New ‘Skipper III’ Nose Art Honors Unsung Heroes of the ‘Bloody Hundredth’

May 15, 2021Hannah Ray Lambert
Bloody Hundredth Skipper III nose art dedication

A US Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker is adorned with the 100th Air Refueling Wing’s newest heritage nose art, “Skipper III.” The art is dedicated to the late Master Sgt. Dewey Christopher, 351st Bomb Squadron maintainer and crew chief of the 100th Bombardment Group. His son, Gary Christopher, on screen, remotely attended the unveiling at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, May 7, 2021. US Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere.

The new nose art decorating a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft pays homage to a Bronze Star recipient and the unsung heroes of the bombardment group known as the “Bloody Hundredth.”

A dedication ceremony earlier this month at Royal Air Force Mildenhall unveiled the art and honored the late Master Sgt. Dewey Christopher, the former 351st Bomb Squadron crew chief and a veteran of the 100th Bombardment Group. 

The 100th Bombardment Group earned the “Bloody Hundredth” nickname due to the heavy losses it took during World War II. Their losses weren’t the highest of any 8th Air Force Group, according to the American Air Museum, but in several instances the Bloody Hundredth lost numerous planes during a single mission.

One of the lowest days was Oct. 10, 1943, when a group took off for Munster, Germany. Just one aircraft made it back to Thorpe Abbotts in Norfolk, England.

bloody hundredth skipper II
US Army Air Forces Master Sgt. Dewey Christopher, left, poses for a photo with his ground crew and first B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft, “Skipper,” at Thorpe Abbotts, Diss, England, in 1942. Royal Air Force Mildenhall dedicated the nose art of one of its KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft in his honor when “Skipper III” was unveiled May 7, 2021. Courtesy photo provided by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

Christopher joined the US Army Air Forces in December 1941 after hearing of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He worked on B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft including “Skipper” and “Skipper II” as a maintenance crew chief at Thorpe Abbots. Christopher earned the Bronze Star for having more than 80 missions without any discrepancies on his “Skipper II.”

After returning home to his wife and son in 1945, Christopher went on to work on early model DC-3s for American Airlines, according to the 100th Air Refueling Wing. He passed away in October 2019 at the age of 96.

Now, a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft bears the name “Skipper III.”

“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,” Christopher’s son Gary said, according to 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs. Gary joined the ceremony remotely from his home in Texas.

nose art Dewey Christopher
Left, the 100th Air Refueling Wing’s newest heritage nose art, “Skipper III,” was unveiled during a ceremony at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, May 7, 2021. Right, Master Sgt. Dewey Christopher, a veteran of World War II, the 100th Bombardment Group and 351st Bomb Squadron, poses for his official photo in his Class A uniform in 1942.

Airmen, civilians, and guests from the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum attended the event.

“What’s true today was also true in World War II,” 100th ARW historian Rob Paley said. “Behind every successful mission flown were teams of ground personnel and maintenance specialists who worked around-the-clock to generate aircraft.”

By bringing Skipper III into the fleet, Paley said they are honoring Christopher’s instrumental and diligent role in generating aircraft that were safe and ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

“He represents the unsung heroes of the Bloody Hundredth,” Paley said.

Read Next: Castner’s Cutthroats: The Alaska Scouts Who Retook US Soil in WWII

Hannah Ray Lambert
Hannah Ray Lambert

Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear gassed during the 2020-2021 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.

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