Recently Peter Hurd, 39-year-old American artist, returned from assignment in England. Commissioned by LIFE to paint the men and activities of the U.S. Army Air Forces Bomber Command, he was accredited by the Army as a war correspondent, allowed to live and work for five months with the airmen in the field. On the following pages are seven portraits done by him of typical officers and enlisted men whom he found there.
After his return to his ranch at San Patricio, N.M. where he is completing more Air Force painting, Hurd wrote: "Now, sitting here in the New Mexico sun, my experiences with these boys seem suddenly remote in time as well as in distance. They seem like a band of legendary heroes, although I know well that they themselves would be the first to scoff at such an idea. All in all, it was the biggest adventure I have ever had--living the life of constant excitement that is the life on a bomber station.
"They have the look of veterans, these younsters in their late teens and early twenties. United in their supreme purpose, they have looked death in the face repeatedly and unflinchingly. They are invariably realists and know well the odds for and against their survival. But there is in them a will to endure--to endure beyond this struggle, if not as living men of flesh and blood, then in literature or in painting. So I had no lack of models.
"One thing was quickly apparent as I grew to know them well. There is no norm for a flier. They are of many types and classes and seem to have in common only courage, a love for flying and above all a belief in America's future as a free nation."
Since Hurd painted them, two of the seven men shown here have been reported missing in action. Lieut. Spire, navigator, was shot down over France and Lieut. Borders, pilot, disappeared during an operational flight.
Life February 15, 1943