Carroll McColpin

American Eagle Squadron Spitfire Print, 12×18″

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Poster Print $14.95 Poster prints are not autographed or numbered.

Shipping $6.00 anywhere in the world.

American Eagle Pilot, Roy Evans.

I have some of the Spitfire prints that have been autographed by Roy. Roy autographed very few pieces of art so this is something very special.

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Autographed Print price; $125.00

This is a rare signature! Roy only signed ten prints for me.

American Eagles

Before America entered World War II the skies over England was ablaze in aerial warfare. The sky was the battlefield. A bloody conflict with both nations trying to defeat the other through aerial warfare. Adolph Hitler and the German Blitzkrieg rained terror over Europe and now England was in jeopardy of being occupied.

In the United States there were a group of young men who were compelled to help. They were drawn to the conflict like a mouth to a flame. One by one they found their own way to Canada and eventually the R.A.F. in Britton. These young men flew and fought for one of our most trusted allies, England. The English welcomed our brave volunteers some of which were self-taught. Before the conflict many of the American aviators were acrobatic pilots at county fairs, barn storming crop duster pilots. Flying aircraft they repaired themselves. Aircraft held together with bailing wire, pulleys and twine, fabric and dope. All brave young men each seeking adventure.

They boldly volunteered to fight for their fellow man. Man and machine were equally matched. This was the ultimate challenge as two mighty nations produced skilled aviators and state of the art aviation technology to combat each other. Gladiators had chariots; Knights had their Steeds, and now, Aces! Warriors of the air flying handsome fabric and steal winged fire breathing dragons! How their hearts soared! Manhood! Combat! Victory or death! Together their engines roared as they closed their canopies and charged into a three dimensional battlefield never contemplated before in the annals of war.

The Air War over England brought our Young Eagles to the battle. A total of 244 American pilots joined the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Records show that 109 of the American pilots lost their lives. They never turned away from the challenge. They were American Eagles.

The History of the Eagle Squadrons

There were three squadrons created and manned by the American aviators, serving as the “Eagle Squadrons”, Squadron No. 71, No. 121, and No. 133. Many other American pilots served in the Royal Air Force in other squadrons through out the world in China, Africa, the Philippines, and India.

William R. Dunn was the first Eagle Squadron Pilot to shoot down a German aircraft, the first Eagle Squadron pilot to become an Ace, and the first official American Ace of WWII.

The Supermarine Spitfire V illustrated above belonged to the No. 71 squadron flown by Carroll McColpin who was an ace within 45 days of entering combat. McColpin was credited with 8 aerial victories. I enjoyed painting the Spitfire and wish I could have painted many more representing the Eagle Squadrons.

Here are other Americans that served with the Eagle Squadrons. No. 71. Oscar H. Coen, Spiros N. Pisanos, Howard D. Hively, and Chesley G. Peterson. No.121. Kenneth G. Smith, Reade F. Tilley, Selden R. Edner, Roy W. Evans, George Carpenter, John J. Lynch, and Jackson B. Mahon. No. 133. Don S. Gentile, Donald Blakeslee, James A. Goodson, and Richard L. Alexander.

Carroll McColpin’ s Story

At the age of twenty five, Carroll “Red” McColpin was one of many young American men who joined the Royal Air Force to fly and fight against the German Luftwaffe.

The United States was not at war yet, but McColpin, being a pilot, watched England fight alone against Germany during the Battle of Britain. News reels shone at the local theatre introduced Americans to the incredible destruction and carnage that was going on in England. Against all odds England showed the world that they could stand up against the might of the Luftwaffe. American volunteers like “Red” McColpin were eager to enter the fight. This was exciting for Red.

Joining the RAF was done through recruiters that were in the United States illegally. They would sign up volunteers and send them through Canada to England. The more flying experience one had, the easier it was to join McColpin remembers.

