What Is the History Behind Bomber Nose Art?


Quick Answer

The practice of painting artwork on the nose of military aircraft started during the World War I when nose art usually depicted extravagantly detailed versions of the unit's insignia. While military regulations decreased the habit after the war, officials loosened regulations again during the World War II, especially in the U.S. Army Air Force, leading to what some call the golden age of bomber nose art.

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Full Answer

The U.S. Army Air Force, and others that allowed nose art, considered it a morale booster, which was very important during wartime when aircrews often participated in daily combat. Additionally, the relative infancy of air forces allowed servicemen extra freedom over their aircraft. However, even during the World War II, not all servicemen had the same freedom. The U.S. Navy significantly restricted nose art, and the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force also placed restrictions on nose art, though it remained common nonetheless.

Bomber crew members or ground crew usually painted nose art after being selected by the aircraft commander. By the end of World War II, popular nose artists earned good money for each piece of art, averaging $15 per aircraft in the United States. Most nose artists and bomber crews were very young, often still in their teens, explaining their preference for pin-up models copied from magazines such as Esquire. However, nose artists also painted popular cartoon characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, as well as propaganda images.

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