Nose art is a decorative painting or design on the fuselage of a military aircraft, usually located near the nose, and is a form of aircraft graffiti.
While begun for practical reasons of identifying friendly units, the practice evolved to express the individuality often constrained by the uniformity of the military, to evoke memories of home and peacetime life, and as a kind of psychological protection against the stresses of war and the probability of death.
The practice of putting personalized decorations on fighting aircraft originated with Italian and German pilots. The first recorded piece of nose art was a sea monster painted on the nose of an Italian flying boat in 1913. This was followed by the popular practice of painting mouths underneath the propeller spinner, initiated by German pilots in World War I. The cavallino rampante (prancing horse) of the Italian ace Francesco Baracca was another well-known symbol, as was the red-painted aircraft of Manfred von Richthofen. However, nose art of this era was often conceived and produced by the aircraft ground crews, not by the pilots.
The Americans took Nose Art to a whole new level during World War II. Nose art especially appeared on B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-25 Mitchells. All bomber aircraft and many fighter aircraft had Nose Art. At the height of the war, nose-artists were in very high demand in the USAAF and were paid quite well for their services while AAF commanders tolerated nose art in an effort to boost aircrew morale. The U.S. Navy, by contrast, prohibited nose art, while nose art was uncommon in the RAF or RCAF.
Bockscar was the B-29 bomber that dropped the “Fat Man” atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan on 9 August 1945.
Drawings of very attractive women improved morale. Especially when these pilots had been away from home for months on end. Sometimes years.