P-38 Ace, Jack Ilfrey

There are 750 limited edition prints in this series. Print size 12×18″

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Limited Edition Prints are signed and numbered by the Artist and by Jack Ilfrey. $75.00

All signatures by both the Aviator and the Artist is done in soft graphic pencil.

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Poster Print $14.95

Jack Ilfrey

P-38  “Lightning”  “Happy Jacks Go Buggy”

Artwork and research is by; Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

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Captain Jack M. Ilfrey

Jack Milton Ilfrey joined the Army Air Corps and graduated from flying school at Luke Field Arizona on December 12, 1941 just days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Jack was assigned to the 94th “Hat in the Ring”, Fighter Squadron, 1st Fighter Group. The 94th Squadron was famous from the group’s success in World War I when Eddie Rickenbacker was the top American Ace.

Jack served in the States after he left North Africa as a trainer for new pilots. He told me that he did not mind the change and the new cadets enjoyed being taught by an Ace like Jack. He did miss the action of combat so he requested a transfer back to the front and it was granted. He was sent to England in March 1944 where he served with the 20th Fighter Group, 79th Fighter Squadron. He was assigned a brand new bright aluminum finished P-38 which he proudly named “Happy Jacks Go Buggy.”

He was glad to get back in the cockpit. Jack flew when ever he could and he was able to score two more aerial victories over Bf 109’s on May 24, 1944 while escorting heavy bombers over Berlin. Jack and his squadron of sixteen P-38’s were jumped by thirty plus Germans. The ensuing aerial battle became frantic, filling the sky with twisting, turning and looping aircraft.

He found himself in a head on attack with one of the 109’s. As they sped towards each other they fired. The German plane was so close that it collided with his Lighting tearing off the end of his right wing. This was witnessed by some of the pilots in his group. Jack’s wing tank was torn open and his engine cut off putting his Lighting in a spin. The German was not so lucky because he was seen going down giving Jack another aerial victory. Meanwhile Jack spun down into the safety of the clouds as he switched fuel tanks and re-started his engine. Once powered up Jack set a course for home.

As he was flying safely in the clouds back to England when anti-aircraft shells started exploding around him. Jack was unseen by the human eye in the clouds but the radar guiding the anti-aircraft guns could see him. Jack dove through the clouds to get a better idea as to where he was. At seven thousand feet Jack broke out of the clouds and found himself over a large city, Hamburg he guessed. With shells following him Jack headed for a large river and flew at full speed just over the top of the water all the way over hills, streams and rivers before he reached the Channel. Jack was shot at all along his way over Europe. After reaching the Channel he eased back on his gas usage and coasted back to base. He landed over an hour late and had been given up as lost in combat. Jack crawled out of his cockpit to examine the damage to his wing and found that three to four feet had been lost to the collision with the Messerschmitt.

On June 12th Jack and his squadron successfully dive bombed a bridge that crossed the LoireRiver. While reassembling with his squadron they came upon an enemy train. He attacked the train and destroyed the locomotive however the train was protected with anti-aircraft guns. As he was pulling up from his attack his right engine exploded and caught on fire. He had been hit and this was one time he would not be able to fly back to base. He was going to go down. Jack bailed out of “Happy Jack’s Go Buggy” just before it exploded. The watched his shinny new Lighting explode as he hung in his parachute. He was glad he got out when he did.

He landed behind enemy lines and avoided capture by befriending the French people who helped him escape. The family that was hiding Jack came up with a great idea. It sounds fantastic but it worked and this is a true story. They would disguise him as a deaf mute named Jacques Robert. Jack carried a note that the French woman wrote explaining that he had been injured and could not speak or hear. She signed it as a doctor. This note saved Jacks life and enabled him to openly travel in daylight.

It took Jack several weeks to return to the Allied lines. Jack rode a bicycle most of the way and walked the rest. Along the way he met many German troops. He was always asked for his papers and he would simply hand the German officer his doctor’s note. Jack told me that he even acted the part. With Jack not being an actor this would be the most important roll he would ever have to play to save his life. On one such encounter with German troops Jack was coming close the battlefront. Here he came onto some German troops that had just battled with the Allies. The German got Jack to transport a wounded German soldier to a field hospital by pushing him in a wheel borrow, which he did. After depositing the wounded German Jack went back on his way to the front.

Jack witnessed first hand the destruction the Allied aircraft was doing to the towns, cities and the German airdromes. He even witnessed several air attacks while making his way back to the Allied lines. After reaching the battle lines his concern now was NOT to be shot by American or Allied troops. Once he got close he heard American troops talking so he started shouting to them. He was greeted by the GI’s and given something to drink and eat. Jack then worked his way back to his airbase. The unit soon thereafter transitioned to the P-51D of which Jack named his Mustang, “Happy Jack’s Go Buggy”.

Jack was granted leave back in the States and after he rested he made his way back to Europe . This time Jack was flying the P-51D Mustang. Again many missions were escort flights but now at this stage of the war the fighters were allowed to break off after their mission to hunt for targets of opportunity. On November 20, 1944 Jack led a flight on a photo re-con mission escorting specially equipped P-38 Lightings. After the mission Jack led his men down for some ground attacks.

The only target they found was a retreating German Army with the road filled with trucks and other vehicles. Jacks fighters swarmed over the helpless German finally leaving them with their smoldering vehicles and tending to their dead and wounded. Getting low on fuel and ammo Jack set a course for home. The flight was flying low just over the tree tops trying to avoid anti-aircraft guns.

As they approached a town called Masstricht in Holland, gunfire erupted from the town’s defensive guns. Jack changed course to avoid the gun fire but one of his pilots, his wingman named 1st Lt. Duane Kelso radioed in that his fighter was hit and would be going down. As they flew on Jack spotted a small abandoned airfield and told Kelso to land there and he would pick him up. Jack told the other pilots to head on back to base. Jack watched as Kelso landed on a postage stamp airstrip. Once on the ground Kelso waved to Jack showing that he was OK. Jack then came in for a tight landing. Jack pulled up to Kelso and Jack got out and threw away his parachute and life dingy to make room for his wingman. He was just barely able to close the canopy with his chin smashed down almost to his chest Jack poured on full throttle for a very short take off for a Mustang. A wingman means a lot to a flight leader and Kelso had flown enough with Jack for him to choose being killed or taken prisoner in order to save a friend.

If you would like to read more about Jack Ilfrey then please consider one of our prints or one of our upcoming books. Thank you.

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This is a photo of Jack after he got back to base dressed like a Frenchman.

Jack left the service after the war credited with 8 confirmed aerial victories and two damaged. His awards were the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Air Metal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters.

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If you like building plastic models of these famous fighters then here are a couple of kits that you may be interested in. The P-38 in 1/32 scale by Revell is great. Built it two years ago. Build your own but it is a big kit when finished.

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The original painting of the print is available. This painting was NOT signed by the pilot.

Painting size: 24×48″ $1,500.00. You pay the shipping.

You can make payments so don’t let this opportunity pass you by!