‘Skipper III’ nose art dedication recognizes special bond, legacy of 100th Bomb Group

  • Published
  • By Karen Abeyasekere
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The latest nose art to adorn a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, "Skipper III," was unveiled during a dedication ceremony at Royal Air Force Mildenhall May 7.

As a way of reconnecting with 100th Bombardment Group history, tail number 59-1470 took on the name “Skipper III” as a tribute to retired Master Sgt. Dewey Christopher, former 351st Bomb Squadron crew chief and veteran of the 100th BG and World War II.

His son, Gary Christopher, joined the ceremony online from his home in Texas. Back in June 2019, Gary accompanied Dewey on a visit to RAF Mildenhall for a special ceremony when the Professional Development Center was renamed in his father’s honor.

As part of the 2019 visit, one of the KC-135s was given temporary nose art of "Skipper III" in recognition of Dewey, who joined the U.S. Army Air Force in December 1941, immediately after hearing of the attack on Pearl Harbor. During World War II, as a maintenance crew chief stationed at Thorpe Abbots in Norfolk, England, he worked on B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft including "Skipper" and "Skipper II."

Dewey shared with Team Mildenhall Airmen his favorite part about being a crew chief and maintainer.

“It was having the satisfaction of knowing I was giving my crew the best airplane I possibly could,” he remarked. “You don’t compromise when working on airplanes -- you can’t just pull over to the side of the road and raise the hood when you’re up in the air!”

Dewey passed away in October 2019, at age 96. He was a Bronze Star recipient and earned the medal for having more than 80 missions without any discrepancies on his B-17 airplane, "Skipper II," enabling it to gain an outstanding record in combat.

In addition to the unveiling ceremony of the new nose art, the "Skipper III" jet was also officially sponsored by the 100th Mission Support Group as part of the “Adopt-a-Jet” program. The aim of the program is to give Airmen the opportunity to learn more about the specific ancestry behind their aircraft’s nose art.

Enabling squadrons to have a stronger link to the RAF Mildenhall mission is a way to introduce Airmen to the 100th Bomb Group and strengthen ties to the 100th ARW’s heritage.

“My family and I are so honored, touched, and honestly, over the moon with the wonderful tribute of the "Skipper III" nose art as developed and presented by the 100th ARW,” said Gary. “Now that the nose art is a permanent, and prominent, tribute on a KC-135 that will be actively helping fulfil the 100th ARW’s missions, there couldn’t be a better way to carry on the legacy of my father and his beloved 'Skipper.' I hope that both the ground crews and flight crews feel his presence as they maintain and fly 'Skipper III.'”

The event was attended by Team Mildenhall Airman and civilians, along with guests from the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum.

“Had Dad been able to witness the presentation ceremony, he would have been greatly humbled and so very appreciative of this great honor. He would have been so thankful for all the thought, effort, and artistic skill that went into refining and producing it,” remarked Gary. “I’m quite confident that he would have accepted it on behalf of all his fellow ground crew personnel at Thorpe Abbotts as well as all the dedicated and hard-working maintainers of the 100th ARW. I think he would have also said that he didn’t have adequate words to express all the gratitude he felt.”

The new nose art represents a new stage in history for the 100th ARW.

“It’s important to remember that what’s true today was also true in World War II, that behind every successful mission flown were teams of ground personnel and maintenance specialists who worked around-the-clock to generate aircraft,” said Rob Paley, 100th ARW historian. “By bringing 'Skipper' back into the fleet, we’re honoring the 351st Bomb Squadron crew chief, Master Sgt. Dewey Christopher, who was instrumental in generating aircraft which were safe and ready to fly day-in and day-out for nearly two years. He represents the unsung heroes of the Bloody Hundredth.”

Bloody Hundredth leadership attended the ceremony to thank Gary for his father’s service and recognize those who made the nose art a reality.

“Dewey’s main concern was doing everything possible to ensure his crew and airplane returned home safely,” said Col. Troy Pananon, 100th ARW commander. “He would diligently inspect all the B-17s he was responsible for, doing everything possible to keep them in top running order. That is the very definition of professionalism. We honor him today because it’s the proud heritage of his generation that will help inspire RAF Mildenhall Airmen for years to come.”