Military/Veteran Dopers: How often is "nose art" drawn on munitions?

Pardon me for posting, but I was wondering if any military or veteran dopers could help me with something…We’ve all seen, in movies, and in the news, messages and whatnot written on bombs and missiles being loaded onto aircraft. Anything from crew member’s names (?) to “NYPD” or “FDNY” to more “saucy” comments, like “Here’s a Ramadan present for ya” or the infamous “Highjack THIS, f**s”. My question is, how often are things actually drawn onto munitions during a military operation? All the time, or just when people feel like letting off steam, or what? And how do the “Higher ups” on the chain of command look upon this? (As I remember, the RAF even frowns on “sharkmouths” painted on fighters!)

And lastly, does anyone know of any sort of photo gallery online of any memorable examples of “bomb art”?

Well, thanks for your time,

(I think if I can be a little more verbose, I can get into the Guinness book of records)

Your verbocity pales in comparison to most of us. In regard to “bomb art” in Viet Nam, it was quite common. The military is a great deal of “hurry up and wait,” and while you are waiting you do things to keep you out of trouble. Most outfits (in Viet Nam at least) had at least one wag who liked to do “bomb art”. I suppose it is a little like Grafitti in that respect. I imagine it hasn’t changed that much.

Many outfits had COs who frowned on it. Despite this, it would often get on the bombs, rockets, helmets, choppers and the like, but somebody’s butt would be in a sling if the CO saw it (You should remember that in Viet Nam much of the “bomb art” was aimed at our own government and leaders so officers didn’t want some politico back home seeing anti-Lyndon or anti-Nixon comments and passing the word on - I remember a pair of helicopter-mounted rocket launchers; one was labeled “Trisha’s Tits” and the other labled “Julie’s Tits” in honor(?) of Nixon’s daughters).

I should mention that I also heard that at times the messages were put on ordinance, gear or whatever just to attract journalist’s attention or even at the urging of photographers who wanted someting cute to file back home.

As to the website dedicated to “bomb art”, I’m afraid I can’t be of too much help there. I vaguely remember stumbling across a “nose art” site with “bomb art” on it when I was surfing soon after I got online two or three years ago, but for the life of me I don’t remember where it was, sorry.


My experience in WWII was that scurrilous messages on ordance, to Hitler or anyone else, was apt to show up mostly when a news photographer was around to film it.

During the bombing of Afghanistan, the CO and the Weapons Officer on the USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) both ensure there was no bomb art at all on the munitions. At least, so said the ship’s PAO as related in an article in the Navy Times.

I’ve always suspected this. OTOH, I’m sure that there are other messages that never show up in photos. Back in the Gulf War, for example, there were probably more than a few bombs with messages like “Protecting Bush’s oil investments since 1989” scrawled across them :smiley:

Tangential to the OP, we see many examples of “trench art” from WWI. Soldiers sitting around with too much time on their hands. Engraving “whatever” on various things.

I remember in Iraq, there were navy pilots who attached Iraqi medals to their bombs. No cite on it though. Something makes me think they did it in WW2 also.

Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, before taking off from the USS Hornet for the famous “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo, affixed a couple of medals he had received before the war from the Japanese government to a bomb in his bomb bay, and this was preserved for the ages by a newsreel cameraman.

As for how common “bomb art” is, probably about as common as the conjunction of the bored aircraft maintainer/armer/crewman and the common piece of chalk. Especially if it’s for an operational mission, and especially if it’s against a particularly despised enemy, such as Al-Qaida or the Nazis.

I have seen photographic evidence (don’t remember what book it was in, unfortunately) of an A-1 Skyraider during the Veitnam conflict loaded with everything including the kitchen sink. Some wise-ass had managed to hang an actual kitchen sink off one of the bomb racks. I don’t know if the sink was actually dropped on the enemy, however. Anyone else ever seen this photo?

The only thing I can find is a reference to an article in Naval History magazine from Jan/Feb 1996 called “It Really Did Carry the Kitchen Sink” by Frederick A. Johnsen. The summary is “For two decades, the Douglas Skyraider was a mainstay of naval aviation.” Did you happen to see it there?

I can’t actually find a picture.

I just heard a PBS feature today on Rita Hayworth and the photo of her in a nightie that appeared in Life magazine–a week before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Apparently this picture was a favorite pin-up in WWII, second only to Betty Grable. If I heard it right, they said Ms. Hayworth wept with rage when she heard it was attached to a bomb as nose art.

From Insight on the News:

Partly as a result of such “thoughtless grafitti”, the Armed Forces have embarked on a policy to channel the exuberance of combat forces into more “politically correct” outlets.

Thanks for confirming that I’m not crazy, Wikkit. I probably saw a reprint of a photo from that article, although I could’a sworn it was an Air Force Skyraider instead of a Navy one…

Then again, I dont remember if any identifying marks on the plane were visible in the photo…

As for Rita Hayworth on a bomb, are you sure they didn’t say “bomber” - as in the airplane that drops the bombs? Making her portrait recognizable would be a hell of a lot of effort for a bomb…usually a scrawled message in chalk will do.

Kilt, I think they just meant that someone pasted the page, ripped from Life magazine, onto one of the bombs. Not sure, though.

Yes, occ, that’s what I understood they described.

To expand on Fear and Monty’s posts, a picture from the Enterprize showed words to the effect of “Take this, Fags!” written on a bomb to be dropeed on Afghanistan. The bad press no doubt influenced the Vinson’s officer’s decision to ensure no bomb graffitti.

In my limited experience with bombs, the answer to the OP is “Never” —David S has it when he says it’s done for the camera more often than not.