Artist painted WWII planes
Ward Gallman, Jr., born 1917, started exhibiting creative talent at a young age when he was going to school in Crystal Springs. Along with a unique ability to sketch and use shading in drawings, he was drawn to wood crafting, and. on one occasion, designed a blue jay house made from cedar, red with a green roof, and provided specifics about why the roof should be slanted.
At Memphis Academy of Arts and Chicago Institute, he honed his skills, and focused on varied mediums – oils and pastels – and subjects – portraits, landscapes and florals.
In New Guinea during World War II for 47 months, he was a camouflage painter and insignia designer for the 41st Fighter Squadron, also known as the “Flying Buzzsaws.” Dubbed the “Squadron Michelangelo” by his comrades, he repeatedly repainted planes, adding new colors and designs, to make the enemy think the U.S. had more planes than they did. A 1943 Life Magazine Oldsmobile ad featured a photo of one of his planes with colorful insignia – a round metal buzzsaw blade with bright red wings flying on a cloud. One year, he designed a Christmas card for his comrades to use. It featured a Christmas wreath with huts and palm trees, hinting at their location, and read “The Japs have not kept us from thinking of and wishing you a very Merry Christmas – Somewhere in the Southwest Pacific.”
At the time, when he wasn’t painting for the military, he also expressed his humor in portraits of pilot’s wives, characters such as Bugs Bunny riding a door, coiled dragons, and a crow holding a machine gun, smoking a cigar and riding on a cloud. From his Pacific base, Gallman sent mail to his parents in Crystal Springs adorned with sketches of what he was painting, and his daughters still have some of the correspondence
When he returned to Crystal Springs after the War, he married Sar Lee Hubbard with whom he had two daughters, Gale and Sheilia.
A devoted Methodist, Gallman also found inspiration for his works in religion. Applying his wood working skills, he designed and built a life-size nativity scene for the front lawn of his church every Christmas. He also painted the scene of a flowing river for Pilgrims Rest Baptist Church.
Gallman continued to paint until his death in a 1972 automobile accident at age 54. In the late 1970s, the Junior Auxiliary honored his memory with a month-long exhibit of his artwork, including a stunning portrait of his wife that he was painting just before his death.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Throughout the 2023 Copiah County Bicentennial year, Wesson News will feature sketches of past and present visual artists, musicians, authors and photographers who are natives of the county. They will be excerpted from Tricia Nelson’s reporting in A Shared History: Copiah County, Mississippi 1823-2023 edited and compiled by Paul C. Cartwright and available through Cartwright for $25 plus $5 for shipping at 3 Waverly Circle, Hattiesburg, MS 39402. Nelson is a Crystal Springs writer who contributes to the Copiah County Monitor.