Wax Process”?
The foundry and other professionals participate in a multi-step process known as “lost wax” process to convert the clay originals to finished bronze. In summary, this process involves the following steps:
Latex and plaster molds are taken for sections of the clay original (destroying the original). There can be as many as 10-15 individual molds for each figure. From the negative molds, wax positives are created. Each wax positive is cleaned up, then sprues are added to act as channels and vents during the pouring stage. The wax, with its sprues, is dipped repeatedly in a colloidal silica slurry. This builds up layer of silicon material. Put into an oven, the wax pours out the bottom leaving a negative cavity, hence the term “lost wax” process. The hollow form is heated up further and the silica fuses into a red-hot glassy condition. At just the right temperature, molten bronze metal is poured into the hollow form. The metal cools and solidifies. The outer brittle mold is broken off. The raw bronze is chased to remove remnants of the mold material. The various pieces are welded together and the seams are ground off. Chemicals and heat are used to apply a permanent coloring. This surface coloration is call a “patina”. Then the separate sculptures are joined together to form the final sculpture.
Maj. Arnold, you started the project when you were 90 years old. Weren’t you afraid something might, ahem, happen to you before completion?
Yes, this was a concern. When I started, I felt fine. But yes, there was clearly a risk that something could happen that would take me out of action. As a matter of fact, my favorite expression in those days was that “I don’t even buy green bananas!” Ha, ha. All kidding aside, I knew it was a major multi-year project and the issue of my making it to the end was not a trivial question. That risk was quite considerable until March 3rd, 2015 (I was 93). On that day, I finished the final (twelfth) life size clay original! It was a major milestone. From that day forward, we all breathed a sigh of relief as my critical role was more-or-less complete. The remaining complex production steps were primarily in the capable hands of the wonderful people at Art Castings of Colorado. While I would have been very disappointed to miss the final casting, assembly and, most of all, installation and dedication of the final work, I was no longer needed to finish the work. Whew!
Is my contribution tax-deductible?
To the greatest extent permitted by law, YES! Please visit the “DONATE” menu selection to make a contribution at whatever level you wish. All donations are gratefully accepted.
How can I stay informed of the program progress?
You may check back periodically and check under the “News” heading of the website. We will post links to media coverage and include our own updates as the project progresses.
Now that the sculpture is done, what’s next?
Where will “Lest We Forget: The Mission” ultimately be put on display?
Following temporary exhibition in Denver, the sculpture will be loaned to The National WWII Museum where it will be displayed on the Museum’s six-acre campus.
My Dad was also fighter pilot and assigned to the Burma theater, and others. He flew over one hundred combat missions and received many medals, of which he never discussed. He never talked about any of these horrific events but am certain he suffered with PTSD his entire life. He did speak remorsefully of bombing and killing elephants on roads carrying supplies. And, also spoke of another crew member who had to be removed from the barracks by medics during the night as he could not stop screaming from all the terror and fright he was experiencing. These images have stayed with me for over forty years and am certain these memories among others were constantly on his mind and with him on a daily basis. My Dad passed from this life in 1996 a life cut short by his experiences in war.
The burden carried by soldiers following war is unimaginable to a civilian like me. I can see why the story of the crew member removed from your father’s barracks stayed with you. For years after the war, Dad had a recurring nightmare of not being able to shake an enemy fighter on his tail. These stories only barely convey the pain felt by these soldiers. It is part of what Dad calls the “human cost of war”. Thank you for sharing your stories.
Keep up great work. Rob & Celia Sullivan. 1428. Longmeadow St. Long. Mass01106. My dad was ww2. Master sarge. Recipient of bronze star among other medals which he never discussed. Celia is sculptor. Grad. Skid more and Alfred
Thank you for the kind thoughts. And thanks to your Dad for his service.