Nose art

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Nose art on a B-17 Flying Fortress

Nose art is a painting or design done near the nose of a warplane, usually for decorative purposes. Nose art is a form of airplane graffiti.



Man has a long tradition of decorating, or otherwise personalizing, his tools of war. This also extends to the decorations of oneself, as seen with Native American or Zulu war paint to helmet decorations done by infantry soldiers since the helmet's mass introduction in World War I. Also around that time, airplanes started being used as an instrument of war and were subsequently decorated. Contrary to popular belief, the practice originated with Italian and German pilots, not with American. The first recorded piece of nose art was a sea monster painted on the nose of an Italian flying boat in 1913. This was followed by the popular tradition of painting mouths underneath the propeller spinner, initiated by the German pilots in World War I. While the nose art in World War I were mainly embellished or extravagant squad insignia, true nose art started to occur in World War II, which is considered the golden age of nose art, with both Axis and Allied pilots taking part. During the height of the war, nose-artists were in very high demand and were paid quite well for their services while Air Force officials tolerated the nose art in an effort to boost the morale of the crew. This lack of restraint combined with the stresses of war, and high probability of death resulted in an excess of nose art that has yet to be repeated. Due to changes in Air Force policy and general "political correctness" the amount of nose art has been in steady decline since the Korean War.

It should be noted that most of the art was actually conceived of and painted by the ground crews and not the pilots.

Missing image
Nose art on the Miss Patricia, September 1943


The reasons for nose art are many but were often done for humor, aesthetics, to taunt the enemy, as a good luck charm or for other superstitious reasons. Practical reasons do also exist, as decorated aircraft were easier to personally identify.

Subject matter

The subject matter in nose art varies but largely stayed within a few mainstay topics, namely the female pin-up. The females occurred in various stages of dress, or undress, and were very popular. The style evolved and became more wild and provocative. As a result, the Army Air Force tried to restore a sense of decorum with AAF Regulation 35-22 in August 1944. The regulation didn't prohibit nose art, but did try to, unsuccessfully, institute a "sense of decency."

According to some accounts, the farther the planes and crew were from headquarters or from the public eye, the racier the art. For instance, nudity was more prevalent with aircraft based in the South Pacific than of those in England. [1] (

Other popular topics included cartoons characters, nicknames, hometowns, and various patriotic imagery.

External links

fr:Noseart: Peintures de Guerre sur avions


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools