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Creativity In The Face of Danger

The impulse to make light of the unfathomable dangers experienced in war is well illustrated by the nose art attached to many combat aircraft, much of which employs images of an idealized woman (not surprisingly) - the Americans being pretty adept at this, but some showing a healthily scant regard for the enemy leaders, particularly Adolf Hitler who was usually depicted being booted up the rear end. In the darkest days, humour was often to the fore.

Photographs courtesy Imperial War Museum, London unless otherwise acknowledged.



Squadron Leader J A F MacLachlan, the one-armed Commanding Officer of No 1 Squadron RAF, standing beside his all-black Hawker Hurricane Mark IIC night fighter, 'JX-Q', at Tangmere, Sussex. MacLachlan flew bombers in France in 1940, but transferred to fighters in June 1940 and shot down 6 enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain. He joined No. 261 Squadron RAF in Malta, as a flight commander, and was shot down in February 1941, as a result of which his left arm was amputated. He quickly returned to operations after being fitted with an artificial limb, flying with No. 73 Squadron in North Africa, but in July 1941 returned to the United Kingdom to take command of No. 1 Squadron. The Hurricane is sporting his personal emblem showing his amputated arm waving a 'V' sign. He was again shot down in 1943 and became a prisoner-of-war, by which time his score had risen to 16.5 victories.


Here is a specially colorized version. (Source - Royal Air Force official photographer Woodbine G (Mr) © IWM CH 4015. Colorized by Paul Reynolds. Historic Military Photo Colourisations)



Pilot from bomber crew standing in front of plane named "One Weakness" after arriving at Bradley Field in 1945, with count of successful bombing missions drawn on the back of of his leather bomber jacket. Photographer Sam Shere



Ground personnel of No. 98 Squadron RAF, who serviced North American Mitchell Mark III, HD372 'VO-B' "Grumpy", during its record operational career, gather at the aircraft's nose at Dunsfold, Surrey, as Corporal V Feast paints the 102nd bomb symbol onto its tally of operations.


Squadron Leader R R Stanford-Tuck, Commanding Officer of No 257 Squadron RAF, sitting in the cockpit of his Hawker Hurricane Mark I, V6864 'DT-A', at Coltishall, Norfolk. The Burmese flag is seen painted on the starboard side of the aircraft and on the port side were painted 26 victory symbols.



A dragon emblem on the nose of Avro Lancaster B Mark I, R5908 'EM-B', of No. 207 Squadron RAF at Syerston, Nottinghamshire.


A Curtiss Kittyhawk Mark III of No 112 Squadron, Royal Air Force taxiing through the scrub at Medenine. The ground crewman on the wing is directing the pilot, whose view ahead is hindered by the aircraft's nose while the tail is down. The aircraft displays the squadron's distinctive 'shark nose' insignia.


417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Catalog #: 10_0019201

Title: 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Tags: 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc, 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc, 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive


P-38J of the 80th Fighter Squadron "Headhunters," 8th FG

Catalog #: 10_0018631

Title: P-38J of the 80th Fighter Squadron "Headhunters," 8th FG,

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive

P-38J-5-LO S/N 42-67145, manufacturer number 1656, "Sweet Sue", coded "X", flown by Lt. Paul Murphey of 80th FS/8th FG, Nadzab, March 1944.


308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-17 Flying Fortress

Catalog #: 10_0018695

Title: 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-17

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-17

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive


417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Catalog #: 10_0019224

Title: 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Tags: 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc, 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc, 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive


B-24C "Balls o' Fire"

Catalog #: 10_0019328

Title: B-24C "Balls o' Fire"

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive

(Thanks to reader Max Vela for correcting the plane type and providing the link to the following information)

The following material is quoted from the Golfo Aranci Nascota website with permission:

