In this edition of Military Heritage Chronicles we’re going to visit a lighter side of military heritage – a couple aspects of service that brought some pride and joy to service men of various eras – aircraft nose art and pin up girls: sometimes they appeared together!
Nose art, which has been described by some as aircraft graffiti, is largely a military tradition originating with Italian and German pilots in WWI. With American pilots of that war era it usually portrayed embellished squadron insignias, and true ‘nose art’ as we recall today, appeared during WWII – considered by some to be the golden age of nose art. Some of the more familiar and famous renditions that we’re familiar with include the shark-face motif of the AVG (American Volunteer Group - not to be confused with our Airport Volunteer Group!), which is still mimicked today. And of course the “Memphis Belle” of 8th Air Force and Hollywood fame for being the first bomber to complete the 25 mission target.
Military policy has fluctuated over the years regarding nose art. Concern over attitudes representing women during the Korean War saw a decline in nose art, but it revived during the Vietnam War, and again during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The images used for nose art have varied over the years and have included cartoon characters, lucky symbols such as dice and playing cards, fictitious characters like Sam Spade (not to be confused with our own Sam Spayd), patriotic images, nicknames, popular songs & movie titles, sweethearts, and of course, Pin Up girls.
During WWII there were numerous Hollywood personalities worthy of both nose art and pin up material: Lana Turner who was only 20 years old at the start of the war and probably the favorite of GI’s; the ‘older’ (30) Ginger Rogers and voluptuous Ava Gardner and Jane Russell; even Yvonne DeCarlo (before her Lily Munster role), and TV’s favorite ‘50’s Mom, Donna Reed! They all inspired our GI’s and brought comforting thoughts of home while our men struggled and fought in the trenches, in the skies and on the seas of conflict for nearly a century of military heritage. (although I doubt Jane Fonda graced any Quonset huts!) Over the decades of conflict, period sirens have inspired our fighting men during their period and era of service, and although the specter of the pinup might seem to have faded, there is a new spark of inspiration looming on our horizon – the Pin Up Dollies.
A current effort to inspire and support our active service men and women as well as Veterans, the Pin Up Dollies was founded to support those who have served our country – through repeating the classic pin up pose with classic cars and motorcycles (and military vehicles!). They generate support and revenue for their cause by offering period-effect photos at car shows and other events, often in support of a growing Oregon non-profit for homeless Veterans called Lacey’s House. Originating in Hillsboro in 2009, they hope to create a home in Eugene soon.
[Original Post - September 2014]