WWII Aircraft Nose Art: 20th Air Force, Guam – Color Photographs by Dr. Eugene M. Gillum

March 10, 2012 - May 06, 2012
The practice of painting “nose art” on airplanes was well established in the First World War.  By WW II, a plane that had not been named and painted by her crew was the exception to the rule–usually as a result of a disagreement over what the name should be.

These color photographs were taken by Sgt. Eugene M. Gillum and his buddy, Sgt. Bob Dutcher, on Northwest Field, Guam, September 1, 1945. World War II was all but over; the peace treaty would be signed the next day. The duo borrowed a Jeep and headed to the flight lines with a single roll of color slide film Gillum had brought with him from the States. They were mechanics with the 356th Squadron, 331st Bomb Group, 315th Bomb Wing of the 20th Air Force. Their self-assigned mission was to take as many nose art pictures as they could.

Two weeks after these photos were taken, the paintings were ordered removed. The chaplain had complained that the images conveyed bad morals. These depictions may be the only color photographs of these planes in existence. To add further context to these color prints, also included in the exhibition are black and white images from the archives of the 315th Bomb Wing Association. The archives of the 315th are held in trust at the Museum of the Soldier in Portland, Indiana.

For more information about the 315th Bomb Wing and their role in the twist of fate that prevented a coup on the Japanese Emperor and hastened the end of WW II, read the book, The Last Mission: The Secret History of World War II’s Final Battleby Jim Smith and Malcolm McConnell.

WWII Nose Art is a collaboration with the Museum of the Soldier, Portland, IN and the 315th Bomb Wing Association.