All the new stories by Clarence Simonsen will be posted here due to a lack of space on this blog.
The last B-24H Liberator mission was flown on 21 July 1944, when six attacked Kempten, Germany, placing 16 tons of bombs on the target. This was the 49th mission for the 486th and believe it or not, the 8th Air Force mission number was 486. They were now inoperative for the next two weeks, while they converted to the new B-17G Flying Fortress.
At first the old B-24 aircrews showed some resentment to the new bombers, then slowly they began to accept their new aircraft. Phil Brinkman began new sketches for B-17G Flying Fortress nose art, completing at least eleven. [Nine can be confirmed]
On 8 September 1983, original Zodiac Aircraft Commander of “Virgo”, Charles J. Macgill explains his feelings towards the B-24, the idea for new nose art, and the reason for the new “W” in Square Group code letter. The order in which Phil Brinkman painted the new B-17G bombers is not known, but one of his early works of art became “American Beauty” 42-98008, 834th Bomb Squadron of the 486th B. Group.
Photo S/Sgt. Robert Arnold –Tail gunner
In 1979, tail-gunner S/Sgt. Bob Arnold completed the above painting of his “American Beauty” taken from his WWII flying image [top photo]. He related to me, the Brinkman nose art nicknamed “Rose Lady” was a huge hit, and his crew [Lt. Warmack, pilot for 19 missions] and the crew of Lt. Edmund Barmasse both claimed her [42-98008] as “their” aircraft. Bob Arnold won the title, flying in “Rose Lady” 29 missions, while the Barmasse crew flew her around nine times. These two images are today in the 8th Air Force Museum collection, along with the Brinkman original sketch book, donated by Arnold in 1982.
S/Sgt. Robert [Bob] Arnold flew 29 missions as tail-gunner in American Beauty, with eight different crews. Bob collected and saved all the attached photos, and research done by Roland Andrews in England. He became the main contact with artist Phil Brinkman, and thus his art, sketch book, and letters, were passed on to the 8th A.F. where they remain. The history of Brinkman must at some point be displayed in a museum for all generations to read and be educated correctly to his artistic talents.
The Brinkman sketch book contains his first idea which featured a nude lady with a skeleton face.
It is possible today to observe and study the early sketch by Brinkman, which evolved into the final sketch of “Our American Beauty” [Rose]. His three early sketches were that of a nude lady with a skeleton head, [Death Head] riding a B-17 wing section back after bombing Germany. Phil wrote – “Drop bombs and send Germany out-ward bound.” Then the idea for the American Red [Beauty] rose clicked and his sketch was approved by 1st pilot Paynter, who flew B-24H “Cancer” 42-52545. The first mission on 7 August 1944, was piloted by Lt. Fuller, ex-B-24H “Gemini” 41-29490.
Another major contact person, historian, and British expert on the 486th was Roland Andrews, who also shared his research with me in 1983-1986.
In 1983, an original 486th blackboard from Sudbury, England, was donated to his collection, and it contained the B-17G serial numbers from late February 1945. The total number of B-17G aircraft on strength was 71, and the serial numbers follow for each squadron. I’m positive this blackboard survives in some museum in England today. In mid-January 1945, the B-17G aircraft received new markings, which are shown for modellers or historical interest. Four B-17G aircraft appear with an “F” behind the serial number, which possibly were “War Weary” and retired from combat missions, including American Beauty who flew 51 missions until the end of the war. The 833rd B. S. [fourteen] dome radar Pathfinder B-17s are marked.
The last mission was flown on 21 April 45, and they returned to Drew Field, Florida, on 3 September 45, inactivated 7 November 45.
Brinkman’s “American Beauty” ended up stripped of her engines and parts, parked among row upon row of other bombers waiting to be chopped up at Kingman, Arizona, and then smelted into pots and pans. A LIFE magazine photographer captured this last moment of the little blonde nude who caught his eye, as she awaited her fate in the blazing hot sun. The 834th nose band is bright red like the Roses.
Another Brinkman lady sketch but her crew history is not known. Completed 80 missions with 486th Bomb Group, 834th B. Squadron, red nose band in early January 1945.
Image Bob Arnold – 1983, possible pilot Zurkoft
An ape like creature with bomb in one hand and Nazi flag in other, was done by Brinkman for 43-37899 of the 835th Bomb Squadron. This would cost them $40-$50 bucks, which was good drinking money in 1945. She crashed on 6 February 45, after 53 missions and before she had received her bright “Green” nose band. Repaired she completed 82 missions in total, then scrapped in Kingman, Arizona.
“Short Arm” #616, was possibly an 834th Bomb Squadron aircraft, which art was never completed. The term “Short Arm” was an American WWI expression when a military medical inspection was done on a male soldier’s penis, [short arm] to check for signs of sexually-transmitted diseases. I’m sure the Brinkman painting would have been impressive.
Chief Oshkosh, serial 44-8510, code NR, 2nd Lt. Wilbur Genz
Phil Brinkman confirmed he painted eleven B-17G bombers in the 486th B. G. and nine can be traced to a sketch or photo, only the 834th B. S. “Sweater Girl” and 832nd B.S. “Pistol Packin’-Mama” are missing. The three following art drawings were found in his sketch pad book.
In the mid 1980’s this sketch could not be confirmed as B-17G nose art.
F for Foxy – Hackship B-17E
Fancy Fox or “F for Foxy” was possibly a B-17E, which was only flown for training or “hackship.” Brinkman checked this off in a list sent to him by Bob Arnold in 1982, and she flew in the 834th B. Squadron, serial number unknown.
One of the British ladies of the evening, confirmed by Brinkman with black arrow [B-17G] and flew in 835th Bomb Squadron.
486th B. G. Brinkman Mural Paintings
When I obtained the photocopies from Phil Brinkman’s sketch pad in 1983, it revealed not only nose art ideas but the sketch art drawings for future 486th Mural Wall Art. The saving of WWII 8th Air Force Mural [Wall] Art paintings slowly began in the mid-1960s, but due to lack of funding, [as always] many WWII buildings along with the American wall art were just demolished. Governments have no problem giving millions of tax money to special art groups, however the American wall art of WWII did not fit into any category, and the nude girls were not an acceptable art form for spending government money. The saving of this wartime wall art was left up to a small group of dedicated British people who formed the “Eighth Wall Art Conservation Society, with their ‘own’ time and money. In 1989, I made letter contact with Bill Espie, who was the Treasurer of the conservation group, and Bill shared information and photos with me. These special people took it upon themselves to save this small part of the United States which was painted on the brick walls in England during the world conflict. This was no easy feat, as each brick wall painting had to be braced, cut, and secured for transport, and they were heavy, [200 to 250 lbs.] each. They deserve not only American but all artistic historians heartfelt special thanks and support for preserving some of this forgotten art. The story of the British Wall Art conservation Society was published in the October 1991, issue of the 8th A. F. News.
The 34th B. G., 18th B.S. “Red Indian on bomb”, “White Knight” 95th B. G. Horham, Suffolk, the September 1944, Varga Esquire girl, 379th B.G. Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire.
The 446 Bomb Group at Bungay, Suffolk, painted the map of the United States. The 92nd B.G. at Podington, painted a real B-17G and the artist flew combat in his bomber, painting ‘her’ in spare time.
The pin-up “Farm Girl” 44 B.G., Shipdham, Norfolk
My only two images of Brinkman NCO’s Mural [Wall] art, which were received from Bill Espie around 1992, many thanks.
Brinkman letter to Bob Arnold dated 27 March 1981, describes his arrival at Station 174, 8th A. F. Sudbury, England. The Administration and Barrack Block site were located directly east of the runways, and this is where he was kept busy lettering different squadron sign boards, operations, etc. Next came his mural painting in the NCO [Non-Commissioned Officers Club] which featured a “Circus Theme” which could possibly still survive in some photo collection in the United States. It is possible, [guess work] he next completed the mural of the pin-up lady in front of large Sergeant’s stripes, with a NCO drinking beer [left] and a combat helmet Sgt. [right] drinking whiskey. I believe these murals were both located at opposite ends in the very same Quonset Hut, which would total at least four known paintings completed for the NCO’s. The last line in his letter reads – “I GUESS WE ALL DID PRETTY GOOD.”
Yes, Mr. Brinkman you did your part in the war, but it appears none of your original art has been saved. I still have hope some images still exist in old photo albums or collections. [Please look]
Next came the Officer’s Club and three of these sketch images are contained in his art pad donated to the 8th Air Force Historical Society in 1983. They appear to me, to be the best of his work, but again, no known photo images.
These two sketches appear on the same page, Officer’s “Card Room” and “Dice Room”, which were possibly painted on the same Quonset Hut wall.
Possible ground crews having a few pints in their Mess Hall. Brinkman only painted murals for the NCOs and Officers Clubs.
I have saved the very best for last.
