Monday, July 14, 2014

World War II Plane Nose Art

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With nothing better to do during endless hours on base between missions, Air Force personnel became artists.

Nose art artists.

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There was so much nose art that it would be silly to expect any representation of it to be comprehensive. It wasn't meant to be savored by posterity anyway.

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Taken during World War 2 in the China-Burma-India theater.

Nose art was just doodling, a way for pilots and crewmen to wax nostalgic about what they were missing overseas. Or, more often, what they wished they were missing.

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Which usually involved women and sex. Go figure.

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But not always. Sometimes, Disney characters or dear old mom crept onto the nose of planes. Probably the most famous B 29 of them all, the Enola Gay, was named for the pilot's mom.

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This isn't his mom.

These were talented guys. Of course, the subject matter was sometimes a bit edgy, but who was going to see the nose art anyway? The Germans who shot you down?



Nobody was too worried about offending the enemy, and who knows, that long, winding picture of "The Dragon and his Tail" on the side of the plane might just distract him for the moment you needed to escape.

nose art worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Lieutenant R. M. McComsey of the US Army Air Force proudly displays his aircraft's insignia at an operational base in Australia during World War II, circa 1942. I love how their smiles and expressions are identical. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Often, the offender showed definite pride of ownership of what essentially was graffiti.

nose art worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Master Sergeant is shown standing beside a Liberator bomber called "The Jolly Roger." It is a veteran of many raids on Japanese-held territory. Guadalcanal - April 10, 1944

Sometimes the art reflected school ties or something like that. For instance, the fellow who wanted the art on the plane below probably went to Notre Dame or had some other allegiance to it.

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"For the Gipper," referring to a famous Notre Dame football player who had a tough break.

And sometimes it was just a way to have a little fun at the absurdity of the fool who was the real reason they were stuck in some god-awful nowhere base in the armpit of the world during the best years of their lives.

nose art worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Adolf, get off the pot, the Americans are coming! This was taken from a magazine cover.

Anyway, with all those disclaimers, here is a smattering of the thousands and thousands of planes that were decorated with fancy nose art.

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'Why, yeah, son, I almost got shot down over Kwitcherbitchin, thanks for asking. It's just past Heidelberg and there were these two 109s and...."

These shots aren't all from World War II, but most of them are, and they all are representative of the lonely lives of air force crew.

Don Allen worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Back when World War II aviators flew on a wing and a prayer, often with a good-looking gal attached, Don Allen was one of the guys who put them there.The women, that is.Allen was a Cleveland Institute of Art graduate and U.S. Army Air Forces fighter crew chief who used planes for his palette during the war." - From War History Online.


nose art worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Volume 1, Page, 55, Picture, 3, World War II, 4th May,1943, US Staff Sergeant Frank T, Lusic, pictured beside a bomber (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

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P-40s weren't that impressive in the air, but they had smokin' nose art.

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Sometimes there wasn't room for a lot of nose art - but a pithy quote by Hermann Goering didn't take up too much space on a big Avro Lancaster.

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This next plane had the same name on both sides, just so that an enemy flying by on the wrong side of the plane wouldn't miss out.


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Hellcat

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worldwartwo.filminspector.com nose art
Richard Ira "Dick" Bong (September 24, 1920 – August 6, 1945) is the United States' highest-scoring air ace, having shot down at least 40 Japanese aircraft during World War II. He was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) and a recipient of the Medal of Honor. All of his aerial victories were in the P-38 Lightning, a fast and well-armed fighter called 'the whispering death' by Luftwaffe pilots. Look at all those Japanese flags on the fuselage, not too many could do that. Marge was always on his plane. He perished as a test pilot.

And this last one would have been sure to get a laugh and a shake of the head:

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2014


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