“THE LITTLE AMBASSADOR SPEAKS” – SIGNED NUMBERED
LIMITED EDITION PRINT OF THE FOURTH AIR VICTORY OF WWII
USAAF “ACE” JAMES EMPEY: This limited edition,
numbered print of “The Little Ambassador Speaks” was
executed as part of a series commissioned by the
American Fighter Aces Association to document in art one
notable air victory for as many of the surviving World
War Two American Air Aces as possible.
This numbered print, bearing the original signatures of
both the artist and the subject, James P. Empey, a World
War Two US Army Air Force Ace, depicts the aerial combat
that resulted in Empey’s fourth air victory.
In December 1943, Lieutenant Empey shipped out for North
Africa, reporting to the 5TH Fighter
Squadron, 52ND Fighter Group, 15TH
US Air Force. Empey began his war flying Spitfires and
it wasn’t until after the squadron was moved to Corsica
that they received the P-51 Mustangs in March of 1944.
During the course of Empey’s service in Europe, his
flights included escorting flights of B-24’s and B-26’s
on bombing missions to Poland, the famed Ploesti Oil
Fields, and over the German homeland.
As a result of Empey’s good nature and his ability to
engage almost anyone in conversation, his squadron mates
dubbed him the “little ambassador”. The nick name
stuck and when the squadron received their newly issued
P-51’s, it seemed a natural fit to paint the same name
on the nose of Empey’s plane.
Scoring all five of his air victories in this P-51
during a 30 day period, Empey destroyed a Me-109 west of
Weiner Neustadt, Germany on May 29TH, 1944 –
his first – and on June 11Th he destroyed two
Me-109s over Sofia, Bulgaria.
Assigned to escort a flight of B-24’s on a mission over
Munich on June 13, 1944, Empey was flying the “Little
Ambassador” in the fourth slot of Blue Flight. Empey
spotted a JU-88 below him and dove to attack. Making
continuous passes on the German aircraft, and avoiding
enemy return fire, Empey saw his gunnery scoring hits on
the JU-88’s engine and cockpit and witnessed the
aircraft crash into the German countryside and burn,
scoring his fourth air victory.
James attained his “Ace” status on July 28TH
with the destruction of a Me-109 south west of
Empey returned to the United States and after the war he
was discharged to return home to his native New York.
Before long, he rejoined the service, and made the
transition to the US Air Force when it was created in
1947, serving 30 years before his retirement in 1972
with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In addition to his
combat flight time in Europe, he also flew a
considerable number of combat missions in Vietnam.
Empey logged an impressive flight career including time
in the P-39, P-40, the Spitfire, P-51, F-84, F-86,
F-100, F-101, F-102, F-104, B-25, C-47, C-123, L-20,
T-28, and T-33. He logged a total of 5,437 hours of
military flight time, including a total of 1,327 hours
of combat time.
On a personal note, Empey eventually retired in San
Antonio, Texas and it was here that I met and got to
know him as Jim. Despite his advancing years and the
toll an active life had taken on his body, Jim was as
pleasant a man to be around as you would hope for -
quick with a laugh, even quicker for one of the jokes he
was known for, and never at a loss for a good story.
After Jim passed away in 2013, I had the opportunity to
obtain a number of items from his collection and some of
the pieces related to his service, in particular to his
early aviation days in Europe. Of special note, I was
able to purchase his Pilots Log Book, in which he
recorded his flights from his early days at flight
school in 1942 through March of 1988 when he apparently
stopped piloting. Of special note are the entries which
include notations of his five air victories. I have
included photographs below of the pages which list the
air victory over the JU-88 as depicted in the print, and
I will include photocopies of these pages and the log’s
name plate with the sale of the print.
This print, measuring 17” by 22”, was obtained directly
from Empey’s estate and is in like new condition. It is
framed in an inexpensive plastic frame set with a front
of clear plastic, and it should be reframed in a much
nicer frame and glass. However, for the purposes of
shipping, the plastic frame will protect it, without
being excessively heavy or running the risk that a glass
front would be broken in transit and damage the print.
The print is hand signed by the artist, with the print
number rerecorded by hand, and it is also hand signed by
Empey next to the artist’s rendering of Empey’s likeness
during his World War Two service.
This is a very nice print with excellent content and
with the added value of not only the original
signatures, but also being accompanied by photocopies of
Empey’s original log entry of this air victory. This
would be a dramatic print to display in your office or
with your aviation collection.