The first use of the British radar H2S in the 8th Air Force came on 27 September 1943, when four B-17F bombers were despatched from Alconbury to the bases of the group they would attack Emden, Germany. Two aircraft went to Bassingbourn, [1 Division] one each to Knettishall and Thorpe Abbotts, [3rd Division]. This was the inauguration of the American [PFF] Pathfinder Force, which later began using the American version [H2X “mickey”] which was an improvement over the British unit, and first used on 3 November 1943. The full details, reason for name “Mickey Set”, and much more can be found on the Internet. During the early formation of the 486th B. G. at Sudbury, the 833rd B. Squadron were selected as the new “Pathfinder Force” [PFF] and all lead squadron aircraft were then transferred to the 833rd, for radar maintenance, supervision [Top Secret], and radar training. On 26 July 1944, the 486th B.G. began flying the new B-17G Fortress which had fourteen equipped with the new American H2X radar dome in the ball-turret gunner position. The 833rd B. S. PFF aircraft were serial numbers – 44-8002, 44-8025, 43-8453, 44-8073, 44-8035, 44-8074, 44-8218, 44-8132, 44-8075, 44-8657, 44-8712, 44-8663, #800 and #920. Phil Brinkman had his closest friend, [Howard Armstrong] working in the 833rd, as a specialist in radar, who explained all the radar technology to the nose artist.
The Nude Lady “Radar” mural in Officer’s Club wall.
When Howard Armstrong explained how radar could reach down through the clouds over Germany and outline the bomb target, Phil Brinkman got an idea and completed this next sketch.
The original sketch sent from Brinkman to Bob Arnold in 1983. The wall mural was painted in the Officer’s Club at Sudbury in 1944, and I’m told it was impressive to see. [Photo would be appreciated]
Artist Phil Brinkman returned to the United States on the “Queen Elizabeth” arriving at New York City, 31 August 1945. After 30 days R & R, the ground personnel were released in Drew Field, Florida, where Phil continued to paint his large murals. In the mid-1980s, I traced 87 murals which he painted in the Miami area, Holiday Inns, Jack Tar Hotels, Nassau, Columbus Plaza, Bluebeards, St. Thomas, Bermuda, Yankee Stadium, New York, Toronto, Canada, and three United States Air Force bases. Today you can find some of his mural art on different websites and WWII color copy images sold online by his daughter.
Philip Brinkman was rigorously trained at three ‘fine’ art schools, and was the master of mural art in the United States. During one full year of war, he also became a master of 8th Air Force bomber nose art, and his art quality deserves to be displayed [photos] and treated at the same level as his colleagues in the fine art field. He was in fact one of the ‘fine’ artists, but the bureaucratic mindset of today’s contemporary art world show prejudice towards his nose art girls as being sexist, racist, and unworthy of today’s modern standards. The 8th Air Force lost over 47,000 aircrew members in combat above Europe and that is who Phil painted for. His wartime art never appeared in art galleries, museums, or properly in the aviation history books, but maybe that can now change. Phil Brinkman was the best nose artist in World War Two.
This research was conducted from 1981 to 1986, and freely passed on to me to preserve the history and art of Phil Brinkman. For that reason, it has no copyright, as far as I am concerned.
The Mark Brown color slides and a few sketches were first used in the 1987 publication titled “Vintage Aircraft Nose Art” [Ready for Duty] by Gary M. Valant. More detailed history of Phil Brinkman and the same images were again published in the 1991 book I co-authored with Jeffrey L. Ethell, “The History of Aircraft Nose Art WWI to Today.” This book was limited in the amount of history which could be told and the vast amount of research, Brinkman letters, and related material has been sitting in a box in my basement until now.
The founding father of the 486th Bomb Group Association Inc. was pilot Lt. Charlie Macgill, who spent countless hours searching for his lost comrades and preserving their past, which included Zodiac artist Philip Brinkman.
Charlie was in the right hand seat of a B-17G flown by Virgil Miller crew and observed a German 88 shell hit the main fuel tank of 43-37883, “Blue Streak” which exploded and all crew of Lt. Paris were killed. The navigator 1 Lt. William Beeson was on his 32 and last mission, the very best friend of Charlie Macgill.
Charlie was born in a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland, [Catonsville] on 9 April 1921. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind Charlie would grow up to be a doctor, like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, thus the local people just called him “Little Doc.” Around the age of nine, Charlie saw his first airplane, flying so low he could see the pilot’s face, helmet, and goggles. He would now become a pilot, and his father went along with his dream, and even purchased his first airplane ride. In grade five his parents decided to send Charlie to military school, he was not a good student, and they hoped the military discipline would make him study and improve his grades.
Charlie fit into the military mode, improved his grades and graduated, allowing him to get a job and save money for pilot lessons. After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Charlie learned the Army Air Corps were taking recruits in the Aviation Cadet program without a college degree, if they could pass the test. Charlie passed and after wings graduation was assigned to Anti-submarine school at Langley Field, then to the Ninth Anti-Sub Squadron at Miami Airport. The squadron was serving temporary duty in Trinidad, and upon their return the ten new pilots [including Charlie] were completely ignored by the original pilots and the Commanding Officer Major Overing. This squadron division carried over to England, where it became known as the “Curse of Overing” due to the C. O. favoring his old buddies with duties and promotion. After switching over to the new B-17G aircraft in August 1944, Charlie suffered a case of impetigo [a highly contagious bacterial skin infection] as a result of an improperly cleaned oxygen mask, and the original “Virgo” crew finished their tour with another pilot. Charlie became a trainer/observer and was flying in the right seat of the B-17G crew of Lt. Virgil Miller, one of 460 B-17s which attacked the oil installations at Merseburg, Germany, on 2 November 1944. The very best friend of Charlie Macgill was a navigator 1st. Lt. William Beeson, who completed his tour of 25 missions, but decided to fill in as spare navigator for other crews and was flying his very last 32nd mission, in a B-17G, serial 43-37883, the “Blue Streak.”
The spectacular and well published image of B-17G “Blue Streak” after taking a direct hit from a German 88 mm shell.
Charlie had a ring-side seat to witness the sudden death of his best friend, and this hit him very hard. The 486th Flight surgeon was concerned for his state of mind, and Charlie was removed from flight combat for good. His war was over.
In the postwar years Charlie operated a crop dusting company, but soon realized he liked the military life-style and re-enlisted in 1947. He retired as a Major in December 1965, with 600 combat hours, a Distinguished Flying Cross, Six Air Medals and two Air Force Commendation Medals.
In 1976, he read an announcement in a newspaper that the 8th Air Force Association were having their second annual reunion, and Charlie attended. To his amazement he found only five other 486th B. G. veterans had attended the reunion, and this sparked his idea to get as many 486th veterans as possible to the next reunion. This soon turned into a full-time [retirement] job which led to the formation of the 486th Group Association, with Bill Collins becoming the first Commander. Charlie Macgill became the second 486th Group Commander from 1983-84, and that is when I made contact with this wonderful veteran. Charlie became the force, the fire, with the drive to search and locate former veterans who would join the association and share their memories and preserve their past. He drove his motorhome around the United States to meet in person his comrades-in-arms and preserved the 486th past which included his beloved “Zodiac” nose art history.
In 1990, I was hard at work preparing photos and records for the book “The History of Aircraft Nose Art WWI to Today, with the famous aviation writer, historian, and pilot Jeff Ethell. The story of the Zodiac Squadron of the 486th would appear with the Brinkman color nose art and Virgo pilot Charlie. This surprise letter arrived in July signed by my two friends. In June 1997, Charlie called me and we set up a first meeting date, as he was coming to visit the Calgary Stampede.
A few days before my meeting with Charlie in Calgary, I placed a call to the home of Jeff Ethell in Front Royal, Virginia, and his son answered the phone. I ask for Jeff [I wanted to surprise him with the news I was meeting with Charlie Macgill] and his son said – “He’s gone; he was killed flying a P-38 at an Air Show.” The impact of the news was a pure shock, and two days later I told Charlie face to face, and again it was pure shock.
Jeff Ethell [1947-1997] and Charlie Macgill [1921-2009] were very much alike, both being unique individuals who reached out and touched the lives of all the people who were fortunate enough to know them. Both were honest and caring, family oriented, with strong religious beliefs, combined with strong convictions in saving and preserving aviation history, and this included WWII nose art. In the past fifty plus years, I have met and associated with hundreds of pilots, and I am sorry to say a good number act like they are a special flying god, and look down their nose at researchers such as myself. Jeff and Charlie were most qualified to look down their nose at me, but this never occurred, they treated me as an equal and supported my historical efforts to the fullest. I will always be grateful for meeting and spending a short time of my life with these two finest pilot’s and caring human beings.
Charlie was a friend to many, and he continued to make new friends wherever he stopped. Mack Parkhill was a former U. S. Air Force B-25 pilot and radar control officer serving with the Air Defense Command until his retirement. Mack next served sixteen years as a docent at the National Museum of the U. S. Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio. One day Charlie walked into the museum, met Mack, and they became close friends. I was soon invited to join my old and new friends by way of phone calls and emails.
