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- P-40E Warhawk of the 49th Fighter Group April 1942

 750 Artist-Signed Limited Edition Prints - 50 Counter-Signed by WWII Pacific Ace, Col. James Watkins

Overall print size 23" x 27.75" 

$64.95 Unframed


This painting depicts the exploits of Capt. Andrew J. Reynolds (10 victories) 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force. Col. James Watkins, Reynolds squadron mate and 4th highest scoring ace in the 49th has counter-signed a special edition of only 350 of these prints.  Both Reynolds and Watkins flew in defense of the port of Darwin, Australia in 1942.  They were based there as a response to Japanese bombings on the port from the enemy's newly won bases in Rabaul.  The Japanese were virtually unopposed in their pre-invasion raids of Australia except for the interference by the stalwart men of the 49th. 
The 49th F.G., which would foster such aces as Dick Bong (40 kills), George Preddy (26.83 kills), and Gerald Johnson (24 kills), had the distinction of being the first American fighter group to reach a combat zone since the start of hostilities on 7 December, 1941. They wasted little time in bringing American tactics to bear against an experienced and determined enemy.  Reynolds & Watkins exemplified the fighting courage and 'espirit de corps' of those Americans who held the line against the early Japanese victories in the South-West Pacific.


James Albert (Duckbutt) Watkins was born in Crystal Springs, Mississippi on 26 August 1920.  He enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet on 10 February 1941 and was commissioned upon completion of flight training at Craig Field, Alabama on 26 September.

Assigned initially to the 36th Pursuit Squadron, 8th Pursuit Group at Mitchell Field, New York for fighter transition on 15 December he transferred to the 9th Pursuit Squadron, 49th Pursuit Group and moved with the group to Australia in January 1942.  They received their P-40s in Australia and, after a brief training period, provided air defense for the Northern Territory. Moving to Port Moresby, New Guinea in October, they were engaged primarily in the defense of Port Moresby.

Watkins scored his first victory on 26 December 1942, downing a Zero southwest of Dobodura.  The group began receiving their first P-38s in February 1943, and the 9th was the first squadron to complete their transition.  By summer Watkins had been promoted to captain and began scoring heavily in the P-38 four Tonys destroyed on 26 July and three Oscars two days later.  He continued his multiple scoring the next month, downing three Oscars on 2 August.

Sent home in September 1943, Watkins became a fighter instructor at various West Coast bases.  He returned to combat in February 1945 on the 49th Fighter Group staff and logged one final victory on 2 April.  He remained overseas until January 1948, serving with the occupation forces in Japan. 

Following the war, Watkins served in a variety of nuclear and special weapons test posts, advancing to colonel in 1955.  He was also the first commander of the 4926th Test Squadron (sampling).  The only Air Force Atomic Cloud Sampling unit.  In this capacity he trained pilots and helped develop equipment and tactics.  Subsequent assignments included duty in Turkey and Chief of Foreign Military Sales Division for the Air Force.  Retiring in February 1970, he became active in the insurance industry. 
Tally Record:  12 confirmed and one probable kill.  Decorations: Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Air Force Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.


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