Aircraft Nose Art


"What on Earth is is nose art"?  Good question!                 

Nose art is the painting of a motif or personal icon on an aircraft (or for that matter any item of equipment).  Today's equivalent of aircraft nose art in the civilian world are aircraft liveries such as Qantas, Aeroflot, Continental and Ansett.  Virgin Airlines have a small female figure on the side of every aircraft.

Historically nose art is not new.  War canoes in ancient times were adorned with large wooden heads, sailing ships were adorned with a figure head at the bow, and sailors wore tattoos.  Indian war parties used paint to adorn themselves and their horses in supplication to a "Great Spirit".  Weapons of antiquity such as swords and shields often had designs and motifs that represented the valour of the owner.  In peacetime, owners of motor vehicles, boats and other items of hardware paint images or adhere transfers that attempt to promote the owner's personality or cause to anyone who is looking.  The classic transfer of 2002 is the sticker that reads "bad girl" or "bitch" and is often adhered to rear bumper of a small red car!

There are thousands of nose art pictures taken during the Second World War.  Nose art adorned nearly all aircraft during this period in all theatres of operations.  Although nose art is usually associated with Army Air Corps (USAAF) aircraft, naval and marine corps aircraft were also suitably adorned, although not to the lavishness as exercised in the the Air Corps.  The art was as diverse as the artists who painted it and the pilots who flew the aircraft.  Sexy pin-ups, varga girls, Disney characters, cartoon drawings, names of actresses, simple nicknames, songs of the day, anti-war slogans and the names of loved ones - all graced the frames of aircraft during the Second World War.  More than often the artwork was completed by a squadron member who was "good with a brush", however, some squadrons  employed professional artisans to paint their aircraft.  Considering that Airforce service during World War Two was predominately male orientated, it is expected that many of the motifs were of scantly clad females, but some crews preferred to depict the more serious side of war with images of Hitler and the names such as "Adoph Buster", "Berlin Express" and "Grim Reaper".  The aircraft do not exist today; many were destroyed in action during the war whilst others were scrapped post war for their metal.  A few are displayed in museums or owned by private individuals.

The gallery below consists of nose art images that are original.  They cannot be viewed elsewhere as I am in possession of the original photograph and negative.  In many cases I obtained the photograph directly from the veteran or his family.


Nose art photographed by Lt Harold Standard who served as a bombardier on the B-24 "Lost Horizon".  He was attached to the 64th Squadron, 43rd Heavy Bombardment Group, 5th Airforce which was stationed for a time at Charters Towers in Queensland.  Lt. Stanard saw service in Australia's north, PNG and the Philippines and was awarded the Air Medal twice when serving in the Philippines area of operations. 

Some of these images are slight blurry; the fuzzy edges are actually on the original photographs and are not a scanning relic.  Remember that the photographs were taken sixty years ago by a individual who was trained as a bombardier and not a photographer. 

ABOVE:  Lt. Stanard's flight crew.  Standard is back row second from left beside the tall fellow.


BELOW: Nose art photographed by Lt. D. Stanard - 5th USAAF Pacific Theatre of Operations



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