Ike and Butch: A Cartoonist Preserves Memories

Authored by Catherine Torres

“The 847th had a reputation as a very musical unit, producing male-voice choirs and jazz bands. The famous newspaper cartoonist Giles often jammed with men from the Debach-based unit in local pubs. These are his drawings of two of the men who became his friends: Ike (the double bass player) and Butch. Their full names are not known.” Photo courtesy of Emily Charles, Curator of the American Air Museum in the Imperial War Museum, Cambridgeshire, England.

During World War II, US and British bombers participating in the Allied Aerial campaign operated out of airfields in Southeast England. Building the airfields was difficult; there were long hours and equipment shortages (Hartzer 2013). Like many servicemen and women, aviation engineers, those who built the airfields, did their part for the war effort, but unlike their peers, aviation engineers are not often memorialized. The reason? At the time, of the 157 American aviation engineer units, 48 of them were designated as “colored” (Hartzer 2013). 

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