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Machines make history, people make heritage

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Making a mark on the world is a dream for many people, a goal to be remembered by future generations for the things they had accomplished.

While some have made their mark on history by inventing machines such as cars or planes, others make their mark through heritage; impacting the culture and environment of an area by dreaming up things like buildings, landscapes, books, or simple works of art.

Andrew Wieczorek, retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt., is one such artist, creating a painting known as “Lady Eve,” a rendition of a U.S. Army Air Corps B-26 Marauder bomber of the same name.

The painting is now an artifact of the 37th Bomb Squadron’s heritage, painted by the same man who created the aircraft’s nose art 50 years earlier.

“The painting now rests in A-Flight in the 37th BS,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Diehl, 37th Bomb Squadron commander. “A fitting place for it because it highlights our heritage of where we’ve been for our new guys coming in.”

When Wieczorek served as a ground crew member in the USAAC, he was assigned to the 37th BS back when it was still a part of the 17th Bomb Group in the USAAC. It was here his artistic abilities were recognized and he was selected to paint aircraft nose art on the squadron's bomber, the same aircraft he would depict over five decades later, looking back on all he had done.

However, the painting has only recently made its way home to the 37th BS. Retired Army Col. Richard Sloma had coordinated the gifting after coming into possession of the artifact through Wieczorek’s family.

“I received [the painting] from Mr. Wieczorek's cousin Edmund Gendzielewski,” Sloma said. “Ed and I are members of the same veteran’s organization, the Polish Legion of American Veterans in Syracuse, New York.”

Since “Lady Eve’s” conception, the painting had been passed on more than once. Wieczorek had originally gifted it to his cousin Chester Gendzielewski, who in turn passed it on to his brother Edmund.

Sloma continued to explain how Gendzielewski had brought the painting into a May 2015 legion meeting asking Sloma to "find a good home" for his cousin's painting.

“Gendzielewski wanted to make sure that the painting wasn’t lost and that the information carefully included with the painting was preserved for future Airmen to enjoy,” Sloma said. “After doing some research I was able to find the origins of the aircraft and squadron that was displayed in the painting and got in contact with the historian of the 28th Bomb Wing, the current home of the 37th BS.”

Diehl spoke of the significant emotional investment involved in having the canvas at Ellsworth.

“The painting was originally in New York so it took effort to get it out here,” Diehl explained. “It’s nice to think that so many people cared about this individual enough to go through the process to find a home for what he left behind; if you look at it, it’s really impressive to have it hanging in the 37th BS.”

After John Moyes, 28th BW historian, was contacted, he began the process necessary to ensure it was given an appropriate home. With the painting now in the squadron, members can see a bit of their heritage and get a sense of its history and where the squadron came from.

“If you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going,” Diehl said. “The painting just further highlights our history as a bomb squadron – it highlights a proud heritage. This is a gentleman who five decades after he painted the actual nose art for the actual aircraft still looked back to his time in service with fond memories.”

Editor’s note: Title attribution to Yancy Mailes, Director, History and Museum Program, Air Force Global Strike Command.