At age 88 years, Major Charlie J. Macgill made his last flight on 22 October 2009, followed by interment with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Mack Parkhill and his wife Colleen were honored to be invited to his moving service, and Mack kindly provided me with the lesser known facts concerning the life of Charlie and the following images of his service.
Image by Mack Parkhill
Members of the 3rd Infantry Division perform caisson duties at Arlington Cemetery. Charlie’s priest [in white surplice] was the officiating member of the clergy from his Church in Christiansburg, VA.
Charlie’s flag is presented to his family, son and two daughters.
Image Mack Parkhill
Major Charlie Macgill’s B-24H serial 42-52532 was chosen and designed as the sign “Virgo” and the scantly dressed beauty was a pure work of fine art by Phil Brinkman. Virgo was the pride and joy of pilot Charlie and he spent years of research to locate and save the history of the Zodiac Squadron and artist Phil Brinkman. I hope this history can re-educate todays generation who have been raised to treat WWII nose art with disrespect and that is wrong. I can go on and on, however, if you don’t understand the point I am attempting to make, just forget it. And you can also forget about all those “Charlie’s” who flew with pretty girls on their aircraft, and died for your freedom during WWII. This art is being forgotten in Canada by the RCAF Association and the new breed of RCAF pilots [some female] who feel it is offensive. I hope the 8th Air Force Historical Association can pick up the torch “Charlie” has passed on and hold it high?
Created in August 2013, for my friend Mack Parkhill, to honor Charlie Macgill.
Update from this post on my main blog Lest We Forget.
I have a photo of my late father standing with “Clarence” there’s no date on the photo but he was ground crew to these B24s, I also have one of him on the flight deck.
The photos are posted at the end of this post.
From Clarence Simonsen
British Nose Art Link with Americans
My first contact with WWII aircraft nose art came from the American Air Force comics, which I purchased in the mid-1950s. I still have a few I saved these past 65 years, and they make interesting reading even today.
The American influence was very strong and at one point I believed the United States had won the war by itself. Fortunately these comics also contained some stories based on actual fact involving the Royal Air Force, but nothing on Canadians or the RCAF in WWII. Almost every comic featured the famous Flying Fortress [B-17] and the nose art of pin-up ladies. The B-17 even appeared in the Korean War fighting Chinese jets.
During my last year in the Canadian Army [Provost Corps] I was posted to Cyprus with the United Nations, and painted many cartoons and wall art, which led to my first serious research into to understanding why men [and women] paint aircraft in time of war. On return to Canada in 1966, I joined the Metro Toronto Police Force and began my interviews with Canadian and British WWII Air Force veterans.
In 1975, I read that a retired WWII B-24 pilot, Col. John Woolnough had formed the 8th Air Force Historical Society, with 20,000 members, primarily ex- B-17 and B-24 aircrew who had served in England during WWII. I wrote to Mr. Woolnough and ask if I could become an associate member. The answer was “Yes” and in January 1976, I became member #644A. In 1978, I wrote and ask why the 8th A.F. news magazine didn’t have a nose art section, and John Woolnough replied, “I’ll give you 1/3 page and you can edit your own nose art column.” This was a major boost to my research and collection of American nose art used by the Mighty 8th in England. In the following years, I would receive over 200 letters a month, with photos, info. and requests. This request letter arrived from U.K. and Mr. Bill Adams in 1987.
From this first letter we developed a very warm friendship and I supplied Bill with many 8th Air Force nose art images, from which he carved nose art plaques.
This is Bill Adams and his sister during WWII in England.
The war left many bad memories for Bill, including the German bombing of his school, which allowed the kids to run free and for that he never received a proper education. “The school didn’t go up again until the end of the war, and from that I can’t spell or add up very well.” Bill never returned to school, and was happy with his simple life as a lorry driver. “I like driving the long distances, sitting high up in my truck, and feeling in total control of my destination and life.” Then in late 1978, Bill was stricken with a vesicular brain tumor, and he could no longer drive or make a living. The inoperable tumor in his brain left him vulnerable to paralysis, convulsions, irritability, belligerence, and irrationality. His life was over, his wife and family could do nothing with him, and Bill believed it was best he end everything. Then a very strong willed, tough, sympathetic, British social worker took the resisting and complaining Adams to Manor Park Greenhill Community Centre for the disabled, and saved his life. Bill Adams had no known skills or hobbies, but he loved the American B-17 bomber and their nose art, which flew from Britain during WWII. Bill was given a wide range of testing to see if he had any skills and he showed not only skill but a sudden interest in wood carving. The Centre had received a large donation of hard wood English school desk tops, and this gave Bill his canvas and idea of carving WWII American 8th Air Force bomber nose art plaques. I supplied Bill with photos of the new nose art images I was receiving during my research, and this turned into a heart-warming story. At times there was a delay in Bill answering my letters, and he explained the cocktail of drugs he was taking prevented him from writing or carving. Bill had one lifetime dream before he passed on – “to sit in a B-17.”
Thanks to nose art, Bill and his wife slowly began to enjoy their life together. He had his good and bad days, but his carving brought pure joy to his life and memories to the ex-8th Air Force members in United States. He began carving 91st Bomb Group, B-17 nose art and taking them to the Tower Museum at Bassingbourn, which was the base’s control tower during the war. Then he began to receive requests for his carvings in the United States and his dream came true. The 8th Air Force Association flew Bill and his wife to reunions in the U.S. not once but twice, and he was able to set in a B-17 cockpit. My last letter and photos came from Bill Adams on 29 March 1989.
The following are just a few plaques he completed of American B-17 and B-24 nose art.
Bill at Tower Museum
Thanks to Bill Adams an everlasting link was made between the Americans of the 91st Bombardment Group “The Ragged Irregulars” who flew and died in England during WWII and their nose art images. Today the Tower Museum at Bassingbourn displays some of Bill’s plaques, while most hang on the walls of ex-USAAF families in the United States.
One English school desk carving also hangs on my wall in Airdrie, Alberta, Canada.
“Clarence” was a RAF Liberator GR Mk. VIII, serial EW285, code letter “V” which flew with No. 356 RAF Squadron Salbani, India, 1944.
This was taken after the end of war, when No. 356 was based in the Cocos Islands, supply dropping to Malaya and removing ground troops to Ceylon, until November 1945. Note guns removed.
Hi, please find attached photo of B-24 Clarence. I’m not sure of the location or date of the photos. I hope they are of interest to you, my father H W “Bill” Kennedy is in the photo with the two men standing with the aircraft, he is on the right and also in the cockpit,I’m not sure of who the other men are. My father volunteered for the RAF even though he was in a reserved occupation.
This sketch was completed by nose artist Phil Brinkman at 8th Air Force Station 174, Sudbury, England. The station was located between the villages of Great Waldingfield and Acton, two miles north-east of the village of Sudbury. The heavy bomber base had three intersecting concrete runways and fifty hardstands for the American bombers. The 486th Bomb Group flew 188 missions from this base beginning on 7 May 1944, to Liege, Belgium, and the last on 21 April 1945. This is the briefing of the 486th B. G. for one of those missions however the date was never recorded by Brinkman. It is very possible a color painting was completed from this sketch. The first 49 missions were flown in the B-24 Liberator and I strongly believe that is the time period this sketch was completed.
Station 174, map and Control Tower, from Roland A. Andrews collection.
The 486th Bomb Group had no WWII group badge, above insignia was created postwar  for the association newsletter. The only 8th A.F. group to have two code letters, “O” [B-24] & “W” [B-17].
8th A.F. News column 1983
The 486th was activated at McCook Army Air Field, Nebraska, on 20 September 1943, and moved to Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona, on 9 November 1943, to begin training in the B-24 Liberator bombers. This is the 834th [Zodiac] Squadron roster Victory party held 11 June 1945, mostly B-17 members.
Roster list from Pilot Charlie Macgill, 834th Squadron Representative 1983
In 1975, the 8th A.F. Historical Society was a newly formed organization created by Lt. Col. John H. Woolnough, an ex-B-24 Liberator pilot, who flew the skies over Germany and survived. John understood the need to preserve the history of the USAAF “Mighty Eighth” in England during WWII, and the need to save the nose art which had been painted on so many aircraft. I wrote to John in the fall of 1975, expressing my interest in the 8th A.F. nose art and ask if I could become an associate member. The answer was yes, and for the next twenty years I would enjoy the 8th A. F. News publication, and the friendship of so many American WWII veterans, who shared their history with me.
In 1976, the 8th A. F. News advertised the search for WWII images for a new photo collection book the Historical Society was publishing, and it would include nose art. The book authored by Col. Woolnough came out in April 1978, containing 258 nose art images, including four paintings called the “Zodiac’s.” That was my first look at Brinkman nose art, but the artist name was still unknown, the Bomb Group was incorrect, and the donator Dave Mayor could give no further information. I knew at once this artist was very talented and just hoped to learn more in the future. The publication of The 8th A. F. Album was a total success which triggered a second book titled “The 8th A. F. Yearbook’, published spring 1981, also containing thousands of new photos including nose art. On page 161, a short history of the unknown “Zodiac” artist appeared for the first time with the other seven B-24 nose art paintings he completed in England. The brilliant artist was Philip Brinkman and he painted the bombers in the 834th Bomb Squadron of the 486th Bomb Group. The names of the Zodiac photo donors, Love, Andrews, Macgill, and Krieger, had no meaning to me, however that would soon change.
