A 55-foot mural recognizing World War II aviation history of the Millville Army Air Base, America’s First Defense Air-port, was unveiled at a ceremony held on Thursday, May 12, 2011, at Millville Airport.The Millville Army Air Field Museum developed the project and commis-sioned the mural with funding made possible in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and the Cumberland County Cultural and Heritage Commission.Mural artist Samuel Donovan of Woodstown, NJ, who created the com-memorative Wall of Remembrance mural on Millville City Hall in 1997, designed this mural at Millville Airport to recognize the significance of the P-47 Thunderbolt Fighter-Bomber aircraft and the WWII pilots who flew them extensively in air battles in the European and Pacific theatres during the war. The Millville Army Air Field was a U.S. Army Air Corps base where more than 1,500 pilots received advanced fighter training in the P-47 Thunderbolt from 1941 through 1945.
The mural features images of WWII pilots William Rich, who currently resides in Vineland, and Bernie Borelli, from Malaga, NJ, who passed away in 2003. Both men served at the Millville Army Air Field during WWII as combat flight in-structors. Each flew numerous missions in P-47 Thunderbolts from bases in England during the war. Borelli left the service as a lieutenant colonel. His son Michael represented him at the unveiling ceremony. Bill Rich, now an 89-year-old widower, left service a captain.The commemorative mural is located on the side of a 4,000 square foot hangar operated by Big Sky Aviation at the corner of Petersen and Leddon Streets, where it faces incoming traffic looking toward airport runways. It is among the first sights for visitors to the air field and the museum. “We can’t think of a better way to commemorate Millville’s WWII aviation history than through our mural projects. They make our aviation heritage come alive,” said Robert Trivellini, MAAFM vice president and project coordinator. “The murals document the importance of local aviation history and demonstrate the value of visual communica-tion in our community.” “We are so pleased and excited to present this commemorative mural to the community,” said Russell Davis, MAAFM board chairman. “History and art go hand in hand and, with the help of Cumberland County Cultural and Heritage Commission grants, we’ve made some great things hap-pen — murals in the historic district at Millville Airport, in the Millville Library on Buck Street, and now this huge salute to the aviation history of the Millville air field! We thank all involved and look forward to future collaborations to promote history and art in Millville.“Our special thanks go out to mural artist Sam Donovan for his powerful yet sensitive handling of the design. His artistic creativity and skills make this mural a treasured and valuable historic statement. We also thank Stanker & Galetto Build-ers for their assistance with equipment and installation of the mural, and Big Sky Aviation and the Delaware River and Bay Authority for allowing us to use this hangar as a centrally located view-ing point at Millville Airport.”