WINGS of VALOR- Honoring America's Fighter Aces
WINGS of VALOR- Honoring America's Fighter Aces
A commemorative photographic book featuring portraits & stories honoring the vanishing breed of America's Fighter Aces.
A commemorative photographic book featuring portraits & stories honoring the vanishing breed of America's Fighter Aces. Read more
About this project
Media Update: Jon R. Anderson, Staff Writer with Military Times article published on April 18.
Media Update: Nebraska Ace, Ensign Donald McPherson, USN (Ret), reflects back on his on military experience and becoming an Ace with the Omaha World-Herald on March 30.
Media Update: Lt. General Charles Cleveland, President of the AFAA, featured in the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper on March 21.
Media Update: Video message from Ace, Lt. General Sanford K. Moats
The Aces of World War I, when this concept was born, were knights of the sky, obeying an unwritten code of noblesse oblige. The romance of flight still clung to the Aces of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, but they had a different and more decisive mission. Less figures of chivalry now than their predecessors, they were hunters trying to survive in the jungle warfare of the skies, stoic heroes asking no quarter of the enemy and giving none as they scored the five enemy kills that made them a special breed.
Unlike the equally heroic ground forces they protected, the Aces of these wars were on their own, relying on their individual skills, determination and daring to prevail in engagements that were the aerial equivalent of a bare knuckle brawl. The stakes—control of the airspace over which the battles that would determine the course of history—couldn’t have been higher. No wonder the Ace is an iconic figure with such a strong and durable hold on the American imagination!
An Endangered Species
The Ace is also an endangered species. American air superiority has become so complete, and the technology of unmanned aircraft so compelling, that it is hard to imagine a future air war that will produce a new generation of Aces. Of the hundreds of Aces who served America from World War II on, fewer than 90 are still with us. And they are likely to be the last of their breed. The men and women who sit behind computers operating the joysticks of drones will play a crucial role in our national defense, but it is hard to imagine that they will ever have the emotional claim on our country that these remaining fighter Aces have.
Why the Wings of Valor Project Is Important?
Wings of Valor will take a last look at these larger-than-life fighter pilots, enter the timeless drama of their dogfights one final time, and make their achievements a living legacy. The book will consist of museum-quality, contemporary black and white photographs of these historic aviators, along with dramatic stories of the aerial combat that that made them heroes and the lessons each of them learned from his rendezvous with destiny.
The format and look of the book will be similar to that of the commemorative book, Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, also by Nick Del Calzo and Peter Collier and published in collaboration with the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. (Wings of Valor has a similar relationship with the American Fighter Aces Association.)
There is no other work like Wings of Valor.
For the most part, publishers seem to have shunted our Aces into the memory box of history, despite their mythic status and despite the fact that the War on Terror has inspired a rebirth of general interest in all facets of the US military. The Aces’ enduring relevance, however, is reflected by the fact that they will be bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal on May 20 in the U.S. Capitol.
Their stories will never grow old and never die.
The lack of competing books and the continuing interest in our Aces are strong arguments for Wings of Valor. It will be a summary literary event—an authoritative record of their military accomplishments and a window into the lives they led before and after fighting for our country, with the personal narratives given poignancy and depth by formal photographic portraits that capture the content of each Ace’s character. As in Medal of Honor, the faces of these Aces will tell a story all their own, particularly with some of the portraits that are juxtaposed with snapshots taken decades ago when they were young men in the thick of combat. Each of the individual narratives and portraits will be unique in its drama and human interest; taken together they will form a sort of Iliad of American aerial warfare in eras when everything rode on the outcome of duels between American pilots and the enemy.
Wings of Valor will be an incomparable historical artifact.
Every week or so, it seems, brings news that another of these Aces has left us. That is one fewer story that can be told, one fewer of these faces that are each worth a thousand words, that can be captured. Because time is a determined enemy of this book and will rob us of the opportunity to memorialize these Aces, we must move quickly to complete this important work.
With your help, you can be part of something historically important! Join us on this noble journey.
The Creative Team
Nick Del Calzo [Executive Producer & Lead Photographer]
Nick Del Calzo is the Creator and Photographer of Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, published in collaboration with The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. The book became a New York Times Best Seller. The Medal of Honor collection of portraits is on permanent display in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon, the only such exhibition in the Hall of Heroes. In 2008, he served as co-chairman of the Medal of Honor Convention in Denver. Del Calzo is also the creator and photographer of the critically acclaimed photographic book, The Triumphant Spirit: Portraits & Stories of Holocaust Survivors.
Peter Collier [Book Author]
Peter Collier is the founding editor and currently a consultant to Encounter Books. He has worked as an author and editor for the last thirty years. During that time, he has written novels, short stories and screenplays, along with best-selling biographies.
Referred to in the New York Times as "America's premier biographer of dynastic tragedy," Collier is best known for The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty; The Kennedys: An American Dream; The Fords: An American Epic; and Destructive Generation (all with David Horowitz). He authored the Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. His latest book, Choosing Courage: Inspiring Stories of What It Means to Be a Hero, is directed to middle school students and portrays the stories of Medal of Honor recipients.
The American Fighter Aces Association [AFAA]
The American Fighter Aces Association was founded in 1960 to recognize the 1,450 combat pilots that received a special distinction of becoming an Ace by destroying 5 or more hostile aircraft in air-to-air combat. This includes Aces in both World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.