Phil Brinkman was 28 years of age, D.O.B. 30 March 1916.
In 1981, Col. John H. Woolnough gave me my own nose art column in the quarterly publication of the 8th Air Force News, and soon the letters from WWII veterans began to arrive. The following year, I made contact with Mark Brown and obtained his 35 mm Kodak color slide film, including the seven images of the Zodiac squadron, and the artist himself painting “Aries.” [B-24H-15-FO, serial 42-52693, 2S-O] This was possibly the second “Aries” he completed, Sudbury, England, July 1944.
Even in this black and white image, it becomes obvious that Brinkman was at the same level or better than his “fine” art colleagues, and he still deserves to be recognized by the high-art-world of today. He served his country in time of war, painted eleven huge murals in England, painted outdoors on at least 22 bombers, and his innovation of the “Zodiac” art was very innocent, [good taste] showing very little nudity. I would later learn he was trained at the Washington University School of Arts, St. Louis, American Academy of Fine Arts, Chicago, and Grand Central Academy of Arts, New York City. He was in fact a highly trained “Fine” artist, but his girl nose art is totally forgotten, and that is wrong.
My next huge break came when I made letter contact with the pilot of the B-24 Virgo, Charlie Macgill.
Virgo B-24H-15-FO, serial 42-52532, 2S-K
The next letter gave me the address of Brinkman, however the three letters I addressed to him were never answered, as Charlie had warned. I pressed on regardless.
From 1983 to 1986, I continued to received letters, new 8th Air Force contacts, photos of the Zodiacs, information, and the new republished poster by Charlie. My new friend became a life-long partner in the research of the Zodiac squadron and we would meet in 1996, and keep in contact until his passing. There is so much more to tell about Charlie, but I do not have the space.
Tail Gunner Sgt. Robert G. Arnold
Three photos from Bob Arnold collection – 1982-84
My next important letter and photos came from Sgt. Robert G. Arnold, the tail gunner who flew 29 missions in B-17G, serial 42-98008, with nose art “American Beauty” by Phil Brinkman. They nicknamed her “Rose-Lady” and this will be covered in detail later in the B-17 section. Robert had made contact with artist Brinkman in 1981, and for some reason he always received a reply letter with good information. He also completed a color painting of his B-17 in 1979, [from the above image] and this possibly put him in good favour with Phil Brinkman. [That’s just a guess on my part, but artists tend to support each other] Bob copied and sent me all his Brinkman letters from 1981, and later in 1986, copied my questions and sent a letter to Brinkman to answer. A most unusual method of conducting research, but it worked and 486th history was slowly saved. Bob Arnold was another important historian who experienced B-17G combat over Germany and then did his best to save and preserve it.
The Phil Brinkman letters provided me with good background information and the type of person he was.
Philip Brinkman was born in St. Louis, MO, 30 March 1916, and attended three ‘fine’ art schools, Washington University School of Art, St. Louis, American Academy of Fine Arts, Chicago, and the Grand Central Academy of Arts, New York City. He was a master in painting any subject in a grand mural scale, and he knew his painting style was the best. For a short time, he was employed by advertising agencies in St. Louis and Chicago, then he hit the open road. He admits he was a maverick, spent six years travelling around the eastern seaboard painting, and drinking, then he was drafted into the service, and had no place to fit. The Special Services was the only place an artist fit in, and it was full of men producing local newsletters, cartoon art, and training manuals. Brinkman was in a class by himself, stating – “They were all round holes, and I was square or vice versa”, so I ended up with guard duty or K.P. I was stationed at Davis-Monthan Army Air Field at Tucson, Arizona, in mid 1942. I was stuck in an Air Force Guard Squadron, so I immediately began to convince the Commanding Officer the base needed some large mural art, and this eliminated the guard and K.P. duties. I answered only to the C.O. and painted murals in the NCO mess, the officer’s club, recreation hall, USO stage backgrounds, and just kept out of sight and active. On 9 November 1943, the 486th Bomb Group arrived at Davis-Monthan Field to begin B-24 training. The mural art of Brinkman was everywhere and his creative talent caught the eye of Captain W. D. Howell, Squadron Commander of the 834th Bomb Squadron. After meeting with Cpl. Brinkman, Capt. Howell ask if he would like to become a member of his squadron and paint nose art, but he would be required to leave for England when the squadron finished their training. Phil wanted out of Davis-Monthan and jumped at the chance to go overseas as a member of the 486th Bomb Group. Capt. Howell arranged for a transfer under his command, and Brinkman became a member of the 834th Bomb Squadron. This was where the idea of B-24 “Zodiac” Squadron all began at Tucson, Arizona, and possibly two were painted.
In 1982, Crew Chief Harold Love sent this information to the 8th A. F. News, however it was only half right and half wrong. [B-24H-15-FO, serial 42-52545, 2S-M]
Pilot Lt. Sighrd L. Jensen Jr. Commander of B-24H-15 serial 42-52545, “M”, confirmed his Liberator nose art was started at Davis-Monthan Field by Phil Brinkman, but the water sign lady was never painted in the nude. This image was taken in early March 1944, just before the air echelon moved to England. The lady “Aquaria” is wearing panties and bra for her trip using the southern route to Africa, then north to England. The nose art was finished by Brinkman at Sudbury, England, possibly the second “Zodiac” painting completed. The order of painting from this point on is unknown, but thirteen were completed by July 1944. Two Leos, two Aries, and no Taurus.
This clear B & W image was sent to me by pilot Lt. Jensen Jr. in 1983.
Colorised version done by Pierre Lagacé
On 24 May 1944, the 8th Air Force flew mission #367, and the Third Bomb Division despatched 490 Liberator bombers on visual attacks of German airfields around Paris. This was the 7th mission flown by the 486th Bomb Group, who reported to their bomber stations at 04:25 hrs and started engines 10 minutes later. Take-off began at 05:00 hrs and 39 bombers were airborne for St. Cyr, France Luftwaffe airfield led by Major Norton. Twenty-eight B-24s hit the primary target and eleven hit the secondary target, dropping 33 tons of bombs. Pilot Jensen in Aquaria and pilot Macgill in Virgo flew next to each other. They would remain true friends for the rest of their lives and Jensen kept a copy of the Form 483 M, showing the tail view of the formation to Paris on 24 May 1994. It contains a good amount of information on this one mission. The copy was passed on for my research in 1983.
Phil Brinkman was always seen carrying his sketch pad and when he saw something he liked, or an idea came to him, he would stop and capture the moment with his pencil. Later this sketch was turned into a beautiful painting. I wonder who Verva Whitehorse was, and if her painting remains forgotten on a wall in England today? Most of the B-24 Zodiac nose art began in his sketch pad, which shows the amazing talent he processed in creating a nose painting from a pilot’s simple idea, expressed to him at Sudbury, England. On 16 March 1981, Phil sent this sketch pad to Rob Arnold and ask him to donate it to the 8th Air Force Historical Society, where I guess it still remains? Bob then made copies and sent them to me.
On 13 February 1984, my friend Charlie passed on the address of Zodiac “Cancer” pilot Col. Harry Paynter, USAAF Retired, Arlington, Virginia.
When Harry Paynter talked with Phil Brinkman, they were standing in front of his B-24H-15-FO, serial 42-52650, and Phil was sketching away as per normal. Harry told him his sign was Cancer and he didn’t want a sexy nude, but something with the crab sign. This is a copy of the very first sketch which was rejected by pilot Paynter, for the simple reason it had two bombs. Phil ripped the sketch out and gave it to him, then went to work on a crab holding a single bomb and that was approved by Harry. The painting was completed on his bomber just days before they would fly their very first mission, 7 May 1944. This date would also become the first day target #342, where over nine-hundred 8th Air Force bombers would attack Belgium, and only the second time over 1,000 American fighters and bombers took to the air war over Europe. Thirty-six B-24’s from the 486th dropped 55 tons of bombs on Liege, Belgium, and all returned safely to Sudbury, England.
Harry Paynter believes these two images of fueling “Cancer” were taken on the 5 May 1944, just two days before they flew their first mission. That gives a little time frame for Brinkman’s painting of Cancer.
This “Taurus” the Bull drawing was on the back of the above Harry Paynter sketch.
The sixth mission was flown to Etampes Mondesir, France, on 23 May 1944, and this slide image [showing six white bombs] was recorded by Col. Mark Brown possibly that same day. Cancer was one of 465 Eighth Air Force B-24s which struck the target, 39 from the 486th B. G., who dumped 111 tons of bombs on the target. This marked the first time 8 A.F. P-51 fighters [14 aircraft] escorted the American bombers to and from the target area, with one fighter shot down.
