A donation to the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force comes with a mystery. It is an oil on canvas portrait of an unidentified Eighth Air Force navigator. Dressed in his World War II uniform, he stands with arms folded so that his 8th Air Force shoulder patch together with his medals and navigator wings are clearly visible. Behind him is a map showing England, France and Germany to remind all who view his portrait that the 8th Air Force stationed in England flew B-17s and B-24s in a strategic bombing campaign to destroy Nazi Germany’s ability to wage war.
The artist Norman F. Burnett (1898 – 1985) lived and exhibited his paintings in Baltimore, MD. With an eye for detail, he worked as a portraitist and an art restorer. In 1933 he began teaching at Baltimore City College, adding summer classes at the University of Maryland. In 1945 he started this portrait of an unnamed Flight Officer but did not complete it until 1947. This is revealed by both dates under the artist’s signature. One wonders if this Flight Officer also lived in Baltimore, MD.Contact the Research Center at the Mighty Eighth if you can help us solve this mystery
Written by Dr. Vivian Rogers-Price for the June 2016 newsletter of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force