il Sergente Bombardiere Daly Donald J. di anni 20, autore dell'affondamento del piroscafo Cor Jesu al porto di Golfo Aranci http://www.fold3.com/image/#49915170 nella missione del 24 Giugno 1943, posa davanti al suo bombardiere B-25c "Balls of Fire" del 381° BS. Foto gentilmente concessa per "Golfo Aranci Nascosta" dal figlio Tim Daly che ringrazio. Purtroppo il Sgt. Donald è deceduto il 18 maggio del 2013! Per il 70° avrebbe dovuto regalarci un'intervista video che raccontava le sue gesta così come le ha descritte nel suo libro "B-25 BOMBS AWAY !" http://www.blurb.ca/books/853493-b- in anteprima potrete vedere alcune foto. Fra due giorni avrebbe compiuto 90 anni!!! NOME AEREO “Balls of Fire” - Equipaggio - Pilota, tenente Phillips Carl. ( successivamente promosso a capitano )
Co-pilota, Cook Walter. 
Navigatore, tenente in seconda Opeka John Jr. 
"Bombardiere, sergente Daly Donald J."
Radio-mitragliere, sergente Nickelson Royal. 
Mitragliere, sergente Bozovich Matthew. - 24 Giugno 1943, Golfo Aranci il Porto - Sardegna - 36 B-25' e P-38 di scorta. "Il nostro obiettivo per oggi, saranno due navi da carico nel porto di Golfo Aranci. Oggi e' stata una giornata eccitante per me, ieri sera il Capitano Phillips venne nella nostra tenda e mi confido' che avremmo guidato la missione giornaliera. Il Comando del Gruppo desiderava che fosse impiegato un ufficiale bombardiere ma lui disse di no. Il capitano scelse me... mi sentii molto orgoglioso. Mentre si raggiungeva la giusta altitudine per il bombardamento, il cielo fu oscurato dalle nuvole e scelta la nostra rotta verso l'obiettivo e con soli 20 secondi prima dello sgancio delle bombe un breve schiarimento mi da alcuni secondi per effettuare delle correzioni. Poca la contraerea, dopo il "bombs away", sgancio delle bombe che ho visto cadere precisamente sulle due navi e sulle banchine... centri perfetti. Io e il capitano Phillips ricevemmo la "Distinguished Flying Cross" per questa missione... l'ho scoperto solamente a Ottobre. Due giorni dopo la missione su Golfo Aranci il 26 Giugno, celebravo il mio 20° compleanno". Sergente bombardiere DONALD J. DALY Lo stesso squadrone del 381° partecipo' ai bombardamenti (stesso mese) sul porto di Olbia e l'aeroporto (venafiorita) e su Alghero. Il sergente Donald J. Daly fu il primo del suo gruppo a raggiungere le fatidiche "50 missioni", infatti per chi operava in Nord Africa questo era il limite per poter tornare a casa!!! June 24 - Golfo Aranci Harbor, Sardinia - 36 B-25's with a P-38 escort. Our target this day would be two freighters. This was a thrilling day for me. Last night, Capt. Phillips came to our tent and told me that we were to lead today's mission. Group Headquarters wanted him to use an officer bombardier, but he said no - I was his choice. It really made me feel proud!
As we climbed to our bombing altitude, the target was obscured by clouds. We picked our heading to the target, and about 20 seconds before bomb release, the clouds cleared, giving me just seconds to make any corrections. Flak was light. After "bombs away," I watched them fall, and they tracked right across both freighters and the docks. We had hit right on the money!
Capt. Phillips and I both received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for this mission. I didn't hear about it until October!
Two days after this mission, on June 26, I celebrated my 20th birthday. Mission time - 4.00. It was definitely "thumbs up" when we landed!



487th Bomb Group B-17

Catalog #: 10_0019330

Title: 487th Bomb Group B-17

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 487th Bomb Group B-17

Tags: 487th Bomb Group B-17, 487th Bomb Group B-17, 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive



Fighter Group; 7th Air Force; 36th; P-38s

Catalog #: 10_0018602

Title: Fighter Group; 7th Air Force; 36th; P-38s

Date: 1941-1945

Additional Information: World War Two Squadron/Group

Tags: Fighter Group; 7th Air Force; 36th; P-38s, World War Two Squadron/Group, 1941-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive



308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator

Catalog #: 10_0018697

Title: 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator

Tags: 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator , 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator , 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive



308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator

Catalog #: 10_0018702

Title: 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator

Tags: 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator , 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator , 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive



308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator

Catalog #: 10_0018704

Title: 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator

Tags: 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator , 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, B-24 Liberator , 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive




3rd Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Catalog #: 10_0018856

Title: 3rd Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 3rd Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Tags: 3rd Bomb Group A-20 Havoc, 3rd Bomb Group A-20 Havoc, 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive



380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Catalog #: 10_0019079

Title: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Tags: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive




380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Catalog #: 10_0019082

Title: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Tags: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive



380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Catalog #: 10_0019083

Title: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Tags: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive



380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Catalog #: 10_0019084

Title: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Tags: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive



380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Catalog #: 10_0019085

Title: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Tags: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive



380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Catalog #: 10_0019091

Title: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Tags: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive




345th Bomb Group North American B-25 Mitchell

Catalog #: 10_0019038

Title: 345th Bomb Group North American B-25 Mitchell

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 345th Bomb Group

San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive




380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Catalog #: 10_0019077

Title: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Tags: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive



380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Catalog #: 10_0019078

Title: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Tags: 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 380th Bomb Group Consolidated B-24 Liberator , 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive


417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Catalog #: 10_0019194

Title: 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Date: 1939-1945

Additional Information: 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc

Tags: 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc, 417 Bomb Group A-20 Havoc, 1939-1945

Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive


Wing Commander I R "Widge" Gleed, leader of No. 244 Wing RAF, sitting in his Supermarine Spitfire Mark VB, AB502 'IR-G', at an airfield in Tunisia. Below the cockpit is the same "Figaro the Cat" cartoon which Gleed had painted on his aircraft in the United Kingdom. After serving as Wing Commander Operations at HQ Fighter Command, Gleed was posted to the Middle East in January 1943. He was attached briefly to No. 145 Squadron RAF for operational experience, then led 244 Wing through the fighting in Libya and into Tunisia. On 16 April 1943, while leading a patrol to attack a formation of enemy transport aircraft over Cape Bon, he was shot down and killed by Messerschmitt Bf 109s of JG 77. His final victory score was 16 enemy aircraft destroyed.



