Valent's Vintage Aircraft Nose Art Book Depicts an Important Part of Warbird Culture

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Congratulations to Leigh C. - winner of this book. Watch this blog for the next one - dan

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

If you've walked the Warbird area at EAA's annual convention in Oshkosh, you no doubt have seen the colorful and often quite sexy nose art that was a required part of nearly all bombers and fighters during World War II and the Korean War. When faced with the daily possibility of never coming back alive, flying into battle with a gorgeous woman painted on your airplane must have made these courageous pilots feel like they had a reason to make it back to the airfield in one piece.

In Vintage Aircraft Nose Art, a big, beautiful book by author Gary M. Valent (Zenith Press, 208 pages) takes the reader through the entire story of why nose art was used on these WWII aircraft, in a large book measuring 10.5" wide x 12" high, full of extremely well-optimized color photos of not only the nose art depicting females, but also many other types of nose art. The book is well-researched, and is almost entirely photos, providing nose art aficionados with hours of entertainment.

Here's Valent's preface:

It’s mid—winter 1943, you’re twenty years old, it’s 04:30 in the morning, it’s raining, it’s cold. You’ve got a slight hangover, and you’re walking in mud (there’s always mud).

You’re wearing a fur-lined flying suit, because where you’re going, it’s thirty degrees below zero. You’ve got an oxygen mask, because where you’re going it’s hard to breathe. You’re carrying a map, because at 25,000 feet there are no signs. Prior to December 7, 1941, your main goal in life was to get a car and marry Ginger Rogers, but now it’s just to stay alive another day, because you’re a crewman on a B—17, and where you’re going, people are going to die.

But not you, not your plane, not your crew, because you’re special, and the special people always come back. They don’t blow up in the sky, or go in at 400 miles per hour, one wing gone, no chutes, on fire—not the special ones; they always come back.

So we need a special name for our plane— and a special picture on it. Maybe a picture of Betty Grable, or one of those Vargas girls from Esquire. And we’ll name it something like “Sack Time,” "Mister Completely” or "Target For Tonight.” But it has to be special, and when it’s finished, it will be ready - Ready for Duty.

Open any page and you will see it full of color or black and white photos showing some of the nose art you recognize, such as the B-17s, Sentimental Journey, Grim Reaper, Memphis Belle and Heavenly Body, and even one of my personal favorites, Ice Cold Katy. Many pages show great nose art from such B-29s as South Sea Sinner, No Sweat, Beat Up Bastard (BUB), and Bockscar.

What is so great about this book is that if you love vintage nose art, you will discover many that you did not know exist. Valent did a great job of uncovering plenty of obscure designs, with every image captioned with information on the airplane, the action it saw, and if it is still on display or flying somewhere.

If you would like to win a free copy of this excellent book and have the publisher send directly to you, answer the question below and I will pick the winner with the most thoughtful answer on Friday, February 10. If you just cannot wait and want to be sure to get a copy, the best prices are found on Amazon.

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