Pinups Reappear on Air Force Jets in Modest Comeback

From Associated Press

Painting pinups on airplane nose cones, an art form that reached its zenith in World War II, is making a comeback at this Strategic Air Command base.

A KC-135 Stratotanker sports a 1940s-era calendar pinup, a looker in a midriff and a miniskirt rippling in the breeze.

Castle AFB officials say the painting is designed to instill pride in the crews that fly and maintain SAC aircraft, but some women’s rights groups say they find the pinup art form offensive.


Col. Richard Martin, commander of the 93rd Bombardment Wing at Castle, said today’s aircraft pinups are not so scantily clad as those of the 1940s. The sometimes-racy World War II pinups are “too sexist and not appropriate,” he said.

‘Don’t Want to Offend’

“We want enthusiasm, vigor and spirit, but we don’t want to offend anyone,” Martin said.

Staff Sgt. Randy Jones said he found the model for the KC-135 painting on a 1943 calendar while browsing in Sonora. The calendar art was forwarded to base officials for review and approved by the previous wing commander, he said.

From that, Staff Sgt. Ruben Rodriguez painted the aircraft’s nose cone in nine hours during a routine inspection stop.

Plane art originated during World War I when aircraft first assumed a major role in warfare. The “Hat in the Ring Squadron” was among the best-known pieces of plane art of the era and was emblazoned on the side of Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker’s fighters.

During World War II, pinups such as “Ack Ack Annie,” “Memphis Belle,” “Pistol Packing Mamma” and “Shoo Shoo Baby” were featured on warplanes and were considered a source of pride to the troops. But nose cones carried other art forms, such as “Blue Goose” and “Poop Deck Pappy.”

Sketch of Knight OKd

Martin said he has approved a sketch of a knight with a sword and shield mounted on a horse that will be painted on the nose of another Stratotanker. Jones said crews are continually looking for ways to personalize their planes, and they find nose cone art to be a perfect outlet.


“We paint the hubs but have to remove the paint when it is discovered,” Jones said. “It’s nice not to have to be sneaky.”