"Aces of the 56th Fighter Group of World War II" opens June 27 at Museum

SEATTLE, June 25, 2009

--The Museum of Flight is the home of the American Fighter Aces Association and holds their collections and archives. Opening June 27, a new exhibit draws from this valuable resource to portray the World War II military experience of fighter ace Maj. James C. Stewart and fellow pilots in the famous 56th Fighter Group--acclaimed for having more aces than any other fighter group in the European Theater during the Second World War. The exhibition of artifacts, photographs and videos will be displayed in the Museum's Great Gallery through September.

"Aces of the 56th Fighter Group of World War II" will feature photographs and artifacts from Maj. Stewart's personal collection, including his uniform, flight gear and survival equipment. The photos document his training at Randolph Field, Texas and his flying experiences during combat missions over Germany. California-native Stewart was credited with 10 aerial combat victories. The exhibit also includes rare color World War II footage from "Zemke's Way," a 1999 New Jersey Public Television documentary about the fighter group.  Based in England during World War II, the U.S. Eighth Air Force's 56th Fighter Group had more fighter aces than any other fighter group during the war. Under the tenacious and inspiring leadership of Col. Hubert "Hub" Zemke, the squadron--knicknamed Zemke's Wolfpack--emerged as one of the most successful American fighter units during World War II.

Flying rugged Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and employing innovative tactics devised by Zemke, the 56th flew bomber escort and counter-air missions, and supported ground troops during the invasion of France in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Over roughly two years, 56th pilots totaled 665.5 aerial victories, about 100 more victories than the second highest fighter group in the Eighth Air Force. The 56th produced 39 aces, including the two leading American aces, Lt. Col. Francis S. "Gabby" Gabreski and Maj. Robert S. Johnson. For more information and photos see: http://www.museumofflight.org/exhibits/aces-56th-fighter-group-wwii