Thunder Head

Thunder Head

John Erwin Ramsay, Sr.

1940-1949

While taking a break from his post as a Naval Intelligence Officer on July 3, 1943, Lt. John E. Ramsay stopped to paint the F4U-Corsairs of the VMF-213 at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal. While Ramsay was painting, “The Hellhawks” were called to a combat patrol, and Marine 1st Lt. Herman H. Spoede climbed into the cockpit of this F4U. Ramsay quickly sketched him into the work and finished the painting while the squadron was in the air. Late that evening, when the squadron returned, Ramsay waited by the runway to present Spoede the watercolor. However, while returning from the patrol, Spoede “ran into thunderhead” and lost contact with the group. Searches commenced for several days, but Spoede was never seen again. Ramsay never knew Spoede or his name, but the title of the work suggests he was aware of Spoede’s loss. Ramsay went on to become a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects and a leading proponent of modernist design in North Carolina until his death in 1991.