Some years ago the 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association had the very good fortune of acquiring a 398th icon beyond our wildest dreams, when a painting called Clearing and Colder was produced. A picture of this painting has become a standard on all 398th stationary and other printed material, and adorns the wall of many 398th member homes. The 398th membership really appreciates having this unique recording of a moment its actual 398th history. Let me tell you its history.

In May of 1985 Boeing Aircraft held a 50 year celebration of the origin of the B-17. It was held at the old Boeing Field in Seattle, and I remember that more than 10,000 B-17ers showed up. For a part of the celebration, Boeing instigated and funded the production of sixteen original paintings involving B-17 history. As a part of our good fortune, our 600 Squadron member, Ted Johnston, was a Boeing management official responsible for the reunion preparations. Ted was asked by Jack Olson, one of the 16 artists commissioned for the paintings, for some guidance.

Ted gave him a photograph taken in the winter of 1944 of a 398th B-17 sitting in the snow at Station 131 with a ground crew member clearing the snow from its wings. The B-17 was 601 Squadron plane, serial number 43-38658. Thus, Jack Olson created Clearing and Colder. Mr. Olson used his imagination with the setting, adding ten B-17 crew members walking toward the plane and bringing the control tower into better view. The painting is truly a masterpiece when viewed by a 398er who was there during that cold and snowy winter.

In August 2005, Robert (Kip) Malaska, Jack's step son in August 2005 wrote us that: "When Jack painted "Clearing and Colder" he wanted to add a trace of something else also doing its daily work into the painting. The scan above is partially cropped, but you might notice the mouse tracks coming into the picture, to the left and parallel with the B-17 crew footprints, and entering into the clump of grass on the lower left of the painting." It's pretty hard to see this on the web photo, but can be seen in the prints available in the 398th PX.

I wish I could tell you that 43-38658 was a survivor like some 398ers still are, but that was not to be. That B-17 was mortally wounded on the now infamous RDX mission, the Friday the 13th mission, of April 13, 1945. It was crashed landed and abandoned on the Continent by its 601 Squadron pilots, Raymond Hernden and Lowell Culver. See the Flak News story Ed Norris Was Not Forgotten By His Crew by Allen Ostrom and other 601st RDX articles. So this is a special 398th story to remember. A Clearing and Colder represents a special part of 398th history. It receives a great deal of respect and affection from all real 398ers.

See item(s) available in our 398th PX regarding Clearing and Colder.

Text contributed by Wally Blackwell, President 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association. If you would like to add information about this photo, please contact our 398th Photo Historian. The Photo Reference Number is PR04.