As a young man Carroll built his own airplane and taught himself the basics of stick flying and aerial acrobatics by the age of sixteen. This was no ordinary interest in aviation. This young man was driven and given insight into aviation. It came natural for Carroll to figure out how to fly and then actually flying. No one built their own airplane and taught themselves how to fly. Carroll’s story is even more riveting than the other aviation stories that were told me by other aviators.

After Carroll signed up for the RAF he started the migration into Canada where he received directions to Britain. Once in England McColpin was assigned to No. 607 Squadron which was a mix of all nationalities. Poles, French, Dutch all with different languages and different training. Yet the mixed pilots were the best their countries offered. Despite the speech barriers they quickly bonded. Their mission at this time was to protect shipping in the Scapa Flow area.

Discussions were held at the Air Ministry that the numbers of foreign pilots were swelling and whole units should be formed for their conveniences. McColpin joined No. 121, which was a newly formed American Squadron. Tough times were common with himself and the others pulling constant missions for eight months without leave. Many of their flights were at night. By this time the Luftwaffe had shifted from daylight bombing to night attacks. The area of the Channel the squadron was covering was the least active with enemy traffic. This was to give the new recruits some time in the air before they were thrown onto combat like during the Battle of Britain.

Once the group gained experience 121 Squadron with “Red” escorted bombers as they penetrated into France on strategic bombing missions. They also flew aggressive missions they called “rhubarb”, where “Red” and his fellow pilots would fly into France very low and fast shooting up everything they could find that was German.

McColpin was the only American to fly combat in all three American Eagle Squadrons. His total number of missions in these Squadrons exceeded three hundred counting the ones he flew with the 607. Red was a double ace before Pearl Harbor and was the first American to be decorated, in Buckingham Palace by King George during World War II. McColpin was a leading Squadron commander credited with 12 kills, 5 probable, and 12 damaged while with the Eagle Squadrons.

Red wasn’t one to boast nor bothered to claim all of his victories. He told me that he is positive that he shot down at least ten more while flying with the Eagle Squadrons but never bothered to claim them. One time Red shot down a German aircraft which exploded into a fireball in front of his Spitfire. “Red” only claimed it as “damaged.” After landing his plane captain helped as Carroll climbed out of his cockpit. Red and the other pilots shared beers in the “shack” after their debriefing. Later his crew chief came in among the drinking aviators and confronted Red with a piece of scalp from a human. Was it part of a German aviator? It was stuck in the corner of the canopy of Carroll’s Spitfire. It was gross in deed but everyone laughed and cheered! The “damaged” was changed to a confirmed kill. Not at the insistence of Carroll, he didn’t care.

“Red” finished his flying for the RAF in No. 336 squadron as commander. After transferring to the United States Army Air Force, “Red” was promoted to Major and flew as Commander of the 404th fighter Group, No. 336 Squadron. “Red” flew the P-47 which was quite different from the Spitfire. Red explained to me that when he first saw a Thunderbolt he could not believe how large it was. He led four group missions non stop during the D-Day invasion. His first mission started at 3:00 a.m. on the morning of June 4th and landing from his last mission for the day at 1:00a.m. on June 5th, the next morning.

Getting credit for destroying enemy aircraft on the ground  was not counted by the British pilots. Red never counted his ground victories, however in both services Red could have claimed a minimum of  ten more Luftwaffe aircraft of mixed types destroyed on the ground by attacking German airfields in France and Germany. McColpin scored another 8 confirmed kills while in the Army Air Force.

Carroll “Red” McColpin was an out standing airman for both the Royal Air Force as well as the Army Air Force flying over 500 combat missions. McColpin retired as a Major General Commanding the 4thU.S.A.F. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters, Presidential Unit Citation and the British Distinguished Flying Cross.

I only talked to Carroll two times on the phone in the late 1990’s. I regret never publishing the print of Red’s Spitfire while he was alive. The reason was because I was working two jobs most of the time and publishing what I could. I was doing all I could and could not fit another aviator or print in my schedule or budget. I wish I had more time with Carroll. His life was the ultimate American Adventurer tale. Carroll McColpin is an American Eagle.