The sketch of “Taurus” on the backside of the Harry Paynter [under wing sketch], indicates Brinkman was painting his Taurus the Bull nose art around the end of May 44.
Brinkman began his Taurus nose art painting three times on three different B-24s, but they never returned, and his bull art was never finished. Three of his Taurus drawing images survive, two in his sketch book, and this is the second, possibly done for his second attempt at painting his bomber nose. The 834 Bomb Squadron set an 8th Air Force record with no personnel or aircraft lost on their first 100 missions. So, that means the three missing Taurus B-24 aircraft were possibly transferred to the other 486th B. G. squadrons, containing the Taurus half finished Zodiac nose art.
On 20 May 1944, two B-24s crashed on take-off, serial 726 and 691. This was followed on 28 May 44, with two more lost to German anti-aircraft fire, 42-52764 and 345. On 8 June 44, another B-24 crashed at Gosfield. I believe three B-24s from the 834th B. G. were transferred to other squadrons as replacements and that is why they never returned. At least the Brinkman sketch book contains a third, and the very best image of the missing “Taurus” the Bull looking down doing target study.
I recall this sketch was first believed to be a bombardier looking at his aiming point, however it was also pointed out, the bull could also be a member of the 8th A. F. photo interpreters doing target study. These members spent long hours studying strike photo images [the reason for the pillow] and drawing new target maps of Germany. Brinkman wrote the word “Hi!” I will leave the final conclusion to readers.
These are 446 Bomb Group 8th A. F. photo interpreters at work conducting “Target Study” in 1944. I believe the original pilot wanted to honor these men and that is the reason behind the Brinkman sketch.
Between 1939 and 1945, five factories produced 18,482 Liberators which were always being modified from time to time, and this needed some form of overall control for identification. The factories assigned each bomber a set of block numbers in multiples of five and this allowed for the later changes at modification centers. The first assigned was the letter B- then 24- model H- block number 15- and letters for plant it was constructed in. The five plants were assigned letters which were applied to the identification code, Consolidated/San Diego – CO, Consolidated/Fort Worth – CF, Douglas/Tulsa – DT, Ford/Willow Run – FO, and North American/Dallas – NT. The 486th B. G. were assigned B-24H in olive and grey factory finish camouflage from block 15 and later B-24J aircraft in natural metal finish. The 834th Bomb Squadron bomber aircraft were all assigned in camouflage paint and should be identified by each identification number data stencil painted on the nose area of each bomber. For some reason all these data sections, which were painted on in the factory, were painted over when the aircraft arrived in England.
This identification data block shows up many times in the image of the aircraft nose art, but not in the 834th Bomb squadron, and that caused problems when two Leo images turned up.
In 1981, Bob Arnold sent the above images to Phil Brinkman who wrote he had painted both and he knew the pilot, but he had no idea why there were two “Leo” nose art paintings on two different bombers, with the same pilot. The answer would be contained in a Mark Brown 35 mm color slide.
This is possibly the second Zodiac painted by Brinkman in April 1944, with serial 42-52768. She was a B-24H-15-FO, built at the Ford/Willow Run plant. The third mission was flown on 23 May 44, and this image was taken by Mark Brown on or after that date. The name Zodiac was never painted. The next mission on 24 May, pilot William Hillfinger flew 42-52755, 2S-K, to Paris.
The painted over squadron 2S can be seen while the tail marking, X in square, is that of the 493rd B. G. at Debach, England. Leo was just transferred and has now completed 15 missions.
Phil Brinkman completes a new sketch for Hillfinger and a new sexy lady appears with her Leo the Lion. Serial 41-29605, she is a B-24H-15-CF built at Consolidated/Fort Worth.
The first Pisces sketch which Brinkman completed and was rejected, so he did a second sketch.
This was drawn on very thin [onion skin] copy paper, from pilot Van Camp collection.
This sketch contains the same idea, just a different pose, again rejected.
B-24H-15-CF, serial 41-29517, what a beauty.
Colorised version done by Pierre Lagacé
I must admit, I prefer the original sketch of the “Twins” much better. B-24H-15-CF, code 2S-D, pilot Fuller.
Scorpio B24H-15-FO, serial 42-52762. 2S-J, photos sent to Bob Arnold by Phil Brinkman.
Phil Brinkman images – sent to Bob Arnold 27 March 1981.
The Official 834th Squadron “Scorpion” Insignia was adopted after the end of the war, May or June 1945. At the 11 June 45, Victory Party Program, a Brinkman sketch appeared, plus a cloth badge of the Scorpion design. [Sketch from 1983 – Bob Arnold]
I am positive this was the Brinkman nose art sketch, which was later adopted as the official 834th Badge or Insignia. The cloth badge was submitted from a Tech/Sgt. in the Administration staff by name of George Bollington, who also flew as a tail gunner. Brinkman confirmed his original sketch in March 1981 letter to Bob Arnold.
Information for historians. This is the only 486th Squadron Insignia created from an original Phil Brinkman nose art sketch, which became B-24H nose art. I feel this insignia should be credited to artist Phil Brinkman and I don’t care who submitted the design [copied] or whatever. It’s Brinkman copyright.
Libra, B-24H-15-FO, serial 42-29605. 2S-E, pilot Lt. Foy
B-24H-15-FO, “Ding Dong Daddy from Dixie” had completed two missions. Top of bomb on left.
Louis Armstrong recorded “I’m A Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas” in July 1930, and the hit was re-recorded by other famous artists during the war years. The song title was altered to appear as nose art on B-24H-15-FO, serial 42-52744, and became “Ding Dong Daddy from Dixie.” When Brinkman began his nose art painting of Capricorn, the B-24 had flown [painted two bombs] two missions, which possibly indicates the date around 11 May 1944. During this period the 483rd did not fly any missions for nine straight days, which was a perfect time for aircraft painting. Brinkman then painted five more mission bombs, for a total of seven. As Brinkman completed his painting the bomber had flown thirteen missions, with a possible date around early June 1944.
This is the only group of photos which gives a possible time-frame for starting and completing a B-24 nose painting by Brinkman in England. I believe Phil worked on two or three nose art paintings at one time, walking back and forth from bomber to bomber. It appears an aircraft oil painting took from seven to ten days to complete, using regular brush and standard oil paints.
Painting notes from letter 10 November 1986, last letter received from Robert Arnold.
Colorised version done by Pierre Lagacé
The fine art of Phil Brinkman created for the crew, who picked “their” design, and the women portrayed as they wanted her topless, but as Phil stated – “In good taste.” This painting was created on an aircraft outdoors, in the “real” world of England at war, not in the safe confines of some art community in the United States. It was created to show the appealing image of a half-women, because the crew wished to claim her as their good-luck lady, and also attract the attention of other 8th Air Force bomber crews. It boosted morale for thousands of Americans, plus Allied aircrews who flew off and never returned to base. It was not created in today’s high society warped fashion world of stone faced, robotic, starved girls, or in a distorted feminism idea which Hollywood has created due to male control, power, and sex. It was created by a rigorously trained artist who was a genius in painting a rich technique, but today bureaucrats are afraid to show this ‘fine’ nose art to children in our military museums. Horse “Apples.” It’s the very same as ‘family approved’ nude fine art.
Sagittarias, B-24H-15-CF, serial 41-29400, pilot Reed, one of 738 built by Consolidated at Fort Worth, but her nose art spelling should read SAGITTARIUS. Brinkman later corrected the spelling.
Did Brinkman paint twelve or thirteen Zodiac B-24H nose art images during WWII?
Phil Brinkman started his Zodiac paintings in Tucson at Davis Monthan, and then concluded his nose art painting at Sudbury, England, around early July 1944. When the 486th Bomb Group were assigned bombers they received aircraft from the Ford production plant B-24H-15-FO, between serial 42-52303 to 42-52776, which constructed 1,780 B-24H models. Other aircraft assigned came from the Consolidated plant at Fort Worth, where 738 B-24H-15-CF models were constructed with the 486th assigned block H-15 within serial numbers between 41-29336 to 41-29606.
The B-24H was the first model Liberator to be equipped with an electric nose turret on the production line. In 1976, Lt. Col. John H. Woolnough received the above [right] image of B-24H, serial 42-52765, from a Mr. Michakczyk of the 486th B. G. The image was taken at Tucson, when the new B-24H bombers were being painted by Brinkman, and it was identified as the first “Aries.” This image appears to be a very new B-24H with the factory chalk marks still present on the nose area. This bomber arrived in Sudbury, England, on 24 March 1944, and flew with the 486th B. G. on 7 May 1944. While the lettering and Ram painting clearly show the style of Phil Brinkman, he could never recall ever painting this nose art. This research was conducted back in 1981-1984 and both Roland A. Andrews [486th B. G. expert in England] and Bob Arnold [tail-gun] expressed to me that Brinkman had a drinking problem, and that is why he could not recall some historical things, which he called “nit-picking.” At one time the 833rd Squadron was formed as a special “Lead Crew” Pathfinder Squadron, and a few Zodiac bombers were transferred, and I believe this involved the first painted Aries 42-52765.
