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ON1641

Original U.S. WWII B-17 Mary Lou 91st Bomb Group Named 35 Mission A-2 Flight Jacket

Regular price $4,995.00

Item Description

Original Item: One-of-a-kind. This is fantastic A-2 flight jacket worn by Sgt. Gorden L. Lenaz, Tail Gunner (42003830) aboard the B-17 MARY LOU 42-97504 which was assigned to the 91st Bombardment Group, 323rd Bomb Squadron during WWII. Sgt. Lenaz flew an incredible 35 missions before returning home. He was a member of 2nd Lt. John C. Pullen's crew. A photo and listing Lt. Pullen's crew in front of the Mary Lou can be found at this link on the 91st Bomb Group Website. The crew photo is also featured on page 44 of the excellent book Vintage Aircraft Nose Art (2002) by Gary Valant.

A photo of the B-17 Mary Lou 42-97504 is featured on page 104 of the book Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II by Nicholas A. Veronico. She was damaged and grounded on October 14th, 1944 after flying 70 missions.

Of particular interest is that the nose art on the Mary Lou is nearly identical to the style found on this jacket. The nose art was painted by Tony Starcer who was known as the "Nose Artist Extraordinaire" and article about him and his nose art, including the Mary Lou, can be found at this link. It is very likely that this jacket was also painted in full or in part by Starcer, making it a truly rare and important piece.

Crew of the Mary Lou:

2nd Lt. John C. Pullen, Pilot (0759503)
2nd Lt. Robert W. Harris, Co-pilot (0764885)
2nd Lt. Armando J. Sinibaldo, Navigator (0717597)
2nd Lt. Robert R. Mefford, Bombardier (0768827)
S/Sgt. James R. Kilgallen, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner (11007637)
Sgt. Manuel P. Nunez, Radio Operator (39696079)
Sgt. Gene V. Reynolds, Ball Turret Gunner (39917013)
Sgt. John J. Stack, Waist Gunner (37536355)
Sgt. Joseph Uhrick (NMI), Waist Gunner (35216196)
Sgt. Gorden L. Lenaz, Tail Gunner (42003830)]

 

The 91st Bomb Group, known more informally as "the Ragged Irregulars", flew 340 missions between 7-November-1942 and 25-April-1945 in 9,591 sorties dropping 22,142 tons of bombs. The Group lost 197 aircraft MIA.

Before D-Day these were predominantly strategic bombing missions, hitting targets like aircraft factories, air fields and oil facilities. After the Allies had gained a foothold on the Continent, the Group carried out more missions in support of ground troops, such as bombing railway yards and tracks. With 420 enemy aircraft destroyed, the Group had the highest total claim of all the Eighth Air Force Bomb Groups. The Group also had the highest losses of any of these Bomb Groups, with 197 aircraft reported as missing in action over the course of the war.

CLAIMS To FAME:
Highest total claims of enemy aircraft destroyed in 1sr Bomb Division: 420
Highest losses of all 8AF Bomb Groups: 197 Aircraft MIA
First 8AF BG to attack a target in the Ruhr: 4-Mar-43 DUC awarded.
Lead the famous Schweinfurt mission of 17-Aug-43
First 8AF Bomb Group to complete 100 missions: 5-Jan-44

Established as a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomb squadron in early 1942; the 323rd Bomb Squadron deployed to European Theater of Operations (ETO) and was assigned to VIII Bomber Command in England, being one of the first heavy bomb squadrons arriving in England. The 323rd was one of the most highly decorated strategic heavy bomb squadrons in the European Theater, flying combat missions over Nazi Germany and Occupied Europe until the German capitulation in May 1945.

This A-2 jacket features some wonderful features including:
- Circular 5" leather patch to front, hand painted with Mary Lou and matching nose art. Note how the font and art are nearly identical to the plane!

- Exceptional circular 5" leather patch to front, hand painted with 91st Bomb Group insignia.

- Leather name patch that reads G. L. LENAZ

- Early war embroidered 8th Air Force patch to left shoulder.

- Reverse of jacket has exceptional hand painted art, featuring a B-17 with correct tail designation for the 91st BG of a Triangle A. The plane is dropping 35 bombs over swastikas and reads 35 Missions in the E.T.O. Above the plane reads Alice and below the plane reads New Jersey. Research tells us that Lenaz who was born in 1925 was from Pequannock, NJ and after the war married Alice Bellamy.

- Inside the jacket written in ink is LENAZ 42003830

- Small pin attached to inside forward neck area that is a rendition of Jesus and reads Sacred Heart Of Jesus, I Place My Trust in Thee

Offered in very good condition, supple leather with original lining, complete waistband and cuffs and an original zipper which does has some damage and is missing the zip. Overall, one of the very best, most detailed and easily researched A-2 jackets we have ever offered, the connection to the artist Tony Starcer makes it exceptionally desirable, as does its association with the legendary 91st Bomb Group. This jacket was recently featured in an article by Flight magazine that will be published in the fall of 2018.

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