Did other nations have bomber nose/bomb art?

One thing I noticed a lot when watching WWII documentaries is the abundance of nose art. Now, I think nose art is pretty cool, it sort of personalizes the plane the crew is flying in. Similarly, crews also seemed to write phrases on bombs they would drop on their opponents, as sort of a symbolic ‘eff you!’ I guess.

I’m curious if this was an american phenomenon, or many countries had nose art/bomb art. I’ve seen artwork displayed on the conning towers of german submarines (black cats, pitchforks, etc). Did Germany decorate their bombers as well? How about Japan?

Also, were there any other subjects of decoration? Does anybody do the same kind of ‘art’ on the tanks they drive? And what is the military’s policy on ‘decorating’ such hardware?

There are a few examples of British nose art at this website.

I do not know about nose art but Hitler had the Stuka dive bomber fitted with a siren that wailed to make the plane more frightening when diving to bomb someone. Not decoration I guess but still one of those added “somethings” to a plane not strictly in line with the plane’s job (I suppose this was a sort of psychological warfare).

Guess this is a better answer for the OP:

British and Commonwealth Bombers didn’t have nose art, IIRC, but they DID chalk messages on the bombs (“To Adolf, Express Delivery Via Lancaster To Berlin!”).

However, British/Commonwealth Fighter pilots had nose art, to a degree- I’ve seen Spitfires with Flying Tiger mouths on them, as well as RNZAF and RAAF fighters with names (things like “Tarawera Terror” and “Woollongabba Walloper”). Some of the RNZAF and RAAF fighters had little cartoons painted under the cockpit (Boxing Kangaroos were popular, from what I’ve seen).

I don’t think the Luftwaffe allowed Nose Art below Squadron Level… I know at least one squadron of Me-110s painted their noses to look like Wasps or Hornets, for example, but I’m not aware of individual pilots painting pictures of half-naked Beerhall Frauleins riding bombs or anything like that on the noses of their planes.

It goes without saying that the Soviet Union did NOT allow their pilots and aircrews to have personalised nose art, but a lot of aircraft carried patriotic messages on the side (“The City of Vodkagrad Will Stop At Nothing In The Fight Against the Fascist Invader!”, and that sort of thing). Soviet Tanks had similar messages on them, too…

I have a book that shows a couple of Lancaster bombers wearing nose art.

Adolf Galland had Mickey Mouse on the side of his ME-109. Some Luftwaffe aircraft had ‘tail art’. In one of my books there is a photo of a downed Japanese aircraft that had a flying tiger (not a Flying Tiger) painted on its tail.

But primarily it was a USAAF thing. U.S. Navy aircraft were not allowed nose art, but they could have squadron insignia. (There may have been a couple/few Navy aircraft with nose art, but it was against the rules.)

I’m prepared to concede that I’m wrong on this one (my dad is the WWII aviation expert), but are they Nose Art in the same way as you’d find on Memphis Belle, or are they simply very large squadron insignia?

For example:
[ul][li]Jane: Vickers Wellington shot down on 21 June 1942 by Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld. Large ‘J’ with smaller upper-case ‘ane’. Features a blonde in a swimming costume with arms akimbo, and a dachshund rearing up playfully.[/li][li]The Fiery Queen: Halifax, No. 425 Squadron. A large fairy holding a wand.[/li][li]Fannin’ Fanny: (snarf) Lancaster, No. 427 Squadron. A gun-toting, scantily-clad (her vest is open, exposing her breasts) woman on a bucking bronco.[/li][li]Lady X: Liberator, No. 159 Squadron. A kneeling brunette wearing a nightgown.[/li][li]Pistol Packing Peggy: Halifax, No. 425 Squadron. Scantily-dressed blonde.[/li][li]Pistol Packin’ Mama: Halifax, No. 432 Squadron. A woman in Western dress.[/li][li]Willie “The Wolf”: Halifax, No. 432 Squadron (RCAF) features a running woman who has just lost her dress being chased by a wolf.[/li][li]Moonlight Mermaid: Halifax, No. 432 Squadron. Reclining nude surrounded by stars.[/li][li]Hi Toots: Mk.II Mosquito, No. 418 Squadron RCAF. Semi-reclining bathing beauty.[/li]Li’l Abner, Black Rufe, and Cousin Jake: Mosquitos, No. 418 Squadron RCAF featuring large portraits of the Al Capp characters.[/ul]

Dude, read post #2 in this very thread, and follow the link.

I hgave a framed picture in my office of the famed Halifax “Friday the 13th,” with very distinctive nose art.

