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Military Aircraft Nose Art: An American Tradition

Military Aircraft Nose Art: An American Tradition

During World War II, and again in the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars, colorful images appeared on the nose sections of American military aircraft. Loved and hated, photographed and censored, the paintings known as nose art have been a controversial tradition. Not to be confused with official markings or insignia, [27K] nose art personalizes a plane for its crew, because it is the crew members who name the plane and create the art, imbuing the plane with an identity of its own. Although some examples of nonregulation art can be found on the military aircraft of other English-speaking countries, the phenomenon is predominantly American, perhaps due to the streak of rebellious individualism attributed to American culture. Nose art is important as an historical and societal indicator over time, an example of folk art or popular expression, and a record of the past. The images presented in this exhibit are provided by Dr. James S. Griffith, retired Coordinator of the Southwest Folklore Center, University of Arizona Main Library, Special Collections.

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