Morale: Bringing Back Nose Art



November 29, 2006: Two retired U.S. Air Force sergeants (Glenn Parker and T.P. Westbrook) are trying to revive the lost custom of affixing "nose art" to warplanes. From World War II, through the 1950s, U.S. combat aircraft often had customized, and unofficial, cartoons or insignia painted on the front portion of their aircraft. The illustrations were usually created by someone on the ground crew, and personalized the aircraft for the crew. It boosted morale. But in the mid-1950s, air force commanders decreed that the nose art was "unprofessional," and by the 1970s most of it was gone. It managed to survive in some reserve units, but was forbidden for active duty aircraft. The air force says the official reasons for the policy has to do with security and "sanitation." Basically, it's become part of the air force traditions not to have nose art. So the two retired sergeants have enlisted the help of two professional artists (Mickey Harris and Dru Blair), both with backgrounds in painting on metal and depicting aircraft. Some senior air force commanders are favorably disposed towards nose art, and the air force is keen to boost morale, now that the air force is going through a period of personnel retrenchment (cutting 40,000 people) and tight budgets. Allowing nose art would not cost anything, as it would be voluntary, and up to units to find artists and materials for creating it. But like bureaucracies everywhere, changing something like this can be difficult.


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