During WWII, members of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) flew countless missions in aircraft adorned with art on the fuselage. Although not specifically sanctioned by military officials, the practice of painting and personalizing aircraft was widely popular and seen as a way to boost morale. The images were painted both by hired professionals and enlisted soldiers who were amateur artists. The paintings were usually found near the nose of the aircraft and are known as nose art.
Bomber crews developed tight bonds with one another and with their aircraft. Everyone knew the dangers of bombing runs, and each mission brought the possibility that it could be the last. Nose art was a safe way to bring a bit of levity and comradery to the stresses of war. These paintings often featured good luck images, names of loved ones or towns back home, pin-up girls, and cartoon characters.
We’ve searched our photo archives to bring you just a few examples of nose art from WWII:
In addition to nose art, many WWII aircraft were painted with icons that symbolized missions. We’ve created a US WWII Mission Symbols key to help you decipher their meanings.
Do you want to see more examples of nose art or learn more about the crews that flew those planes? Search our WWII Photo Collection today!