Original U.S. WWII 7th Fighter Squadron P-38 Lightning Pilot Flight Jacket Grouping

Item Description

Original Item: One-of-a-kind. This is a fantastic grouping which includes a hand painted A2 leather flight jacket issued to Lieutenant Robert G. Cooper who was a P-38 Lightning pilot that served in the Pacific Theater with 7th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group during WWII and participated in the Liberation of the Philippines as well as missions over Japan.

The 7th Fighter Squadron origins date to 16 January 1941, when it was activated as Selfridge Field, Michigan as the 7th Pursuit Squadron. It was equipped with Seversky P-35s that were transferred from the 1st Pursuit Group that left Selfridge for Rockwell Field, California. In May 1941, the squadron proceeded to Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, Florida, to train in the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, training was greatly accelerated to prepare the squadron for combat duty. By 16 February 1942, the 7th found itself at Bankstown Airfield, Sydney, Australia, as one of the first American aviation units in the Southwest Pacific, flying the Warhawk. The squadron's first combat action with the Japanese happened on 14 March over Horn Island, Queensland off the Cape York Peninsula, Australia, with the 7th downing 5 Japanese A6M Zeroes, taking no losses themselves. Until September 1942, the 7th would remain in Australia, engaged primarily in air defense. The 7th moved to join the other 2 squadrons of the 49th Pursuit Group, in the defense of Darwin, Northern Territory, in April 1942.

It then moved North to Schwimmer Airfield, Port Moresby, New Guinea, where its P-40s flew attack and air defense missions against Japanese fortifications. During this period, the squadron, known as the "Screamin’ Demons," adopted their mascot and emblem, the Bunyap, an Australian aboriginal death demon. Even to this day, the Bunyap remains the squadron emblem.

During World War II, the 7th had 10 of its members earn ace status, as each of them destroyed 5 or more enemy aircraft in aerial combat. The squadron continued to function effectively during WW II scoring 36 "Kills" in December 1944. By the end of the war, the Screamin’ Demons had achieved 178 "Kills."

The squadron participated in the Allied offensive that pushed the Japanese back along the Kokoda Track, took part in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea in March 1943, fought for control of the approaches to Huon Gulf, and supported ground forces during the campaign in which the Allies eventually recovered New Guinea. It covered the landings on Noemfoor and had a part in. the conquest of Biak.

After having used Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, P-40 Warhawks and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, the squadron was equipped completely in September 1944 with P-38's, which were used to fly long-range escort and attack missions to Mindanao, Halmahera, Seram, and Borneo. The unit arrived in the Philippines in October 1944, shortly after the assault landings on Leyte and engaged enemy fighters, attacked shipping in Ormoc Bay, supported ground forces, and covered the Allied invasion of Luzon. For or intensive operations against the Japanese on Leyte, the group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation.

Other missions from the Philippines included strikes against industry and transportation on Taiwan and against shipping along the China coast. The end of the war in August 1945 found the 7th Fighter Squadron on Okinawa, preparing for Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of Japan, in November.

After VJ Day, the squadron moved to the Japanese Home Islands, initially at the former Imperial Japanese Navy Atsugi Airfield, near Tokyo on 15 September 1945. Its war-weary P-38 Lightnings were sent back to the United States and the squadron was re-equipped with North American P-51D Mustangs with a mission of both occupation duty and show of force flights. In February 1946, the squadron was moved to Chitose Air Base, on northern Honshu and assumed an air defense mission over Honshu and also Hokkaido Island. The pilots of the squadron were briefed not to allow any Soviet Air Force aircraft over Japanese airspace, as there was tension between the United States and the Soviet Union about Soviet occupation forces landing on Hokkaido. In April 1948, the squadron moved to the newly-rebuilt Misawa Air Base when the host 49th Fighter Group took up home station responsibilities. At Misawa, the squadron moved into the jet age when it was re-equipped with the Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star.

This wonderful set features a very early WWII issue A-2 leather flying jacket. The left chest bears an ultra rare WWII embroidered original 7th Fighter Squadron patch above which is a gold embossed named tag that reads:

Lt. R. G. Cooper
7th Fighter Squadron. 49th Fighter Grp.

Below it are Japanese characters. This name tag was made during the occupation of Japan in late 1945 or early 1946.

However, the most interesting aspect of this jacket is the hand painted all original art on the back. This art features a Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft which is flying above Mount Fuji underneath which it read TOKYO JAPAN "46" 49th FTR. GRP. The art is full color, vibrant and highly detailed. Clearly this pilot had his flight jacket "spruced up" while on occupation duty in Japan.

Overall condition of the jacket is excellent. The leather is still supple and does not have any cracking or damage. Size is approximately a US 36. The liner is a period original, as are the cuff. The waist band appears to be a vintage replacement. The zipper is fully functional and made by TALON. There is an original label which reads U.S. ARMY AIR CORPS FLYING JACKET GENUINE COWHIDE. Tags like this were used on the earliest versions of the A-2 jacket before mass production demanded the use of multiple manufacturers.

Also included in this fantastic grouping are the following items:

- Full multi-piece leather Blood Chit

- Full multi-piece leather CBI patch

- Large Studio Photograph of Lt. Cooper in Uniform  

- 1945 Dated War Department Identification Card

- Multiple original photographs of Lt. Cooper in uniform

- 3 x Sterling Silver Pilot Wings

- Medal Ribbon Bar with Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal with Two Battle Stars, American Campaign Medal and Philippine Liberation Medal with one battle star.

- Cimarron Chief Class 44E Aviation Cadet Year Book with a photo of Lt. Cooper in flight helmet with goggles.

- Mess kit with utensils, the kit is painted with initial R.G.C.

- Numerous newspapers from 1940 and after the war.

- Military documents, records, pilot log books, manuals, etc..

Overall an extremely rare and interesting set from a fighter pilot that flew combat missions in the Pacific, participated in the Liberation of the Philippines and was part of the initial occupation force in Japan.

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