The year is 1974. Richard Nixon has been subpoenaed to hand over the Watergate tapes, Patty Hearst has been kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and Disco music is beginning to dominate the airwaves on our cassette decks. It has been ten years since the novel The Blue Max was published, thirty years since the end of World War II and almost sixty years since Baron Von Richthofen terrorized the skies with his Flying Circus.
Towards the back pages of the New York Times, this small article appeared….
“The Federal Goverment releases today thousands of documents recently “de-classified” from World War II. Among those documents is information never previously released about a number of secret operations including “Operation Nursery”. This operation conducted on German soil was focused on capturing Nazis attempting to leave the country as the war was winding down. Information about this effort was originally leaked in 1945, but this newest release is much broader, including records and artifacts gathered in Germany during its execution. Some of these artifacts are considered historically significant and have been released to the archivists at the Smithsonian Institution for further study.
Current Smithsonian Secretary Dillon Ripley commented, ” Our archivists are thrilled to have been given these materials by the government. They give us direct insight into the Nazi leadership in Germany and what happened during the waining days of the Regime. Suprisingly some of the items provided may give us insight into World War I as well. One item we are particularly interested in is a simple journal labelled “Rupp’s Sketchbook”. This appears to be the detailed rememberances of Unteroffizier Gerhardt Rupp a staff officer and clerk for a German Jasta located near Cambrai. This journal is packed full of written text, photos, reports and sketches that should give us unique insight into life in the German Luftstreitkräfte.
What Ripley did not comment on, that is raising controversy about this release, is that Gerhardt Rupp has the same name as a character in the book and film The Blue Max written by Jack D. Hunter. This book focused on the life of Bruno Stachel, a WWI Ace flying for Germany in 1918 and lead to a marginally successful film starring George Peppard in 1965. Mr. Hunter served during World War II as an intelligence officer and actually participated in “Operation Nursery”. His involvement and the surfacing of this journal is raising a lot of questions among World War I historians regarding the details of his novel and the possibility that it includes more fact than fiction.
Mr. Hunter was not available for comment, but the Smithsonian has promised to make the sketchbook available to the public once they have reviewed its condition and properly preserved it.”
So that’s the set up for The Blue Max Project art project.
My plan is to develop “Rupp’s Sketchbook”, a graphic journal that retells The Blue Max story from Gerhardt Rupp’s perspective. Rupp was the squads informant, smuggler, pornographer and general troublemaker. The Hauptmann relied on him for “insider” info on his squad, Bruno relied on him for black market alcohol, Willi and others relied on him for an underground mail service outside of the censors. He has a presence in the novel from beginning to end and will provide a unique perspective on the story. He was also a survivor that collected information on others to protect himself, so it makes sense that his journal is packed with detailed information never shared before regarding this story. War time sketches, photographs, copies of reports, correspondence, you would have expected Rupp to collect whatever he needed to have the dirt on everyone else.
I intend to issue pages of the sketchbook on a serial basis, so folks can read along week by week. I won’t start releasing them until enough is developed that the story can unfold on a regular basis. My guess is this may be a year out. I don’t want to give up the details of the story ahead of time, but will likely leak images of some of the artwork as it develops.
I guess the first step is knowing what you want to do…….so the journey begins!