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World War II Nose Art

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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:

Crew members of Consolidated B-24 “Little Joe,” participated in the bombing mission over Balikpapan, Borneo
The coming monsoon season in the India-Burma Theater doesn’t worry the crew of “Calamity Jane”
The lead crew on a bombing mission to Hamburg, Germany pose beside their B-17 Flying Fortress, “The 8 Ball”
Crew of the “Rangoon Rambler” in India
Crew of the 323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group in front of their B-17 Flying Fortress “Stric Nine”
The combat crew of the 93rd Bomb Group “Exterminator,” a Consolidated B-24 Liberator
The “Meat Hound” B-17 Flying Fortress
Crew poses in front of “Celhalopdos,” a Consolidated B-24 Liberator
Lead Crew on a bombing mission to Beaumont, France pose beside “Knock-Out Dropper,” a B-17 Flying Fortress


Cpl. Ruby I. Newell was selected as the most beautiful WAC in England in a contest sponsored by the Stars and Stripes. She stands beside “Ruby’s Raiders,” a B-17 Flying Fortress named in her honor.
The crew of the 95th Bomb Group by their B-17, “Diana,” in England

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!

58 Comments

  1. We know about Enola Gay.

  2. My dad was with the 819th in the South Pacific, he was a gunner and later radio operator on B24’s. I have his photo scrapbook and it includes many images of nose art on B24’s in his bomb group: Sweet Routine, Upstairs Maid, Jeeter Bug, Evasive Action, and Rapid Robin, to name a few. Most are scantily clad women, which is not too surprising for a bunch of very young men.

  3. While not WWII, I have a couple pictures of Helicopter nose art from the USS Tarawa as we headed to the Gilf War. Be glad to forward them if interested.

    Chris Waalkes
    5th SRIG, RadioBn (Det)

  4. My Dad Rob Hayes painted the nose art for Tyrone Power’s plane that he flew over The Hump. Dad painted Blithe Spirit on Lieutenant Tyrone’s plane. They were both Marine Corp. military stationed in California. Lt. Ty’s wife was appearing in Noel Coward’s play, Blythe Spirit in London at the time, Hense the name.

  5. Please see: https:/www.marfleet.co.uk/John.marfleet/kangaroo.htm
    For use of the boxing kangaroo on Australian aircraft in WW2

  6. How do I cancel my membership I can no longer use this ???

  7. The more Fold3 digitizes from NARA collections, the less there is for public domain access for free. Fold3 (like it’s parent Ancestry) has an agreement with NARA that they get to digitize collections but online public access is not allowed for a certain amount of years. This is how Fold3/Ancestry makes money. They charge for the opportunity to view and download public domain documents/images. This is disgusting.

    • I completely agree!!!

    • I also agree

    • Most of us are not able to visit the archives. And copies from the archives are not free. Have you ever ordered a Civil War Pension record? Not free and not available with a click of a key. Ancestry and Fold 3 are a bargain.

    • and if Fold 3 didn’t digitize these images they would only be accessible by going to the National Archives in DC. the National Archives doesn’t have the time, money or personnel. If you don’t want this type of private/public partnership then write to your Representative or Senator and tell them to increase the funding for the National Archives

    • Photographs on Fold3 are always free to view and download. I do research and maintain a website on the 458th Bomb Group in the 8th AF. A few years ago, I found 300+ hi-res images of 458th aircraft, crews, missions, etc. on the Fold3 site and downloaded all for free. I became a member, and for the yearly subscription I can download MACRs, unit records and all other types of documents that I would otherwise have to pay about $30.00 each for. Keep doing what you’re doing Fold3!!

  8. You should check out “Dinah Mite!” … my uncle was a bombardier during WWII .. believe it was Ploesti and somewhere in North Africa as well.. “She” had long hair and a blue ribbon belt … and that was all.

    • My father also bombed Ploesti and was in North Africa. His plane’s symbol was a scantily clad girl with the name Li’l De icer. However, I have seen another plane with a different Li’l De Icer that was not his plane.

    • My Dad was a bomber in Ploesti also ..

  9. My Uncle Mont Stephensen was pilot of a B-26 they names the “Draggin’ Lady”. They were shot down over Germany 23 Dec. 1944.

    • Judy, was your uncle from California, by any chance? I knew a Mont Stephenson who was born late 1940’s – early 1950’s. I thought maybe he was named after your uncle?

    • Uncle Mont was from Utah. My brother is named after him and is from
      California

    • By any chance, could your brother’s name be Mont Lews Stephenson? Did he serve in the Navy in Virginia in the 70’s? I’m not trying to be nosy, the name just jumped out at me, and I was surprised!

    • That would be him. May I tell him who you are?

    • Wow! I can’t believe this! I was attending Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. We met at church. My name was Vickie Wyman at the time. I doubt he will even remember me, it’s been so many years. If he does, please tell him hello for me. I now live in Georgia.

  10. My father-in-law was ball turret gunner on the B17 “Round Trip Ticket”. They were shot down 4/2/1944, on the return from Hamburg. Pow for the last year of WWII. I can’t pay for your membership but would appreciate any photos of the crew and plane. Arden J Butler.

