Of the more than 100,000 artifacts currently at the Museum, 34 are very rare original Nose Art panels that represent the artistic expressions of young men at war. The panels were cut from fuselages of World War II aircraft as they were being scrapped after the war. This one-of-a-kind collection is featured in the museums Aviation Nose Art Gallery. Designated by the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation as an official project of Save America’s Treasures, the Nose Art collection is the world’s largest.
During World War II, Americans produced 237,000 airplanes. Of those sent overseas to the various war theatres, i.e.: ETO, PTO and CBI, it would be safe to say that over 90% would have some type of painting on the nose-the sharks face on the Flying Tigers’ P-40 Warhawks is probably the best known.
Nose art paintings were done by artistic personnel in the squadrons or area, usually for a small token of appreciation, or by crewmembers wanting their plane to be recognized by more than a number.
Alberto Vargas and George Petty were making a living with their versions of “pin-up girls,” and copies of these, plus cartoon figures from Disney and others were soon adorning all types of aircraft.
We owe “thanks” to Minot Pratt for our exhibit. Mr. Pratt was in charge of salvaging the planes that were returned to the States after the war and ended up at Walnut Ridge, Ark. He had 34 pieces chopped and sawed-off prior to destruction, supposedly to be used in a fence. His son donated them to the CAF, and once they are restored at a cost between $20,000 and $40,000 apiece and maintained in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, we hope they will provide enjoyment for many generations.
We affectionately call them “the Girls.”