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Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb, XR-C, of No. 71 “Eagle” squadron RAF, piloted by Sqn/Ldr Chesley “Pete” Peterson. The scene captures a glimpse of the momentuous air battle over Dieppe on 19th August 1942, operation Jubilee.
Chesley Gordon Peterson was one of the first volunteers with the newly formed No. 71 ‘Eagle’ Squadron and became its second American commander. Flying 130 combat missions, he destroyed nine enemy aircraft and also claimed seven probables and five damaged.
On 19 August 1942, during ‘Operation Jubilee’, the ill-fated landings at Dieppe, all three ‘Eagle’ Squadrons fought together for the first and only time. They claimed ten confirmed victories. Peterson led 71 Squadron on three of its four sorties that day damaging a Ju 88 bomber during the morning clashes.
In the afternoon during an engagement with around twenty Ju 88s as they tried to attack shipping. Peterson shot a Ju 88 but not before its rear gunner had forced him to bale out over the sea. He was rescued by a British MTB.
For his outstanding leadership skills displayed that day Peterson was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the only Eagle to be presented with this distinction. Peterson survived the war, and died on 28 January 1990. He was buried with full military honours at Riverside National Cemetary, California.
Original painting oil on canvas board, 60×40 cm. Also available as limited-edition print from the artist’s website at http://www.multiweb.cz/czfighters/
[Vladimir Urbanek, used by permisison of the artist]