A picture can say a thousand words, or bring back a thousand memories if you are Jake "McNasty" McNiece, Jack "Hawkeye" Womer, Jack Agnew or Robert "Ragsman" Cone.
This elite unit was given the name "The Filthy Thirteen," and they are being honored with a new painting by renowned artist Joel Iskowitz. The painting is being unveiled at the Mid-Atlantic Museum's 19th Annual World War II weekend, June 5 - 7, at the Reading Regional Airport in Pennsylvania.
All four surviving members will be present at the WWII weekend.
"The painting is all about 'The Filthy Thirteen.' We're honoring the four living members," said Bob Willis, co-owner of the Victory Art Gallery.
The painting depicts the Soldiers preparing for their jump by assembling gear and applying war paint next to their C-47 aircraft. The men were tasked with demolishing enemy targets behind the lines.
"There is a famous film clip of these guys getting ready on D-Day," Willis said. "We recreated this scene in a painting. This is a historical event that we have brought to color and life through a painting."
The painting will be on display at the WWII Weekend along with a C-47 aircraft and re-enactors.
"It's a way to honor the surviving members of 'The Filthy Thirteen' and the ones that didn't make it," Willis said. "There's a story behind the scenes of these guys."
Not many people can recall June 6, 1944, as a living memory, but some of these men can. The former Soldiers of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, were jumping out of a damaged C-47 early D-Day morning.
As the group prepared for their mission, they were standing outside of their plane with their Mohawk haircuts and their Indian-style war paint, a moment this painting has frozen in time.
A similar photograph taken by a photographer from "Stars and Stripes" became famous and generated the myths about the squad that inspired the fictional story, "The Dirty Dozen."
"[The painting] looks really good. Most of the men you can recognize," said McNiece, who celebrated his 90th birthday on recently. "It's a beautiful painting. You almost want to speak to them. It gives me chills every time I look at it. We lost some of those men that night."
McNiece's D-Day jump is his most vivid memory. He was the acting platoon sergeant for the jump.
"I took 20 men into Normandy," he said. "By the time we had blown up two of the bridges and wired another, we were down to two men."
The Soldiers were tasked with destroying bridges over the Douve River during the Normandy Invasion of Europe.
"It's a wonderful piece of work," said Agnew. "It was so realistic that when I went to bed that night I thought I was there again."
Cone, an original member, was captured the morning of the D-Day jump, but three years ago he was reunited with his comrades.
"We lost track of him," said Agnew. "Jake called me a few years ago and told me to sit down because he got a call from 'Ragsman's' - that's what we called Bob - son saying he wanted to talk to us. We thought he was dead."
Not one of his fellow Soldiers thought Ragsman survived that day.
"I spent 11 months as a prisoner in Germany. When I got released no one knew I was alive," Cone said. "When I was liberated, I had to travel through five countries, some on my own getting rides from people, before I made it back to the United States."
"I think [the painting] is very good, and very true," said Cone. "I've had those memories for 65 years."
Although the four living Soldiers live in different cities throughout the country, they all travel to speak about their experiences and promote veterans.
"I spoke to three high school groups last Monday in Springfield, Illinois," said McNiece, "anything we can do to promote the welfare of the veterans, I don't mind doing it."
McNiece also wanted citizens to know that "they didn't die in vain over there. America will remain free. People don't realize the enormity of what we're doing. We continue to stand for what is right for the world and the United States."
The Victory Art Gallery will sell prints of the painting starting at the end of the month. The four surviving members signed 950 prints. These prints are 22.5 inches by 32 inches, with the image at 16.5 inches by 28 inches, and sells for $295.
There is a gallery edition of the print that will have one signature and is $195.
A package is available with a print and all four signatures, as well as other rare items. There are 250 packages available.
The gallery can be called for more information or to order prints at (845) 629-2864. The print can be viewed online at www.victoryartgallery.com. More information on the WWII weekend can be found online at www.maam.org/maamwwii.html.