When I was growing up my favorite airplane was the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. I don't know if it was because it was bristling with turrets and guns, but the plane captured my imagination. The TV show "Twelve O'Clock High," based on the outstanding movie of the same name, probably helped foster that enthusiasm as I watched it religiously.
That period of youthful romanticizing of aerial exploits was soon replaced by the hard realization of the horrors of war at 30,000 feet in freezing temperatures, black flak and deadly fighters. The documentary "The World at War," with its shocking German gun camera footage of our planes and men being shot down forever changed my perception of war. It's easy to score kills against machines; it's harder when you figure out people are inside them, no matter how necessary it seems at the time. But, as Robert E. Lee once said, "it is good war is so terrible, lest we become too fond of it."
Despite that, aircraft of all types, but especially warplanes, exert a pull on me that I can't explain. They have been a vocation and an avocation my whole life and I'm pleased and proud to be a part of the industry, despite it's flaws and shortcomings.
The bottom line for me has always been the machines. The B-17 remains a favorite, though not my absolute favorite anymore, to this day. This example, a B-17G in it's gleaming, polished natural metal finish, sports a wonderful piece of nose art of the legendary Betty Grable - she of the million dollar legs.
Nose art was especially prevalent among American aircrews and one could spend a lifetime collection images of that genre. Young men being what they are, women in various stages of dress and undress are well represented.
Peacetime nose art is less risque as the generals exert more influence over their commands and try to contain the excesses of youthful exuberance so as not to embarrass the service. But when in a war zone, all checks are usually removed as it is seen as a morale booster for the guys putting their lives on the line. With the advent of female combat pilots and crews, I'm waiting to see if beefcake joins cheesecake on the nose of warplanes. I'm not aware of any so far, but it's only fair and probably only a matter of time. C'est la guerre.
I shot "Sentimental Journey" last October at the 2009 Edwards AFB open house.
"Salt River Cliffs" ©
1 year ago