Ray (Jack) KOWALIK
310th Bomb Group
Born in January 1921 in Runge, Texas, Raymond D Kowalik preferred to be known as “Jack” when he served in the Army Air Force. He enlisted and qualified as an instrument specialist with the rank of Private First Class. Assigned to the 380th Bomb Squadron’s Ground Echelon he left Walterboro for Greenville, S. Carolina in September 1942 then on to Fort Dix, New Jersey. Boarding the USS Monterey, he was transported to Casablanca and finally by train to Telergma to await the arrival of the 310BGs B25 Mitchells.
As part of the 12AF, the group’s Mitchell bombers began their missions on 2 December over North Africa and later Sicily then Italy, Corsica, Sardinia as well as supporting the invasion of Southern France in August 1944. Rudimentary airfields and facilities kept Ray (Jack) Kowalik busy but in his spare time he painted the nose art of many of his squadron’s aircraft. Veterans say he is credited with painting “almost all” of the 380BS nose arts.
The 310BG was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations and SSgt Kowalik was awarded a Bronze Star. At the end of the war, Ray returned home, married his girl and put his Air Force skills to work as a watchmaker and later a jeweller. When the Confederate Air Force Museum began to restore a B25 Mitchell they called upon Ray (Jack) Kowalik to paint the finished aircraft exactly as he had painted one decades earlier. Using reference from the Vargas Esquire pin-up, he recreated the art for “Miss Mitchell”. He also painted another restored Mitchell as “How Boot That!”, again exactly as he had done in December 1944 having lost none of his mastery of the art even at the age of 74.
© Ray Bowden 20 October 2021