Vietnam Air War Memorial
Museum of Flight, Seattle
(In Progress )
Dedication planned for Spring of 2019

“Project Welcome Home” was conceived by a group of Military veterans from all services who flew in the Vietnam war. The 3 million dollar memorial sponsored by the Museum of Flight is to be located on an large site, alongside the river, next to the Museum on Boeing field in Seattle. It will consist of plazas, sidewalks, walls, plaques and an actual restored B-52 mounted on an elevated stand. In addition the memorial will feature a 8 ft 6 inch tall bronze statue of a “returning airman” created by sculptor James Nance. As of 1 September 2018 all funding has been raised by the generosity of the local community.

Composition +

The “returning airman” sculpture is to represent all services and all missions. As of 1 September 2018 the clay sculpture is complete and currently being cast in bronze at the foundry in Loveland Colorado, Bronze Services. Scheduled delivery will be early November 2018 and will be stored at the museum until completion of the memorial hardscape.The composition depicts a young Captain symbolically returning home. He is tired from his year long deployment, reflective on his experiences, proud of his contribution, sad for the loss of comrades in combat, yet looking forward to his return to America, family and loved ones. In his left hand he holds a flight helmet and in his right hand, pressed firmly against his chest, is a folded American flag. The folded flag is a symbolic gesture of honor for those who did not return home and is modeled from a standard casket flag presented to families of those lost at war.

Sculpting a Memorial +

Nance believes that even a generic figure should have the sensitivity of a portrait, so he used an actual model for the project, a cadet at the AF Academy. Nance believes that the model’s youth, energy, and idealism shines through the clay and bronze to create a believable and sensitive “returning airman.”When the Museum awarded Nance the contract in June of 2017 he first sculpted a nude 40 inch maquette in order to establish a suitable pose and correct anatomy. Next after approval from the committee and museum, Jim sculpted the clothing and flight gear on the maquette . Finally the 40 inch maquette was painstakingly enlarged by hand and eye over a foam and steel armature to the full size of 8 feet 6 inches. Once final approval was received the clay was cut apart and molded in 40 different molds. After casting at the foundry the parts will be carefully welded back together under the direct supervision of the artist.

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Selected photos of the “Returning Airman” created for the Museum of Flight Vietnam Air War Memorial. More photos of complete bronze will be added soon.

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