324th Bomb Squadron Insignia Panel Signed by MEMPHIS BELLE pilot Robert MorganThe internationally famous B-17, MEMPHIS BELLE, was the first 8th Air Force heavy bomber and crew to survive its requisite 25 combat missions over Europe. The exploits of its pilot, Robert Morgan, and his crew have been well chronicled over the years in books and film. The original MEMPHIS BELLE aircraft resides in Memphis but is poised to return to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton where it will be fully restored for public display. It is an icon of WWII. Noted aviation artist, Ron Kaplan, has painted more versions, at more sizes, of the MEMPHIS BELLE’s unforgettable Petty-style nose-art than perhaps any other artist on earth. Among the most highly sought after hand painted aluminum editions by Kaplan is that of BELLE’s nose art, with each panel having been signed by Morgan or Morgan and four of his crew.It was during the process of creating his first BELLE edition that Kaplan proposed an edition featuring Morgan’s squadron insignia. Kaplan painted two “artist proofs” with the 324th Bomb Squadron emblem and presented them to Morgan for his approval and signing. Sadly Morgan passed away in 2004 before a full edition could be signed.This is #1 of the 2 artist proof’s signed by Robert Morgan, thus an extremely rare piece (the artist retains #2/2 in his private collection). Hand-painted on scrap aircraft aluminum, it is mounted against black plexi in a black-lacquer ready-to-hang shadow box frame of 12” by 12.5”, with an ID plaque centered beneath. Adding to its value, it comes with a photo of Morgan taken at the signing of the two proofs.This is a great acquisition for any MEMPHIS BELLE or 8th Air Force enthusiast.
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