Brother Harry’s remark that tanker squadrons didn’t get the recognition they deserved sparked this painting and my Bicentennial Salute card. Since he had flown tankers with the Strategic Air Command, I had my model/advisor.
Harry knew Henry W. McMillan, the Adjutant General of the Florida Department of Military Affairs and suggested I contact him for tracking the KC-97. General McMillan phoned the McCoy Air Force Base Public Information Officer, Captain Forrester, finding out that occasionally KC-97s made unscheduled stops at McCoy. The only possibility would be my being notified of the aircrafts arrival then contact Harry in Deland at his office with the Florida Department of Transportation and hopefully we could arrange a photo session at McCoy, meaning drop everything and head for McCoy pronto. Whew!
Then I came to the stapled note on General McMillan’s letter. P.S. “I have just received from a friend in the Texas Air National Guard some photographs and slides which were made just this month. They need not be returned; but if the slides particularly are useful to you and are any help in case the KC-97 does not arrive in McCoy for some time, you might wish to drop Brigadier General Nowell O. Didear a thank-you note at Hensley Field, Dallas, Texas.” BREAKTHROUGH! General Didear’s slides were just what I needed. A pilot at the controls in the KC-97 with a distant KC-97 parked on the runway visible through the window where I would be showing the refueling scene! This gave the basis for Harry to model in the place of the pilot in the slide. The last prop was an authentic boom-mike made of leather and metal. I sent a letter to Headquarters Military Airlift Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Colonel H. A. Davis, Jr., Director of Information forwarded my search letter to Colonel Patrick J. Freeman, Commander of the 126 th Air Refueling Group (ANS) (TAC) Chicago O’Hare International Airport. I quote from Colonel Freeman’s letter: “Unfortunately we have very few of the old type headsets. In addition, they are accountable property and each crew- member has signed for his own. I have started a search for an old one and if we are successful I’ll send it to you. In the event we are not successful, would some photos from several angles of one be of any help?”
“Your painting, “Break In Weather,” sounds interesting. I flew the Berlin Airlift for nearly 10 months.” (Amazing how many Airlift veterans I come across! A.B.)
The success of the painting was that Colonel Freeman mailed his own headset to me and Harry put it on to model in his sports car, wearing his flight suit, cap and scarf while pretending he was at the controls of his plane. I quickly returned the rare headset with my deepest thanks. Boeing Airplane Company sent a photograph of the side view of refueling suggesting where I could order a model of the B-47 jet. The beautiful lines of the swept-back wings needed to show more and my pilot brother approved the angle I wanted as being normal in flight. When the painting was finished, one of his friends, a former KC-97 pilot said, “She got every nut and bolt right!” He couldn’t have said a nicer thing!
Without the excellent help of all these men, this part of Air Refueling History would not be depicted in this original painting, “Taking On Fuel,” nor honored by being hung in the Library of the STRATEGIC AIR & SPACE MUSEUM.
At one time, America was the only nation capable of encircling the globe, made possible by the Air Refueling Tankers. This painting, in appreciation for the Strategic Air Command with “Peace Is Our Profession” motto, illustrates this part of Aviation History. The prop-type Boeing tanker is going full speed, *225 mph, “Forward and bent, throttle as far as it would go and straining that bird to the limits,” my brother said, “while the B-47 jet is almost stalling at 225 to refuel.”
The messages framing the refueling scene are “Pull and slide, warning, do not open in case of fire” and “For ground use only and ditching emergency exit.” The rope was made large so it wouldn’t blister their hands during an emergency exit and was necessary because the plane sits too high from the ground to jump.
This plane also has the largest Pratt and Whitney internal combustion engine ever put in a plane. Note that the pilot is picking up the location and distance of the refueling scene from him on the amber radarscope. The crew consisted of five: Pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, navigator-radio operator and boom operator.
Some have asked me how I photographed this subject for the painting, especially aerial photographers were curious. I was on the ground the whole time. The photograph of the inside of the cock-pit showed the warning flag on the instrument panel as on the ground with the power off, and I painted it in that way. My brother had me to remove it as my painting shows them in flight. What a foolish mistake that would have been! It’s so good to have expert advice!
After communicating with SAC Headquarters about my planned Bicentennial card with Artistic Tribute to the Tanker Squadrons with a photo of “Taking on Fuel” and message inside, I was pleased when permission was requested to borrow the negative of my painting for enlargements to hang on the walls there. They also shared their fine copy with me.
This response highlight from General Dougherty, (who flew both the KC-97 and the B-47 jet), is like a pat on the back, handshake and blue ribbon all at once! I quote from his letter: “I greatly appreciated receiving your card and your “artistic salute” to the air refueling squadrons of SAC. You are right, I am very proud of my former association with the KC-97---as I know your brother must be. I am grateful for this artistic and meaningful recognition of our important tankers---past, present, and future. Then, too, I am most grateful for your “personal salute” to me, and hope I can continue to be deserving of this recognition by you and all of our fellow citizens. Incidentally, I think there was a time that, with my cap on to cover a nonexistent hairline, my profile and your brother’s profile were very similar…this was noticed by my wife, who said, “But for the color of the hat and the squadron patch, that could have been you, circa 1953!” Thank you very much.”
Russell E. Dougherty
Commander in Chief
Strategic Air Command
Some Responses to the Painting, Taking on Fuel
Dear Miss Barnes:
"It was a pleasure to see the lay-out card you sent to us. Your painting, Taking On Fuel, is laden with nostalgia for SAC old-timers and a dramatic reminder of an important era in Strategic Air Command operations.
There is, of course, no need for SAC 'approval' of your work, but technically we find it flawless and compliment you on selecting SAC refueling squadrons (and the B-47) for such an interesting means of recognition."
John W. Walton, Colonel, USAF
Director of Information
Dear Miss Barnes:
"Col. Donald Wagner, our Hospital Administrator, just gave me a packet of your art cards Taking on Fuel. They are just terrific.
I have asked my eight chaplains here to wisely distribute them to those retired personnel patients whose minds and memories still hold the drama of those moments you've depicted. Thanks so very much for your kindness and thoughtfulness."
Oscar L. Sylvester, Chaplain, Colonel, USAF
Director, Department of Pastoral Care
Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center (AFSC)
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas
Dear Miss Barnes:
"I wish to acknowledge the receipt of the two paintings you sent me and to express my deep appreciation for the gift. The beauty of the paintings, so meticulously done, makes a profound impression. This is particularly so when the subject deals with one's profession. Our granddaughter's husband is an SAC pilot assigned to an Air Refueling Squadron. May God richly bless you and Christmas time and throughout the New Year."
Albert F. Hegenberger
Major Gen. USAF Ret.
Taking on Fuel is still continuing to be enjoyed by many as I share it with those in aviation and space flights, their families and friends. I am so honored and gratified by the journey this art is taking.