From the private collection of Phil Brinkman
“Hard T’ get”
The little red haired lady with a pair of Colt 44’s was B-24H-15-FO, serial 42-52753, Lt. Simmons, hardstand #3, Sudbury, 535th Bomb Squadron, code F6-H. This nose art was completed for another squadron and for that reason Brinkman would chage $40 to $50 to the members of the 535th Squadron.
This replica painting was started in Mexico in the winter of 2014, however I have not yet finished it. It was painted on the original B-24J skin from serial 42-78579, which served as a training bomber at Walla Walla Army Air Base, Walla Walla, Washington. On Sunday, 30 September 1944, it was on a night training flight when the crew of six flew into the 5,500 ft. summit of Mission Ridge and all perished. In July 2013, Mack Parkhill’s brother and grandson hiked to the site of the crash and recovered a few sections of original Liberator skin. Two skin panels were mailed to me, and on one, I completed a reproduction of Charlie Macgill’s “VIRGO for his friend Mack Parkhill. This is the unfinished second panel, which I have dedicated to nose artist Phil Brinkman and to the original crew of six who were killed in the mountain crash 30 September 1944.
While I do not have the talent of Phil Brinkman, I hope it gives some idea of what the little red haired lady with two six shooters [pair of 44s] looked like. Pun fully intended.
The summary of 486th Bomb Group B-24 missions in WWII, the last flown in Liberators. It is believed fourteen [confirmed 13] of these B-24 Liberators carried nose art painted by Phil Brinkman. They attacked the ball-bearing industry and airfields in S/W Germany, 8th A. F. Mission #486, same as the bomb group. On 1 August 1944, the 486th B. G. began flying the B-17G from block 75-BO, and new Brinkman nose art would appear on at least eleven Flying Forts in the 486th.
The Greatest Nose artist of WWII
Introduction by Clarence Simonsen
I have collected, researched, and repainted replica World War Two “Nose Art” for the past 45 years, including meeting and interviewing some thirty [documented 93] of these special aviation illustrators. An illustrator is defined as an artist who specializes in providing a visual art form which corresponds with the content of an associated text or idea. Thousands of years ago, early illustrator artists were commissioned to paint portraits of the most important people in history, kings, Aztec gods, nobles, pharaohs, and the wealthy important males and his family in that period of time. Sometimes the wealthy male would also commission an illustrator to paint his mistress in the nude, which the Prime Minister of Spain did in 1792. P.M. Manuel de Godoy had his own private collection of female nudes [like Pin-Ups] which were hidden from the public and of course his wife. These two most famous and controversial paintings were both life-size, the same model, but one with clothing and one completely nude. The reason for the twin images, virtually identical other than one is fully nude, is still unknown. Painted by Francisco de Goya, it is believed the young lady was the mistress of P.M. Godoy, Pepita de Tudo, and her age was 14 to 18 years, when she modelled for many hours of detailed brushwork to complete both images.
The world-famous, priceless, “La maja Denuda” painted between 1793 and 1797 by fine artist Francisco de Goya, and not judged as obscene art. This ‘fine art’ painting has been reproduced and marketed countless times and today is displayed for millions of visitors to see in Spain. This became the first female nude painted in the Western world to show pubic hair, and for that reason was banned by the United States for a period of time. This famous fine artist painted the young lady as she looked for the time period, a great Spanish realist tradition, even if she was underage by today’s standard. During my fifty years of nose art research and painting, it became very clear the most popular theme for both the fine artist and the art illustrator was the young female form, fully nude, semi-nude, or topless. For some reason the bureaucratic mindset of the fine art world began creating a division between the art illustrator and the fine artist, which I still do not fully understand. To my way of thinking, some artists were just much better than others in creating an appealing image of a pretty young girl or women, and they should never be separated by any high society class system.
The later 1920s nude girl artists were classified as illustrators or commercial artists, while it is clear many shared the same skill [or more] than the fine artist. These male and female artist illustrators would create the world of the Pin-Up girl in the Golden Age from 1920 to 1965, but today this nude art is not suitable for family viewing, however “fine art” nudes are permitted. What am I missing in this special created high-art-world where one nude is Ok, but the other is not good for children to look at?
Pin-up art began as early as 1890, [maybe even earlier] and many artists participated in the popular culture, which became associated with the soldiers in WWI who carried the images of beautiful women taken from calendars, magazines, and post cards. These paintings, and drawings, which featured glamour girls, models, and actresses, would not change very much until the early 1930s when the mastery of the airbrush was invented and introduced by artist George Petty. The early appearances of Petty male and female art were restricted to near-beer advertising in local circulation of the Midwest United States.
George Brown Petty IV, was born 27 April 1894, showed a keen interest in drawing, and was always in trouble with his teachers for sketching during class. He enrolled in evening classes at Chicago’s Art Institute where he developed a business sense, offering other students art instruction for five bucks a lesson. On summer vacations, he spent hours in his father’s photo shop where he learned the skills to operate the airbrush, which was used extensively to retouch the large black and white 4” by 5” negatives. Fascinated with the instrument, he became proficient at creating paintings using the fine spray in building colors layer upon layer. His human face and skin tones produced a new radical life-like rendering of beautiful girls and women which became extremely popular. He next met a shy, pretty, modest young lady Julia Donohue, courted her, and they married on 6 April 1918. Julia became his chief nude model for the next ten years. The above image of Julia and George was taken by LIFE magazine in 1939, appearing in the June issue.
On 21 September 1919, the first child was born, Marjorie Julia Petty, with a nickname of “Mugs.” This new baby girl would change the world of the pin-up women forever.
Twenty-year-old Marjorie Petty as she appeared in LIFE magazine June 1939.
In 1929, the United States was stuck in the great depression, facing economic collapse, while George Petty fortunes began to slowly raise. George had been hired to design a poster point-of-sale display for the Lesser’s Slim Figure Bath, a German bath salt which would simply soak away those unwanted female pounds. While the product was in fact useless, the American ladies believed it worked, and they purchased the salt bath product, which made money. The original Berlin bath salt container art featured two young nude German ladies dancing, and this must be included in the new rush job contract. Marjorie had posted semi-nude many times for her father but she always walked around in a towel. This time George grabbed the towel and threw it to his wife Julia. He then stood Marjorie in front of his drawing board, and for the first time she posted fully nude. This was where the “Petty Girl” was born and Marjorie was only ten years of age. This should not be confused with today’s child pornographic images, it was simply a family enterprise in 1929, where Marge spent long hours holding a pose for her father to sketch. She was the living family created Petty Girl.
The first 1929 poster art posed nude by [underage] ten-year-old Marjorie, but painted as a twenty something lady.
With the launch of a new magazine “Esquire” in fall of 1933, the new Petty Girl appeared in a conventional cartoon format, which soon developed a national reputation as a near-nude pin-up girl.
Marjorie was fourteen when she posted nude for this first issue of Esquire cartoon painting. The caption read –
“Darling, what —-kachoo—-difference does age—–kachoo—–make anyway?”
As her pin-up popularity grew, George Petty dispensed with the secondary characters, who were mostly older rich gents. This was the time of the great depression, when pretty young girls were drawn to the rich older high society males who still had money. She was most often painted holding a telephone, which was left white and never sprayed, becoming a George Petty future trade-mark.
The Petty girl soon appeared in ads for cigarettes, bathing suits, silk stockings, underwear, and graduated to full pin-up status in magazines. Beginning in 1939, the Esquire readers were treated to a monthly two-page foldout [gatefold] of the Petty Girl. As the world went to war, [American remained neutral] but Canadians took the Petty Girl to England and she became a major aircraft nose art attraction. [below is a 1938 full-page ad from inside front cover of Esquire magazine]
In 1981, I received the above letter from Mr. Reid Stewart Austin, during his research on the George Petty story. Reid was the art director of Playboy magazine in the 1960s and left to become the personal art director of Alberto Vargas, where he remained until 1974. With the cooperation of Marjorie Petty and the Petty Estate, he authored the book “Petty” in 1997. We never met, but he assisted me by proof-reading my articles, sending Petty Girl art, photos, and talking for hours on the phone. I would like to express my special thanks to Reid Austin for taking time his time to relate to me the wonderful life of George Petty and the one and only Petty Girl, Marjorie. I expressed to him my admiration for the Petty Girl and wondered if it would be possible to obtain her autograph.
This signed portrait of fifteen-year-old Marjorie arrived by mail on 29 June 1996. She appeared on the cover of the Chicago American, The Saturday Home Magazine, 19 October 1935. She had been modelling nude for the past five years, and continued to do so until she married in 1948. She also assisted in preparing each painting, working in the studio, making preliminary sketches, and without Marjorie there would be no “Petty Girl” as we know today.
If you want to read the complete history, Reid Stewart Austin’s book is the one and only.
Twenty-nine-year-old Marjorie Petty in her last calendar of 1948.
