WWII War Paint: How Bomber-Jacket Art Emboldened Our Boys

As we reflect on the significance of Pearl Harbor Day, we can learn more about one of the iconic artistic relics of World War II: the decorated leather bomber jacket. The Army Air Corps was filled with new pilots, some just teenagers, who dressed up those jackets with mission counts, cartoon characters, caricatures, and sometimes nudes.

“I’ve talked to people who, when they got back from the war, hung their jacket up in the closet because they wouldn’t dare ever wear it in public again,” says John Conway, co-author of Schiffer Books’ American Flight Jackets and Art of the Flight Jacket. “When you’re a teenager and you’re 3,000 miles from home, having a naked lady painted on the back of your jacket is not that big a deal. But you wouldn’t want your mom to see it.”

You might think the concept of personalization would be frowned on in the U.S. military. After all, aren’t soldiers stripped of their identities in boot camp, where they dress in uniform, fall in line, follow orders, and work as a cohesive unit? Conway’s co-author Jon Maguire says American soldiers have always held on to their individuality in some way.

Read how the jacket art came about, how it evolved, what the brass thought of it, and read some individual stories of America's flying warriors -plus see lots of jacket art at Collector's Weekly. Link

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