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.