'Pinocchio', a veteran Halifax of No 102 Squadron at Pocklington, has the bomb symbol for its 26th operation painted on its fuselage by a member of the ground crew, April 1943. The ice cream cornets represent raids on Italian targets and the key indicates the aircraft's 21st operation.


Capt. Howard Curran standing by his figher plane. Sep 1948, Germany. Photographer Walter Sanders


A Gurkha paratrooper preparing for a plane take-off wearing full parachute equipment. Rangoon June 1945. Photographer Jack Wilkes


A pin-up painted or glued onto a Hurricane. In 1941 this image was deemed too risque for publication! Scotland



A caricature of the squadron's commanding officer on the nose of an Avro Lancaster, 1943

THE VISIT OF HM KING GEORGE VI TO NO 617 SQUADRON (THE DAMBUSTERS), ROYAL AIR FORCE, SCAMPTON, LINCOLNSHIRE, 27 MAY 1943


LAC E Turner paints the 65th 'raid completed' symbol onto the nose of Avro Lancaster B Mark III, ED731 'AS-T2' "Dante's Daughter", of No. 166 Squadron RAF at Kirmington, Lincolnshire, folowing the aircraft's return from a raid on Berlin on the night of 15/16 February 1944. ED731 started its operational service with No. 103 Squadron RAF in March 1943, being transferred to 166 Squadron in September of that year. It completed more than 70 Sorties before being lost on the last major Bomber Command raid on Berlin on 24/25 March 1944. The artwork acknowledges a DFC awarded to the pilot and three ice creams among the bomb symbols, indicating raids on Italian targets.



The nose insignia on Vickers Wellington Mark IC, T2508 'LF-O', of No. 37 Squadron RAF at an Advanced Landing Ground in Egypt. Each emblem represents a member of the crew under the devices of the aircraft's captain, Flying Officer P C "Cheese" Lemon.


Unofficial emblem painted on the side of a Vickers Wellington of No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron RAF at Feltwell, Norfolk, depicting an 'RAF' soda-syphon spraying bombs.


The nose of Handley Page Halifax B Mark II, W7710 'LQ-R' "Ruhr Valley Express", of No. 405 Squadron RCAF, at Pocklington, Yorkshire. An extra truck was added to the nose insignia after each mission. W7710 crashed at Liehuus, Denmark, on the night of 1/2 October 1942 while returning from a raid on Flensburg, Germany,


The crew of Consolidated Liberator Mark II, AL511 'A', of No. 108 Squadron RAF walk from their aircraft at Fayid, Egypt. Note the "Dumbo" motif painted on the nose. AL511 failed to return from a bombing sortie over Tripoli on 3 May 1942.


Major Wallace Frank wearing flying outfit and standing near his goggled jet plane. Germany Sep 1948. Photographer Walter Sanders



Pilot Officer A V "Taffy" Clowes of No. 1 Squadron RAF, standing by the nose of his Hawker Hurricane Mark I, P3395 'JX-B', at Wittering, Huntingdonshire. The wasp emblem was painted on the nose of his aircraft during the Battle of Britain, Clowes adding a new stripe to the body for each enemy aircraft which he shot down. His final score was at least twelve.



Squadron Leader Billy Drake stands in the cockpit of his Hawker Hurricane Mark IIB, BD897, at Hastings, Sierra Leone, at the conclusion of his command of No. 128 Squadron RAF. Note Drake's personal emblem ("Zut") painted on the nose, and the red, white and blue spinner sported by many of this unit's aircraft. Drake joined the RAF in 1936 and was posted to No. 1 Squadron RAF with whom he saw action in the Battle of France, until he was shot down and wounded on 13 May 1940. After recovery that October, he commanded a flight of No. 421 Flight, specialising in low-level fighter reconnaissance work over the Channel. Following a spell as a Chief Flying Instructor with Operational Training Units at Heston and Landow between January and September 1941, he was posted to West Africa to command 128 Squadron, and succeeded in scoring one of that unit's rare victories on 13 December 1941 when he shot down a Martin M-167F of the Vichy French Air Force in BD897. After handing over 128 Squadron to Squadron Leader J I "Killy" Kilmartin, he took command of No. 112 Squadron RAF in the Western Desert in April 1942.




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Last Modified: 10 May 2015, 12:29