12/2/10

World War II Plane NOSE ART


Here are a few images from Uncle Roy's box of World War II snapshots. I featured a shot of a parachute jump yesterday. Today's is nose art from World War II planes.

It was pretty common for a crew to paint an image of a scantily clad woman on their planes. The ones shown here are all pretty crude in their artistic attempt. My assumption is that all the snapshots were taken in New Guinea.

Click on any image to see it larger.



The history of nose art is pretty interesting. From Wikipedia:
Nose art is a decorative painting or design on the fuselage of a military aircraft, usually located near the nose, and is a form of aircraft graffiti.

While begun for practical reasons of identifying friendly units, the practice evolved to express the individuality often constrained by the uniformity of the military, to evoke memories of home and peacetime life, and as a kind of psychological protection against the stresses of war and the probability of death. The appeal, in part, came from nose art not being officially approved, even when the regulations against it were not enforced.

Because of its individual and unofficial nature, it is considered folk art, inseparable from work as well as representative of a group.It can also be compared to sophisticated graffiti. In both cases, the artist is often anonymous, and the art itself is ephemeral. In addition, it relies on materials immediately available.

Nose art is largely a military tradition, but civilian airliners operated by the Virgin Group feature "Virgin Girls" on the nose as part of their livery. In a broad sense, the tail art of several airlines such as the Eskimo of Alaska Airlines, can be called "nose art", as are the tail markings of present-day U.S. Navy squadrons. There were exceptions, including 8th Air Force B-17 "Whizzer", which had its girl-riding-a-bomb on the dorsal fin.

History
The practice of putting personalized decorations on fighting aircraft originated with Italian and German pilots. The first recorded piece of nose art was a sea monster painted on the nose of an Italian flying boat in 1913. This was followed by the popular practice of painting mouths underneath the propeller spinner, initiated by German pilots in World War I. The cavallino rampante (prancing horse) of the Italian ace Francesco Baracca was another well-known symbol, as was the red-painted aircraft of Manfred von Richthofen. However, nose art of this era was often conceived and produced by the aircraft ground crews, not by the pilots.

Other World War I examples included the "Hat in the Ring" of the American 94th Aero Squadron (attributed to Lt. Johnny Wentworth) and the "Kicking Mule" of the 95th Aero Squadron. This followed the official policy, established by the American Expeditionary Forces' (AEF) Chief of the Air Service, Brigadier General Benjamin Foulois, on 6 May 1918, requiring the creation of distinct, readily identifiable squadron insignia. What is perhaps the most famous of all nose art, the shark-face insignia made famous by the American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers, also first appeared in World War I, though often with an effect more comical than menacing.

While World War I nose art was usually embellished or extravagant squadron insignia, true nose art appeared during World War II, which is considered by many observers to be the golden age of the genre, with both Axis and Allied pilots taking part. At the height of the war, nose-artists were in very high demand in the USAAF and were paid quite well for their services while AAF commanders tolerated nose art in an effort to boost aircrew morale. The U.S. Navy, by contrast, prohibited nose art, while nose art was uncommon in the RAF or RCAF.

Some nose art was commemorative or intended to honor certain people such as the B-29 Superfortress The Ernie Pyle.

The work was done by professional civilian artists as well as talented amateur servicemen. In 1941, for instance, the 39th Pursuit Squadron commissioned a Bell Aircraft artist to design and paint the "Cobra in the Clouds" logo on their aircraft. Perhaps the most enduring nose art of WWII was the shark-face motif, which first appeared on the Bf-110s of Luftwaffe 76th Destroyer Wing over Crete, where the twin-engined Messerschmitts outmatched the Gloster Gladiator biplanes of RAF 112 Squadron. The Commonwealth pilots were withdrawn to Egypt and refitted with Curtiss Tomahawks off the same assembly line building fighter aircraft for the AVG Flying Tigers being recruited for service in China. In November 1941, AVG pilots saw a 112 Squadron Tomahawk in an illustrated weekly and immediately adopted the shark-face motif for their own planes. This work was done by the pilots and ground crew in the field. Similarly, when in 1943 the 39th Fighter Squadron became the first American squadron in their theatre with 100 kills, they adopted the shark-face for their P-38 Lightnings. The shark-face is still used to this day, most commonly seen on the A-10 Thunderbolt II (with its gaping maw leading up to the muzzle of the aircraft's GAU-8 Avenger 30mm cannon), a testament to its popularity as a form of nose art.

The largest known work of nose art ever depicted on a WW II-era American combat aircraft was on a B-24J Liberator, s/n 44-40973, which had been named "The Dragon and his Tail" of the USAAF's Fifth Air Force's 43rd Bomb Group, 64th Bomb Squadron in the Southwest Pacific, flown by a crew led by Joseph Pagoni, with Staff Sergeant Sarkis Bartigan as the artist. The dragon artwork ran from the nose just forward of the cockpit, down the entire length of the fuselage's sides, with the dragon's body depicted directly below and just aft of the cockpit, with the dragon holding a topless nude woman in its forefeet.


Tony Starcer was the resident artist for the 91st Bomb Group (Heavy), one of the initial six groups fielded by the Eighth Air Force. Starcer painted over a hundred pieces of renowned B-17 nose art, including Memphis Belle. A commercial artist named Brinkman, from Chicago, was responsible for the zodiac-themed nose art of the B-24 Liberator-equipped 834th Bomb Squadron.

In the Korean War, nose art was popular with units operating A-26 and B-29 bombers, C-119 Flying Boxcar transports, as well as USAF fighter-bombers.[9] Due to changes in military policies and changing attitudes toward the representation of women, the amount of nose art declined after the Korean War.

During the Vietnam War, AC-130 gunships of the U.S Air Force Special Operations Squadrons were often given names with accompanying nose art - for example, "Thor", "Azrael - Angel of Death", "Ghost Rider", "War Lord" and "The Arbitrator." The unofficial gunship badge of a flying skeleton with a Minigun was also applied to many aircraft until the end of the war, and was later adopted officially.

Nose art underwent a revival during Operation Desert Storm and has become more common since Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Many crews are merging artwork as part of camouflage patterns. The United States Air Force had unofficially sanctioned the return of the pin-up (albeit fully-clothed) with the Strategic Air Command permitting nose art on its bomber force in the Command's last years. The continuation of historic names such as Memphis Belle was encouraged. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
Enjoy.

5 comments:

  1. And yet the shape of the planes would suggest something other than the female figure.

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  2. I've not ridden in the Sentimental Journey, but it's been here several times. I've always been kinda hooked on GOOD nose art, mostly because the guys that did it were for the most part unknowns.

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  3. I would have thought that the modern armed forces would prohibit nose art because of sexual harassment issues, but I'm encouraged to see that the morale of the service people is more important than political correctness. Although, nudes might not be allowed. Thanks for the great history lesson!

    Norkio

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  4. my husband had a calendar of nose art and now he has a tie with nose art on it- it's all history...and not naughty at all.

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  5. Anonymous7/11/2012

    Would like to contact you regarding one of your above pictures. We believe it's our Grampa Sparrowe's B-17 The Ellie Mae, named after his wife, gramma Ellie. We have not been able to find any other images and unfortunately, he lost his. If this is his, as he was stationed in New Guinea as a crew chief on troop transports during WWII. And, best part, he would have done that nose art. I've looked everywhere here for email or contact information but cannot find it. Please contact me, Elizabeth at eli42springer@gmail.com
    Thank you so much

    ReplyDelete