  11. I’m trying to find out the name of the plane and crew members who went down with my uncle on 1/20/45 near Udine, Italy. Their plane crashed after a bombing raid on the Czech oil fields. He was based in Bari, Italy, a member of the 825th, 484th Bomb group and they were on a B-24 “Liberator.” Many thanks for any leads!

  12. After reading this I went searching for a digitized copy of a picture of my father and the rest of the bomber crew in front of their plane. Sadly, I couldn’t find it, though I have a clear picture in my mind. The nose art was of a long-haired young woman with shorts and a halter. My father said they were in the first wave over Borneo–the second was shot down. If anyone has a photo of that plane, I’d love to see it!

    • Actually, now I think of it, it may have been a B17. I actually ran into one of his crew mates when I went to SLC many, many years ago! My father’s name was Robert (Bob) Metcalf and he came from Massachusetts.

  13. I have pix of my father-in-law’s plane from WWII if interested.

  14. Could that first photo that showed the B-24 Little Joe be a Navy aircraft – two of the crew are wearing Dixie Cups.

  15. I saw, and have a very bad picture of, a C-123K in Vietnam with two ducks painted on its nose in a very close formation with one on top of and slightly behind the other. Written above the picture was “Why not fly united”

  16. I Love the nose art from the bombers of WWII… I have a photo album from my Grandfathers (who served in WWII) Uncle or Great Uncle who served during WWI in France. He served in the 1st A. D. … The photo album has pics of planes, the people who served with him (where they were from) and pics of the nose art from some different planes and Squadron’s… “Rickenbacher’s Circus” is among the photos of several planes…Great Beginning for what is “Now” the Air Force, which I proudly served!

  17. Somewhere I read that a submarine on coastal patrol got a train while it was crossing a bridge.

    For those with a general interest, go to Amazon, enter nose art and you will get, among othere things 8-10 books on aircraft nose art.

  18. My dad was a b24 bomber too . 434th air group I believe. His plane was the indoor broad jumper

  19. My dad armed the planes in WWII. I have photos of him & planes like those.

  20. My uncle George Phelps was tail gunner on a B 24 flying out of England over the continent. They were so deep into France on one mission, that they had to fly on to Russia to refuel before returning to England the next day. His plane was called “Ford’s Folly”, the crew picked up the plane at Ford’s Willow Run plant and flew it to England. I believe they flew 32 or 33 missions. The replacement crew flew another 20 missions, then were lost on the 21st.

  21. “We’ve searched our photo archives to bring you just a few examples of nose art from WWII”
    so do you use a metadata tag called “nose art”? and if not why not?

  22. This was great but how about the Korean Conflict?
    My Uncle flew in both. Korean “War” had some great art

  23. The original art and names were painted on the fuselage of the bombers. My dad went over with the 8th USAAF in September 1942 and painted Hell’s Angels, Udder Confusion, Sky Wolf and others. I have some photos of the original art on the fuselage which was later copied and moved forward to the nose of the B17s.

  24. My dad, Lt.,Don Love from Seattle flew in the Dream Queen.

  25. My uncle, 2Lt Clifton Massey Dover, was a bombardier with the 96th BG based in Snedderton Heath UK. He was shot down by German fighters en route to Berlin on 8 May 1944 & killed in the crash of his B-17. I’d love to see photos of any B-17 from the 96th Bomb Group, as I’ve never seen any…

  26. Is there a way to obtain a copy of my dad’s pic that they take when he was in the army? We had a copy but in the hustle and bustle during his death it was misplaced, we are devastated.

  27. I find Fold3 extremely difficult to do an exact search. Results are scattered results of each word in the search.

    • I agree. I also have the same problem. Have tried different ways to search, gone back to directions. Still confused

    • I tried Fold3 for a free trial and dropped out. The search algorithm is horrible. Even using + and – and quotes gets you nowhere fast. There’s so much information that I’d love to access but it’s almost impossible to get to it. As a former software engineer, i know they can do so much better than this. It’s very frustrating.

  28. My Dad worked 1939-1945 for Wright Aeronautical, a division of Curtiss Wright. They designed and built the engines used in many planes from all designers. His job involved testing equipment while in flight. Among his things I have a guide for placement of the weight of the bombs carried by the aircraft.

  29. Does anyone know anything about the 483 Fighter Squadron stationed in Iwo Jima during WWII? My Dad, Robert Welden, repaired the planes for the Army Aircorps.
    I have photos of planes, but not sure how to add them to the site.

  30. My father was Lt. Col. Vernon L. Johnson from Minneapolis. He was co-pilot on the B-17 called “L’il Eight Ball” flying out of England (not the same plane as the “Eight Ball”). Later he was stationed on Guam.

  31. Was anyone’s relative stationed at Payne Airfield outside Cairo, Egypt? Or did they just pass through there?

  32. Did anyone else have a relative that flew in the 57th Bomb Wing (B-25s) during WWII? My father (Carl Lindberg II.) was a pilot that flew a B-25J that had the nose art of Disney’s character Panchito from a base on the Island of Corsica (1944-45). He flew in the 428th Bomb Squadron, 310 Bomb Group in that 57th Bomb Wing.

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