Morehead State University

Poster Title

Individuality and the Military Construct: Nose Art in a World of Order

Institution

Morehead State University

Abstract

Military fighter planes are not thought of as an art form, yet from the very beginning of aeronautic flight planes have been customized to showcase the personality of the pilot. During World War II, the “Golden Age” of nose art, the United States, Germany and Britain allowed their pilots to embellish their pieces of military equipment with images expressing their personal tastes, from pin-up girls to cartoon characters. One common theory was that it boosted moral at a time of high pilot casualty rates. Investigation shows that not every branch of the military permitted such disregard for regulations, however. For example, though Navy casualties were on par with those in the European theater, they did not allow nose art. This raises questions as to why only certain branches of the military have allowed such art forms, and how the images have adjusted to changes in society, the military, and technology over time (such as the move to gender neutral imagery as women took on a more prominent role in the military). Creating ways to channel one’s creativity and express individuality within the confines of the military structure could have important contemporary applications, such as decreasing the shockingly high suicide rate among enlisted men and women, as well as helping those suffering from disorders such as PTSD.

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Individuality and the Military Construct: Nose Art in a World of Order

Military fighter planes are not thought of as an art form, yet from the very beginning of aeronautic flight planes have been customized to showcase the personality of the pilot. During World War II, the “Golden Age” of nose art, the United States, Germany and Britain allowed their pilots to embellish their pieces of military equipment with images expressing their personal tastes, from pin-up girls to cartoon characters. One common theory was that it boosted moral at a time of high pilot casualty rates. Investigation shows that not every branch of the military permitted such disregard for regulations, however. For example, though Navy casualties were on par with those in the European theater, they did not allow nose art. This raises questions as to why only certain branches of the military have allowed such art forms, and how the images have adjusted to changes in society, the military, and technology over time (such as the move to gender neutral imagery as women took on a more prominent role in the military). Creating ways to channel one’s creativity and express individuality within the confines of the military structure could have important contemporary applications, such as decreasing the shockingly high suicide rate among enlisted men and women, as well as helping those suffering from disorders such as PTSD.