From 1933 to 1956 the Petty girl became an American icon which captured the nation’s admiration and more importantly allowed the pin-up girl into the average American and Canadian household wall. He was a freelance art illustrator, but his airbrush combined with the paint brush changed the way the world saw the Petty Girl. He mastered a new art form and his fine paint spray created from light tones to darker shadows giving the viewer a realist three-dimension female form. He improved the female body with longer legs, a small long torso, and a smaller head. By 1939, they said he created a lady better than God. In 1941, he was working without a contract and making $2,000 per pin-up painting, plus demanding more. Esquire went looking for a replacement and found Alberto Vargas. The last Petty Girl appeared in Esquire as American went to war, but George had left a rich legacy in the glamour girl art, which had been passed on to the aviation nose art in WWII.
During the Second World War, there were hundreds of artists and illustrators who painted for periodicals, calendars, etc., but only 45 to 50 were exclusively painting glamour girls or pin-up art. Practically all of these “illustrators” had been rigorously trained and graduated from the same high-class art schools as their colleagues in the “fine” art category. They had mastered the fine art of painting a glamour pin-up girl or women but their art quality was never allowed to be shown in a gallery, museum, or history book for the simple reason they painted young topless or nude females.
In 1971, the master of the female form, George Petty was asked why the pin-up calendar was no longer being printed and had almost disappeared. George stated –
“Everything today must be shared with one’s wife and children, so a man can no longer have privacy for his girl calendar.”
There is more truth to his statement then one could ever imagine.
Although George Petty and Alberto Vargas achieved all the fame and public attention during World War Two, another artist set the standard for the most respected glamour pin-up painting.
Gil Elvgren was born 15 March 1914, took summer art classes at the Minneapolis Art Institute beginning in 1924 and continued with day and night art classes at the American Academy of Art, Chicago, graduating in 1936. He was very well-trained, a master with a rich painting technique, which met all the tradition standards of fine art, but his genius talent was viewed with prejudice only because he painted pin-up illustrations. The Elvgren Girl was a fresh and wholesome young lady, with a slender body, which personified the American “Girl-next-door.”
Forced Landing was one of his early paintings which measured 22” by 28 “painted in oils on canvas, possibly completed in 1935. This is a calendar reproduction which was also republished as a “Mutoscope card” in 1939 or 1940, which was an ‘overpainted’ style. Another artist [Vaughn Bass] would overpaint the original Elvgren background but never repainted the face, legs, arms, or other body parts of the original. This was all done to avoid paying copyright fees or other legal issues, and that is why the signature of Elvgren appears in block lettering. This image appeared on a number of WWII aircraft and was a nose art favorite pose.
For his commercial paintings, he completed one lady per week, working from photographs taken of his posed model. An assistant [Ewen Lotten] would build a studio set and Elvgren would take a half-dozen photos of his model in different positions, which would later become his new oil creation. Today the Internet is full of these images and his favorite model Marlene Reilly who was twenty years of age. Elvgren liked models with long necks, long slender legs, small waist and a full bust, but not too large. His perfect face was that of a fifteen-year-old and the body of a twenty-year old, eyes set wide apart, small ears, pert nose, and smooth legs and hands.
The left [above] image is another 1940 Mutoscope card reproduction, which was over-painted by artist Vaughn Bass, who created a key-hole style, as if a male were watching a young lady get undressed. This simple overpainting of the original Elvgren painting became a huge hit with WWII aircrew and appeared on hundreds of aircraft.
Few of his commissioned works were painted with topless or nude models, however to relax and for his own personal pleasure, he liked to paint beautiful women in the altogether. I have five in my collection, nude in chair with fur, oriental full nude, nude on bed putting on makeup, nude on a river bank, and a nude on a calendar from Singapore.
This painting was titled “Fascination” and appeared on a calendar of the Amoy Canning Corporation [Singapore] Ltd. date unknown. It was found in a suitcase that belonged to a deceased RCAF pilot and his sister gave it to me in the late 1980s.
Gil Elvgren passed away at age 65 years, after he lost his battle with cancer, 29 February 1980. His paintings of beautiful women will live on forever.
Other illustration artists switched to pin-ups to make more money, such as Saturday Evening Post cover artist Robert Edmond Lee, 1899 to 1980. He painted this monthly full-page pin-up series titled “Cuddles and Puddles” which again found its way to a number of nose art paintings in England. He sold his series to magazines such as LOOK and PEP.
In 1941, the first Zoe Mozert nude pin-ups began to appear in Brown and Bigelow calendars, and they were also published in the Mutoscope cards series called “Victory Girls.”
They were a huge hit with the servicemen in WWII, yet very few males at war knew they were painted by a lady just as good-looking as her nude artwork. The truth being, Mozert often used herself as a model and posed in front of a mirror, such as the above full nude glamour painting. Born in 1907, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as Alice Moser, she changed her name as she would never become famous with a name like Alice. She entered the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art where she helped pay her tuition by nude modeling for art classes in nearby Women’s School of Design. In 1946, she moved to Hollywood, worked as a consultant in films, painted film posters, created over 400 covers for movie magazines, and her nude calendars paid the biggest accounts for Brown and Bigelow. She died in Arizona 1 February 1993. Zoe was very proud of her body and it is insane we do not consider her talent [and body] to be fine art.
This 1941 painting “A Run on Sugar” appeared in the Mustoscope card series “Victory Girls” and the suggestive pose appeared on a number of WWII aircraft.
This 8th A.F. B-24 bomber crew carried “A Run on Sugar” over Germany.
Four other women artists painted glamour pin-ups, the Patterson sisters, Laurette and Irene, who worked with pastels, and Pearl Frush another pastel artist.
Above is the 1942 calendar by Mabel Rollins Harris, who painted in the style of Alberto Vargas, and has been judged as an equal, in her artistic excellence of painting the nude.
To this point, I have attempted to show a selected few samples of the great illustrators of the twentieth century, they were the masters of painting the glamour pin-up, and I believe they should be given the same level of respect as their colleagues in the fine art world. During the Second World War these illustrators created tens of thousands of paintings which generated a spin-off art form known as aircraft ‘nose art.’ Beginning in early September 1939, Canadians and Americans both joined the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force and after training most arrived in England, and with them came the art of the George Petty Girl, followed by the art of Alberto Vargas in January 1942. American historians and WWII publications tend to forget the early 1939, 1940, and 1941 Petty Girl pin-up images were appearing as nose art on British and American aircraft flown in England and training in Canada, two years before the attack on Pearl Harbour, 7 December 1941.
This image was taken by LAC Lloyd Carbert, ground crew RCAF No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School, Fort William, Ontario, [today named Thunder Bay].
The RCAF training school opened on 24 June 1940, and D.H. 82C, Tiger Moth serial 5028 was delivered to the base on 19 June 1940, and taken on strength. This trainer aircraft [assigned letter “A”] graduated hundreds of future pilots in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, until 16 June 1945, when it was struck off charge and sold for scrap. The March 1941, Esquire Petty girl was titled Bashful, with caption –
“No. it isn’t that I have anything else on, Mrs. Van Gilder…. but I didn’t know it was to be a come-as-you-are-party.”
This image was painted on the black nose of the RCAF yellow fuselage painted trainer with name – ‘DADDY’S CHOICE.’ The Canadian artist had talent in both lettering design and painting of the nude female, yet he has been totally forgotten by history, due to the fact he painted “Petty Girl” pin-up art on WWII aircraft. Why can’t today’s aviation museum’s display this image from the past? It was not obscene or offensive in March 1941, when it appeared in over 300,000 issues of Esquire, read in both United States and Canada.
These two George Petty prints were sent to me on 26 October 1981, by Reid Austin. They are from the Reid Austin Collection of American Graphics and show the brilliant business mind of George Petty. The original painting of “Bashful” [left] appeared as a two page ‘gate-fold’ in Esquire for March 1941. The first Varga Girl appeared in Esquire in October 1940, and George knew they were soon replacing his Petty Girl [and him] at some future point. He took this original art painting, reversed the image, painted on a pair of pink panties and created the “PETTY PANTY.” This not only made more money for George but his pin-up girl continued to be printed in magazines during the American WWII years 1942-1945. I feel the twelve Petty Girl paintings completed in 1941, were the very best of his work, and the almost full nude look made them the favorite pin-up girl and aircraft nose art painting. As America went to war, the Petty Girl painted on the nose of many aircraft joined the battle.
In September 1940, Esquire ran the first ad announcing a new “Varga Girl” would be unveiled in the October issue, and the first twelve-page Varga Girl calendar appeared in the December 1940 issue. In June 1941, the owners of Esquire introduced the first Varga Girl playing cards, which was based on the original George Petty idea. This was a direct slap in the face to George Petty, and he was not only angry, but also deeply hurt. The final Petty Girl promotion was a small book called “Book of Petty Phone Numbers” containing thirteen new unpublished girls. Maybe the Esquire owners picked the “13” girls for a special reason.
