Young history buffs and artists have a unique opportunity to showcase their talent and celebrate Buffalo’s history on an international level at the same time. The United States Consulate General in Yekaterinburg, Russia, has announced a drawing competition for children and teens ages 9-17. The deadline is April 10.
This contest is held to “commemorate the strategic alliance between Soviet pilots and American planes” and honor the 65th anniversary of the Allies’ victory in World War II. Participants are asked to draw a picture of the “Airacobra” P-39 jet, a fighter plane manufactured in Buffalo during the war.
Artists may send up to three drawings, using any medium, on A2-A4 paper. The drawings cannot be returned, but contest winners will receive diplomas and the unique opportunity for their art to be used in traveling exhibits in the United States and Russia. The submissions must include a title, along with the artist’s name, age, address, and their teacher’s name (if applicable) on the back of the drawing.
Contest entries should be sent to:
623855, Russia, Sverdlovsk oblast, Irbit region, poselok Pionerskiy
ul. Ozhiganova, Irbit Region School of Arts
“Combat Vertical” contest
Buffalo students were invited to participate in this contest because of the major role that the city played in building these planes. According to Chuck Banas, a self-described “armchair historian, aviation historian and Buffalo historian” and community activist, the city has a long history of constructing aircraft.
“Pretty much from the dawn of aviation, Buffalo figured pretty heavily in the design and manufacture of aircraft,” Banas said.
Banas said that aviation history in Buffalo goes as back as far as Glenn Curtiss, a man “as important as the Wright brothers”. Curtiss started experimenting with powered flight around the same time the Wright brothers did. He started in Hammondsport but later moved most of his operations to Buffalo because of its industrial capacity, access to raw materials, and electricity from Niagara Falls.
According to Banas, sales of the P-39 “Airacobra” jet at the start of World War II caused sales to spike. The P-39 was innovative because engineers placed the engine behind the pilot, instead of in front. The plane was designed around a giant cannon that fired ammunition through the nose of the aircraft. In order to have enough room for this cannon and the ammunition, the engine had to be in the back.
By 1939, the United States was producing and shipping out large quantities of P-39s, most of which were manufactured in Buffalo and sent to Russia to help the Soviets fight the German Luftwaffe. The Soviets were in desperate need of supplies, and since the Germans had a highly advanced military force, the Soviets needed a plane that allowed them to fight on nearly equal terms. Most of the orders went to Curtiss-Wright and another company, Bell Aircraft.
“The Germans had a much more advanced military machine than any other nation,” Banas said. “The Soviets used the P-39s and P-40s to great effect and… put up a lot of air-to-air victories against the Nazis in that aircraft.”
Banas said that this time period in Buffalo’s past showcases Buffalo’s rich history as an industrial city, and its actions that could even have made the difference between the United States and the Allies’ winning or losing World War II.
“No other city had the capacity to build aircraft in the large numbers that were required, other than Buffalo,” Banas said. “As many aircraft were produced in Buffalo in the first couple years of the war from 1939-1942 as the rest of the industry combined. Without companies like Bell and Curtiss, it’s actually quite doubtful that the Allies could have won World War II.”