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Rematch

Rematch - A commissioned painting by Michael O'Neal
 

Rematch
(18" x 24 Oil on Canvas Board 1995)

In 1978, I began a correspondence with Mr. George A. Vaughn  of Staten Island, NY.  Mr. Vaughn had been a distinguished and highly decorated pilot for the US Air Service during World War One flying the famous English Sopwith Camel and SE-5 fighter planes..  In an effort to provide our pioneering pilots with combat experience, they were assigned to various units with the Royal Air Force.  When Vaughn  arrived in France, he was assigned to 84 Squadron,  a venerable unit with a long and distinguished roster of aces.

After apprenticing with 84 Squadron and earning 6 victories and the British Distinguished Flying Medal Vaughn was transferred to the US 17th Aero Squadron.  The 17th was badly in need of experienced pilots having lost a large portion of the squadron during a fight in August 1918 with German JagdGeshwader 3.  Vaughn was appointed flight command of “B” flight upon arrival his in July. 

In late September, as the German Army was in retreat along most of the western front, 17 Squadron ran into a large formation of German Fokkers.  It was JagdGeshwader 3 again and a free for all quickly developed. The rematch was on. In spite of being badly outnumbered. Vaughn shot down two Fokkers and his squadron mates claimed several others.  The 17th lost one pilot in this combat, but the beating they had taken in August had been answered.

In 1978, portions of the diary of Leutnant Freidrich Noltenius of JagdGEshwader 3 was published.  He describes a large combat with Sopwith Camels on 22 September, a combat in which his Fokker was badly damaged by an aggressive Camel pilot.  Vaughn read the diary entry himself was convinced that damage came from his guns.  Later in the same fight, Noltenius and another pilot chased Vaughn right down to ground level, badly damaging his Camel.  He managed to return home with his fuel tank shot through in several places and the instrument panel, directly in front of his face, shattered by machine gun fire. 

In the painting, Sopwith Camel “N” is Vaughn’s airplane, just moments before twisting away from the fight.  Above is a blue nosed Fokker of JagdGeshwader 3 while another yellow nosed Fokker turns in to cut off his escape. “Rematch” was painted in 1996, two years after Mr. Vaughn passed away.  It stands as a tribute to a man who served his country in time of war and who I later counted among my most favored correspondents.