Sunday, July 29, 2001

Canon City sculptor Robert Henderson put finishing
touches on a bronze World War II P-40 Warhawk to
be dedicated during the 60th anniversary of the Dec. 7
bombing of Pearl Harbor. The replica will be
displayed at Hickam Air Force Base.

Valor cast in bronze

Sculptor Robert Henderson
memorializes an airborne defender
of the Pearl Harbor attack

By Gregg K. Kakesako

A REMINDER OF the Army Air Forces' history -- a bronze replica of a World War II P-40 Warhawk -- will be dedicated on the 60th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and displayed at Hickam Air Force Base.

Although the Sunday morning attack caught the U.S. forces by surprise, a few P-40s were able to get airborne that day and are credited with shooting down Japanese fighters.

The memorial is being created by Colorado sculptor Robert Henderson, who has created 24 other warbird replicas, seven of which are displayed at the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs. The bronze P-40, at 3/10 scale, is 9 1/2 feet long with an 11-foot wingspan.

Weighing more than 5,000 pounds -- 1,000 for the plane and 4,000 for the base -- the replica will be shuttled to Hawaii before the Dec. 7 dedication on either an Air Force C-5 or C-141 jet transport, said Gary Miller, Hickam museum and heritage program manager.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. James McPartlin, who flew P-40s before moving up to the B-17 bomber in World War II, said he hopes to round up as many veterans as possible to attend the dedication. Both McPartlin and Henderson plan to attend.

McPartlin, 83, first met Henderson three years ago when Henderson began work on building a B-17 sculpture for the Air Force Academy.

"Robert is a very patriotic man who focuses his work on military airplanes," said McPartlin, who served for 27 years in the Air Force.

Since then McPartlin has worked on several of Henderson's projects and is still recruiting people to donate money to pay for the Hickam statue. A $500 donation will get the donor's name placed on the plaque below the bronze sculpture.

"There's room for at least 200 names on the plaque, and we would like to see many people participate and defray the costs," he said.


Span: 37 feet, 4 inches
Length: 31 feet, 9 inches
Height: 12 feet, 4 inches
Weight: 9,100 pounds loaded
Armament: Six .50-caliber machine guns; 700 pounds of bombs
Engine: 1,150 horsepower
Cost: $45,000

McPartlin estimates the Hickam statue will cost about $115,00.

Miller said former World War II aviators approached the Air Force in 1999 about the possibility of erecting an Army Air Forces memorial of the Pearl Harbor attack. McPartlin said initially a sculpture of a B-17 was proposed, but "that proposal didn't pan out."

Several sites were considered during the past two years, with Hickam officials deciding to place the P-40 in front of the base's headquarters building.

Robert Henderson said the memorial will be cherished by children and family members of World War II veterans because it will give "the next generation a chance to say thank you and leave a tangible reminder of our history."

Cheryl Henderson said the Hawaii project came about after her husband completed the Air Force Academy P-40 sculpture in the early 1990s.

"Some of the pilots weren't able to get their names on the plaque, so my husband was asked to do another one," she said.

Squadrons of P-40 Warhawks were stationed at Wheeler Army Air Field, Haleiwa and Bellows on Dec. 7, 1941. Thirty-three Americans died at Wheeler, 75 were wounded and nearly half of the P-40 fighters on the ground were destroyed.

SHORTLY AFTER the first bombs fell at Wheeler, 2nd Lts. Ken Taylor and George Welch radioed Haleiwa Field, 10 miles to the north, and learned that the field had not yet been attacked.

They raced in Taylor's Buick from Wheeler to Haleiwa, jumped into their P-40 fighters and together shot down six Japanese fighters: Welch got four; Taylor, two.

About a dozen U.S. planes managed to get off the Haleiwa air strip before the attack was over, and the U.S. pilots reported 10 confirmed aerial kills.

At Hickam, the Army lost 76 planes, primarily P-36 and P-40 fighters -- most of them neatly lined up and bunched together on the landing pad as a precaution against sabotage.

Since sculptor Henderson still had the molds from the P-40 he made for the Air Force Academy, he didn't have to start from scratch for the Hawaii sculpture.

The P-40 Warhawk at Colorado Springs is part of an outdoor garden that includes four World War II fighters: P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-40; and three bombers: B-24 Liberator, B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress. A C-46 Commando cargo plane sculpture will be added next year. All were sculpted by Henderson.

Cheryl Henderson said donations can be sent to her nonprofit Groups Memorial Inc. She can be reached at 1-800-305-1738 or log on to her Web site at

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