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Gathering Auction Nets Long-Shot Discovery

Man makes top bid on nose art from grandfather’s B-24

Sweet Routine group
Gerald Harvey Sutton, far right - back row, pictured with the crew of the original B-24 Sweet Routine

Nose art
Gary Velasco’s replica nose art that was donated to EAA for the Gathering of Eagles online auction.

August 18, 2011 – When Steve Sutton, of Slater, Iowa, wanted to make a replica of the nose art adorning the B-24 Liberator on which his grandfather served as navigator in World War II, he asked an Oshkosh-bound friend earlier this year to look for a suitable piece of metal in the Aeromart at AirVenture 2011. But that was before Sutton discovered a completed replica was already available – and it was practically right under his nose.

The accidental discovery came courtesy of Google, when Sutton’s wife, Kristen, wanted to see a picture of the original nose art. So Sutton entered the airplane’s nickname, Sweet Routine, into the search engine and was blown away by what popped up: Search result No. 1 showed an exact replica of Sweet Routine’s nose art that just happened to be listed as an item up for bid in EAA’s Gathering of Eagles online auction this year. The image, originally inspired by an Alberto Vargas drawing, was recreated by renowned aviation artist Gary Velasco on an 11.5-foot by 7.6-foot B-24 hull section. His company and AirVenture exhibitor, Velasco Enterprises, donated it to EAA for the online auction.

“There it was, recreated already,” Sutton said. “What are the odds of something like this happening? I just had to have it.” He contacted Velasco - who had reversed engineered, blueprinted, and “CAD-ed” the artwork - telling him about his grandfather’s connection to the plane. The hull section is a true mil-spec reproduction, featuring actual stringers and formers, a working fire extinguisher door, and acrylic plexiglass window.

Bidding under the name “Grandpanavigatoronsweetroutin,” Sutton won the auction with a top bid of $2,801.

The nose art will become part of Sutton’s collection of World War II memorabilia handed down to him by his grandfather, Gerald Harvey Sutton, who flew 29 bombing missions in Sweet Routine with the 11th Bomb Group in the Pacific theater. Those missions included such pivotal targets as Chichi-Jima, Iwo Jima, Truk, Okinawa, and Shanghai. In fact, Sutton said that Sweet Routine was the first Allied aircraft to land on Iwo Jima – on D-Day plus 6 (June 12, 1944).

Sutton’s artifacts include navigational tools, a captured enemy flag, maps with nav lines, survival rations (still in their hard plastic case), flight jacket, and numerous photographs. His grandfather also kept a secret missions diary, which was strictly forbidden by the military for obvious security reasons. The personal logbook includes details of every bombing run, such as departure points, targets, and type and weight of ordinance.

Sutton is organizing his grandfather’s artifacts so they can be loaned to museums for display. “It’s important to pass this information and heritage on to future generations,” he said.

Sweet Routine, he said, completes the collection.


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