Lieutenant General Charles G. “Chick” Cleveland’s distinguished Air Force career spanned nearly four decades. In 2008, the Air Force awarded Lieutenant General Cleveland credit for one of his two probable victories in Korea and officially recognized him as the Air Force’s newest Ace.
Lieutenant General Cleveland currently serves as president of the American Fighter Aces Association.
Additional Professional Photographers
The photographic challenge to complete this project is a race against time because of the high mortality rate of the Aces, most of whom are now in their 90s. In fact one of the Aces, Brig. General Frederick R. Payne (Ret), is 103. To ensure that as many Aces as possible could be included in the project, other photographers were recruited to complete the portraits of these Aces located throughout the country. For a list of our participating photographers, please visit our website's blog: Our Supporting Photographers
Kickstarter Backer Rewards
The Wings of Valor print shown above was created as a commemorative offering to highlight the significance of the Congressional Gold Medal. Awarded on behalf of Congress, the Gold Medal represents our nation’s collective recognition of the American Fighter Aces heroic military service and extraordinary achievements. The award ceremony is scheduled to occur on May 20, 2015, in the U.S. Capitol. The actual Gold Medal will be presented to the Smithsonian for permanent display. A bronze replica is likely to be minted for purchase by the public.
The poignant phrases above are an adaptation from the poem “High Flight” and are most appropriate to memorialize the many Aces who have passed on. The poem was written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American pilot who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940, prior to the United States involvement in World War II. He was killed in action over England in a mid-air collision in 1941. The 19-year-old pilot wrote the sonnet in a letter to his parents shortly before his death.
Both the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force adopted “High Flight,” as their official poem. This enduring sonnet was carried by astronaut Michael Collins on the Gemini 10 flight. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan read the poem in a speech to the nation after the Challenger space shuttle disaster. Fourth Class Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy are required to recite the poem from memory. The poem is on display in the Cadet Field House.
During a recent gathering of Aces, Nick Del Calzo captured this symbolic image to honor their fellow Aces who have passed on. This commemorative print, titled “The Final Flight,” is being offered ONLY to our Kickstarter backers.
The print, The American's Creed, features the enduring image of Uncle Sam, paired with an abridged version of the American's Creed, which was adopted by Congress in 1918:
“I believe in the United States of America... established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives... It is my duty to my country to love it, to support its constitution, to obey its laws, to respect the flag, and to defend it against all enemies.” - William Tyler Page; Adopted by the House of Representatives April 3, 1918.
This print is a true reflection of American core values and what we stand for as a nation.
Tribute Card Box Set (10 Cards)
“All who served deserve to be remembered.”
These words, though simple, reflect the values exemplified in these poignant images created by Nick Del Calzo.This box set of ten Tribute Cards is an exclusive collection of iconic images that honor America’s spirit of freedom. The series includes black and white photographs with inspirational quotations that pay homage to our nation’s fallen heroes, as well as others that equally inspire patriotism and pay tribute to all veterans who served our nation with honor and distinction.
THE MEDAL OF HONOR: PORTRAITS OF VALOR BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY BOOK (3rd Edition)
Nick Del Calzo conceives and produces photographic projects that advance human values. His most recent book is Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. Peter Collier authored the stories of th recipients. The Third Edition was released in November 2011, along with a commemorative 150th Anniversary Limited Edition. The books feature 144 of our nation's most honored heroes, recipients of the Medal of Honor. When first published in 2003, the book was on the New York Times Best-Seller List for more than a month.The Third Edition will be offered and signed by Nick Del Calzo and Peter Collier.
ACE LITHOGRAPHIC FINE ART PRINTS
This lithograph depicts 1st Lt. James F. "Lou" Luma's first of five victories with No. 418 Squadron (RCAF), Jan. 21-22, 1944. Hand signed by the Ace James F. Luma and artist Roy Grinnell. Overall size of this limited edition lithograph is 24" x 30".
"Number 20 for Joe" is hand signed by the legendary Wildcat Ace Joe Foss, VMF-121, and artist Roy Grinnell. The image depicts Capt. Foss's 20th and 21st victories near Guadacanal, November 12, 1942. He finished the war with 26 victories and was the recipient of the Medal of Honor. The overall size of this limited edition lithograph is 24" x 30".
Captain Steve Ritchie, flying his favorite F-4 #463, was leading Buick Flight from the East over North Vietnam. Capt. Ritchie, of the famed 555th Fighter Squadron, became the first and only Air Force Pilot Ace of the Vietnam War. Hand Signed by Ace Steve Ritchie and artist Roy Grinnell. Overall size of this limited edition lithograph is 24" x 30".
Risks and challenges
Both the author and the executive producer/lead photographer have had prior book publishing experience. In fact, the author headed a publishing company and has authored multiple books. The photographer/executive producer published two similar high-quality illustrated books.
We are confident that the content to publish the book will be ready to hand off to the publisher by this September. Once the images and text have been submitted to the publisher, the design, editing, printing and related production activities are scheduled to be finalized by late 2016. Much of the photography has been completed. It is estimated that when the Kickstarter campaign concludes, about half of the stories will have been written.
As for the printing/production phase, the publisher intends to print the book in the United States, thereby avoiding any possible shipping and other production delays abroad.
Many of the reward items for our donor partners are in stock and ready for shipment. A couple of the items will need to be printed soon after the actual required quantities are determined.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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