406TH COMMEMORATIVE POSTAGE STAMP
"And now, the rest of the story"
On July 29, 2005, the United States Postal Service unveiled its latest "American Advances in Aviation" set of commemorative stamps. This was done during the world's largest air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Included in the set was a P-47 Thunderbolt handsomely painted by noted historical aviation artist William S. Phillips, depicting the plane flying at altitude from a right side perspective.
Upon closer examination, the illustration clearly provided a tail number and color scheme so that the P-47 could be traced and identified. It turned out to be a 406th Fighter Group, 512th Fighter Squadron P-47D Thunderbolt! This was an unexpected honor for the members of the 406th Association.
But the story is only beginning. Once again thanks to Stanley Wyglendowski and his penchant for taking photographs — colored photographs at that — seemingly wherever he went during the war, there is a photographic record of the plane. He took a colored snapshot in March 1945, as the plane sat on the apron of the Y-29 runway at Asch, Belgium. Because this photo depicts the left side of the plane, we get a glimpse of the nose art and the plane's name: "Angie". The numbers and color scheme correspond to the commemorative stamp. This plane on the stamp was indeed the 512th's "Angie."
This was not the first time the "Angie" found its way into the twenty-first century. A few years earlier the Franklin Mint had issued a die cast model that other toy makers copied in various to scale plastic versions. The colors, nose art and Teardrop design must make for a nice little sellable toy.
But what was the provenance of the "Angie": Who flew it; where did the name come from and what about the nifty nose art? Jack Yarger, a member of the 512th Squadron himself during the war and longtime leader of the 406th Association, could not remember that plane at all... and this is a man with a tremendous memory! Nobody else could quite remember it either. And there it lay... until a letter to the 406th Association over the summer of 2006.
It was written by Walker Diamonti, a former pilot belonging to the 512th Fighter Squadron. Walker, retired from the Diplomatic Service and living in Washington, DC, had become aware of the interest in the stamp and model and penned the question: "Do you suppose that "Angie" is my P-47 "Angie?" A photograph taken of Walker in front of his Thunderbolt with the painted script "Angie" in clear sight followed up this simple, out of the blue inquiry. Though no numbers were visible, the position of the script spelling "Angie" lined up perfectly in all respects along the fuselage when compared to the Wyglendoski photograph.
"I named the plane after a girl I was very fond of back home, who was the daughter of friends of the family. We never married after the war but remain friends to this day," said Walker in February 2007.
Something however was missing in the Diamonti photograph: The bathing beauty nose art. Walker reported that "I didn't have that nose art on my plane, the cowling was left alone and I have no idea where it may have come from." Here is where a little deductive reasoning provides the likely missing pieces to the story.
The Wyglendowski photograph that authenticates the "Angie" and displays the bathing beauty nose art, was taken in March 1945. Diamonti had been reassigned back to the United States in preparation for a Pacific tour of duty in January, two months before. Jack Yarger surmises that after Walker left, the plane was taken to be refitted at the 406th Depot — which was a common practice. When it came back into service at the 512th Fighter Squadron the refurbished Thunderbolt also now sported a bathing beauty on its left side cowl to go along with the scripted "Angie" already there, thanks to the guys in the shop. This then, is what is thought to have happened.
The 406th Fighter Group WWII Memorial Association is honored to be represented on a US Postal Service Commerative Stamp. We thank their Strategic Planning Office for including the P-47 Thunderbolt and this Fighter Group in the "American Advances in Aviation" series.