There are a good few more examples in British Warplanes of WW2.

Oh. My source was The History of Aircraft Nose Art: WWI to Today by Jeffrey L. Ethell and Clarence Simonsen, published by Motorbooks International. Not as good as Vintage Aircraft Nose Art by Gary M. Valant. (Currently available in softcover. The link is to, and my copy is the hardcover.)

BTW: I’m having this painted on an A-2 jacket. (B-17F, 401st Bomb Group). An original version of this is in Valant’s book.

Using women’s images on engines of war is interesting. One view: Invoking a feminine image lends power. This belief is found in the Hindu concept of shakti, personified as warrior goddesses like Durga/Kali. In ancient Tamil Nadu it was believed that divine power inhered in women. Death-dealing in war was the province of the goddess Korravai. (The glory of battle was for the male war god Murukan.) Compare the Celtic Morrigan, another goddess of war, personified by ravens who scavenge corpses on the battlefield. Another view: Those flyboys were just horny, that’s all. They were humming “There Is Nothing Like a Dame” while painting pinups on their fuselages.

Either that, or there were just a bunch of late-teens and 20-something-year-old guys who liked nekkid wimmins on their planes…

… As you pointed out. :wink:

Just to clarify, the pilots themselves seldom (if ever) painted their own nose art. Talented crewchiefs and other crewmen were often paid a fee for painting the aircraft. Philip S. Brinkman was a commercial artist prior to the war who worked in advertising in St. Louis and Chicago. Brinkman is known for his ‘zodiac’ series of pin-ups painted on B-24s. The History of Aircraft Nose Art has a chapter on some of the better-known artists.

In a nose art book I got my father for christmas about a decade back, I seem to remember a photo of an Italian (? Maybe German…one of the Axis powers, anyway) bomber that had Disney’s old “Peg Leg Pete” painted on the nose. Complete with peg leg, eyepatch, and waving a pistol around.

I always thought that was pretty rich—the “bad guys” actually had a “bad guy” for nose art, at least once. :smiley:

I was about to ask if Nose Art is a dead or dying art, and whether modern military forces permit such decoration of their equipment these days. I hadn’t recalled ever seeing any art on modern fighters or bombers.

So I tried Google, and sure enough:


One imagines that these days there would be concerns about lawsuits or that designs would have to be approved by committees, etc. In other words, that nothing lively or interesting would be permitted. That seems to be the case. In my searching I saw demons, cartoon characters, and some 9/11-related works, but almost no scantily clad ladies.

Does anyone know about the rules and regs of nose art these days?

From the previously-mentioned reference:

There is discussion of the controversy that arose from the nose art. Basically, people were indicating that it is not politically correct.

In the interests of ‘keeping too much of a good thing from spoiling the intended effect’ efforts were made to tone down the nose art.

So as far as I can see, there aren’t many regulations regarding modern nose art. It seems that ‘brass’ permits it as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.

Incidentally, I found a photo of an F-14 Tomcat in the book. It’s a nurse in a seated position in a circular orange background and ‘Miss Molly’ in blue. It’s on an F-14A from VF-111 aboard USS Carl Vinson, and is the CAG’s aircraft. ‘Miss Molly’ was Molly Sneed, a WWII Navy nurse and lifelong friend and nurse to Congressman and Mrs. Carl Vinson who christened the carrier in 1980. While USN aircraft were very colourful in the 1970s and 1980s, the markings were for the unit. Individual nose art was and is very rare in the Navy.

Of course, that should be Marilyn. Keys are too close together. :o

This seems to be an appropriate place to mention that actress Swoosie Kurtz (The World According To Garp, Dangerous Liaisons) was named after a B-17 her father flew in WWII called Swoose (half-swan, half-goose). More on The Swoose.

The Japanese also do nose art these days - I know I have seen pics of 3 F-4’s, with the anime characters Belldandy, Urd, and Skuld (from the series Ah! My Goddess) on the nose. Can’t find the pictures though.

One imagines that these days there would be concerns about lawsuits or that designs would have to be approved by committees, etc. In other words, that nothing lively or interesting would be permitted. That seems to be the case. In my searching I saw demons, cartoon characters, and some 9/11-related works, but almost no scantily clad ladies.


I just looked through a random selection of the very links in your post – not all of them, just hit some clicks – and got 4 scantily-clad ladies, 2 Native American Warriors, 1 demon, 1 death’s-head, 1 playing-card motif, one Uncle Sam, and an enraged goat. That unscientifically indicates there is a sizable percentage of scantily-clad ladies in the exact sites to which you linked.