This was the very last Petty Girl gatefold to appear in the December 1941 issue of Esquire. George Petty continued to produce paintings for Old Gold cigarettes, Jantzen bathing suits and Pepsi-Cola soft drinks. In November 1941, Marjorie and Julia took a five-week vacation in Hawaii. They sailed for San Francisco on the morning of 5 December, leaving Honolulu on the ship Lurline, arriving in San Francisco on 12 December 1941. The United States had declared war on Japan, and now all of the past Petty Girl images would be painted as aircraft ‘nose art.’
The first advance parties of the American Eighth Air Force H.Q., Bomber, Fighter, and Base Commands arrived at Liverpool, England, on 11 May 1942. This was the beginning of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, which first had to adopt certain British systems and proven war procedures which involved camouflage and code letter painting of their bombers. On 1 July 1942, the first combat USAAF B-17E, 41-9085 of the 97th Bomb Group touched down at Prestwick, Scotland. Thousands of American aircraft would soon follow and the nose art on the Eight’s B-17 and B-24 bombers was famous. In 1942 and 1943, an 8th Air Force bomber crew were assigned and retained [when ever possible] their own aircraft, and it became common practice to paint their individual names near their combat station. When I interviewed the famous nose artist Tony Starcer in 1979, he recalled that crew names were the very first B-17 painting he completed at Kimbolton, England. While the bomber was U. S. government property the aircrew considered it to be ‘their plane’ and that led to a nose name or painted image. Their favourite decoration became the female form and the main inspiration came from “Esquire magazine” pin-ups, plus the many other great illustrators back in the United States.
1st. Lt. Delmire B. Brown, bombardier in B-17G, 42-3524, “Vonnie Gal” 379th Bomb Group, 527th bomb Sqn. and his bunk in a Quonset Hut at Kimbolton, England, 1944. He reads the June issue of Esquire magazine, above his head are two photos of his baby daughter, and the other wall contains five Varga pin-up girls, left to right – May 1944, September 1944, March 1944, and January 1944. The far right bottom is August 1944. The 91st B.G. had been at Kimbolton until 17 October 1942, then the 379th moved in on 20 May 1943.
The second Varga Girl appearance in Esquire – November 1940.
It is important to understand the “Varga” and “Petty Girls” were never painted nude.
It was the combat nose artist who painted the girl topless or nude. Above is the August 1944; Varga Girl in Esquire magazine, and below she is being painted topless somewhere in the Pacific.
The September 1944 Varga Pin-up Girl from Esquire, only appeared nude on aircraft.
The best American artist at each base in England was now selected to decorate the front [nose] of the bombers and many paintings were of a very high standard. The new pin-up girls painted by Alberto Vargas were the favourite and the only girl now appearing in Esquire magazine, however the lasting power of the original Petty Girl remained throughout the war. The reason for this was simple, the young American aircrew and Allies such as Canadians, had grown up with the Petty Girl pinned on their bedroom wall, beginning in 1933. The Petty Girls from 1933 to 1939 suddenly began to appear as bomber nose art in England, they had been taken to England by many American aircrews.
The most famous 8th A. F. original Flying Fortress in the world is “Memphis Belle” B-17F, 41-24485, painted by Cpl. Tony Starcer, [above in 1943] and she was the April 1941 Esquire Petty Girl. This was the third American Flying Fortress Tony painted in the 91st Bomb Group, and Starcer would paint at least 108 more, but his exact nose art total is not known. The B-17 pilot Morgan wrote to Esquire magazine asking for a pin-up to go with his girlfriend’s name, and George Petty mailed him the April 1941 gatefold which showed no face. Twenty-five missions later history had been recorded.
The most famous 8th Air Force Flying Fortress nose art in the world and the face of Marjorie Petty is not shown.
This image was taken by Dr. Harry Friedman, Board of Directors, Memphis Belle Memorial Association, Inc., during the first major restoration beginning in 1982. I had requested an image of the original Petty Girl painted by Tony Starcer in England in 1942. In a few minutes, she was removed forever. The port nose contained a blue bathing suit of the April Petty Girl.
My invitation ticket to the unveiling of Memphis Belle at Mud Island, Mississippi River, in 1987.
Today you can watch online the Kodak color combat camera film of the Memphis Belle, which also contains the nose art of Tony Starcer, all recorded on 16 mm Kodachrome film.
In 1939, George Petty was being paid $1,850 per month for each Esquire Petty Girl painting. He also had contracts for two other paintings per month and made 4 to 6 thousand every four weeks. George retained complete ownership and copyright for each of his paintings and thus he was able to resell all his original series gatefolds again and again. For some girls he just repainted over full nudes with a see-through garment and resold the painting. Millions of Petty Girls appeared on drinking glasses, and art prints sold directly from the home of the Petty family business.
These half page ads appeared in LOOK, LIFE, and other family magazines during the war, and it is very easy to see why the Petty Girl remained a major aviation ‘nose art’ subject until 1956. It is also easy to understand how George Petty became a multi-millionaire during the dirty 30s, when nobody had a job or money. The Old Gold Cigarette ad appeared in LIFE 1939, and original painting had dark blue top. It is believed Old Gold paid $800 to $900 per Petty Girl. Today this original is worth $20,000 or more.
George Petty began his revolutionary resale and repainting practice in 1937, and wisely recognized the power of the Petty Girl and her reproduction rights. This not only saved him time and made more money, it allowed him to resell the Petty Girl image to clients who could not afford an original painting. The full color page [10” by 14”] on the left appeared on the inside cover of Esquire magazine for May 1939, for which Petty received $900 from Old Gold. That issue already contained one Petty Girl pin-up which Esquire paid George $1,850 and the black and red image appeared in LIFE magazine as a half page for $500. George made $3,250 for “one-time” use of two girls and we have not counted the money he made from Pontiac, Jantzen, Gobelin Chocolates, and others in just one month. The 1939, Petty Girl was all over the place and that coming September, the world [other than the United States] went to war. Today it’s simply how one person perceives the airbrush art of George Petty and how they wish to interpret the women designed better than god, but never painted in the nude.
Today you can still find auctions of original George Petty pin-up art, however the price range is $20,000 to $50,000.
In 1941, the Kodak Company, Rochester New York, had developed a new Kodachrome 35 mm slide film, but it was expensive and not in supply for the general public due to the war effort. This new film had a very low ASA and produced a very rich dark color if not exposed properly. Col. Mark H. Brown was a 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force, Chief Photo Interpreter of the U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey and his unit was supplied with Kodachrome 35 mm slide film. Col. Brown was also an expert in the use of the 35 mm camera and how to set the correct time exposure for this new color slide film. He would walk around the airfields of the 8th Air Force in England and take images of all the operations involved with running an airfield during wartime. By May 1945, he had captured some 1,200 color images of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in England, then took them home to the United States and they were forgotten. In 1981, I was editing my own ‘nose art’ column in the newly created 8th A. F. Historical Society Journal monthly publication. Lt. Col. Brown sent me a letter asking if I would be interested in a copy of his 35 mm slide film which contained a number of B-17 and B-24 nose art images. I wanted anything connected with nose art and the original slides were mailed to the Kodak company in New York, were duplicates were made and returned to me for $2 per slide. I did not know what to expect, but now I will share some of my excitement with readers. This complete collection was donated to the 8th Air Force Historical Society when Lt. Col. Brown passed away, and I believe it can be purchased online today. I’m sure the price will be a little bit more than what I paid back in 1982.
Mark Brown captured this stunning B-17G nose art by Sergeant Jay Cowan of the 490th Bomb Group.
This glamour nose artist cleverly painted the two letters “B” as part of the female anatomy.
These four beautiful images were taken at an 8th Air Force modification base in England, July 1944. The German fighters are beginning to attack the American B-24 bombers from the side, attempting to wound or kill the pilot and co-pilot and this new pilot protective armour has just been added to the bombers. This protection covered up some of the impressive artistic impressions which would not be seen again until the war ended in May 45. By 1947, thousands of American aircraft had been chopped up and smelted along with their impressive nose art images from the soon forgotten war. The nose art illustrators returned to civilian life and while some made a very good living from art, others such as Tony Starcer never painted again until his retirement years. The Golden age of aviation nose art ladies just disappeared, and the world of photography took control.
The Daguerreotype camera was invented by Louis Daguerre in 1837, and George Eastman released the first Kodak camera in 1888. By 1935, the nude photograph was slowly replacing the artist-rendered pin-up girl and by 1960, the painted girl calendar was phased out of production. By 1965, almost all calendar publishers were using fashion and photographers for all their pin-ups. The topless photos in Playboy would soon turn to full nudes and the Internet would destroy the painted world of the pin-up forever. It was not until 1982, when I viewed the large collection from Mark Brown, I realized for the first time the 35 mm camera and Kodak color slide film had in fact saved a small selection of the 8th Air Force nose art creations from England in 1944.
Among the vast collection of slides were seven which recorded and saved in brilliant color the paintings of one very talented nose artist, Philip S. Brinkman of the 486th Bomb Group, England.
To be continued with Part Two – The Forgotten Phil Brinkman History.