World War II Pinup Nose Art

This is my fourth post for the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge. Hopefully nobody is offended but its a historical reflection of attitudes regarding wartime nose art about 70 years ago.

Thanks to Terri at Perspectives On… for nominating me for this challenge. I had been planning to try some photo challenge blogging events recently, but hadn’t quite to started yet so this little nudge helps.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I have received responses for all my challenge invitations. Julia at Julia’s Odyssey accepted my challenge in my Day One post on Lake Texas Water Levels. My Day Two challenge to Elizabeth at Tea and Paper in my post on SXSW @ The Dogwood was also accepted. Yesterday, Kay at Sky Blue Daze responded to my invitation in my post on Becker Vineyards – Feb; she indicated her participation would be later since she’s going on vacation where there is no internet for blogging access.

Hal Olsen

Hal Olsen is the last living World War II Nose Artist who now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is my wife’s first cousin once removed – the son of her maternal grandfather’s brother (or her mother’s uncle’s son). He was a U.S. Navy aviation mechanic for autopilots who also worked at Los Alamos National Lab as an artist for official bomb designs.

He painted over 100 nose art pin-up ladies on various planes in the Pacific Theater of Operations during his stint with the US Navy during World War II on Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean, now a U.S. territorial commonwealth. He charged $50 per painting and it because so popular that he made enough money for a honeymoon when he got married as well as paying for art school. He was doing about two a day during the period from June – August 1945 (right around the time that I was born).

His nose art was painted on over 100 PB4Y-1 (Navy version of B-24) and B-29 Superfortress bombers while stationed on Tinian island, and appeared in the first color issue of the National Geographic magazine. Some of his most famous paintings were on the Enola Gay and Bochscar, which were the B-29 bombers involved in the atomic bomb drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 which ended the war six days later after the Japanese surrendered. The final painting he made was Enola Gay because the Air Force “wanted her done right”. He had also painted a B-29 bomber named “Up-an-Atom” that became the title of his book.

Up an’ Atom

Up an' Atom by Hal_Olsen - Amazon book cover

My oldest son wanted Hal’s book “Up an’ Atom” (2012) for Christmas. It’s an autobiography which covers the golden age of nose art in World War. We had Hal autograph it for him. There was no color film at that time, so photos were black and white. However, the fifteen best photos were recreated on canvas for the book. Although he painted most of the women in the nude, he requested that they be modified and clothed for inclusion in the book. The originals can be seen in their original state at the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Airpower Museum in Midland, Texas.

You can find his Up an’ Atom book at the Amazon web  site.

Portraits of War

The Portraits of War Wordpress blog shows several autographed photos that Hal sent to Brennan Gauthier for his WWII Nose Art – Hal Olsen, the Last Living WWII Nose Artist post , including Lady Luck II, Green Cherries, Accentuate the Positive, and Gear Down.

Also, there is an interesting picture of him painting one of the planes as well as brief description in the index of nose artists at the US Army Air Force (USAAF) Nose Art Research Project web site.

Commemorative Air Force

The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) was founded to acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft which were flown by all military services of the United States, and selected aircraft of other nations, for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans. More than just a collection of airworthy warplanes from the past, the CAF’s fleet of historic aircraft, known as the CAF Ghost Squadron, recreate, remind and reinforce the lessons learned from the defining moments in American military aviation history. It now contains over 160 aircraft.

CAF Airpower Museum

The CAF Airpower Museum, formerly American Airpower Heritage Museum, at the Commemorative Air Force headquarters is located at 9600 Wright Drive in Midland, Texas. Besides restoring and preserving World War II-era combat airplanes, it’s preserving the complete history of World War II military aviation and the memory of the men and women who built, serviced and flew the historic military aircraft of World War II. It is recognized for its collection of authentic World War II artifacts and memorabilia including uniforms of Allied and Axis countries, armament, photographs, weapons, and equipment. It is affiliated with the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.

Its exhibits tell the complete story of World War II military aviation from the prelude of World War II to the Atomic Bomb. They focus on the war in the Pacific, strategic bombing, D-Day and the atomic age, and include the American Combat Airman Hall of Fame, 507th Fighter Group gallery, and Nose Art Gallery.

Here’s a very brief video overview of the CAF Airpower Museum.

“CAF Airpower Museum – Overview” – 1 min 48 sec


Nose Art Gallery

Designated by the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation as an official project of Save America’s Treasures, the unique one-of-a-kind Aviation Nose Art Gallery collection is the world’s largest. It includes 34 very rare original Nose Art panels that represent the artistic expressions of young men at war. The panels were cut from fuselages of World War II aircraft as they were being scrapped after the war.

Easy Maid is easily one of the most recognizable pieces in the collection and was painted by the world’s last living nose art artist, Hal Olsen.

Hear Hal’s story of how and why he painted this and many other Nose Art images during World War II.

CAF Airpower Museum – Hal Olsen (2013) – 2 min 29 sec


Easy Maid

Nose Art - Easy Maid

The Save the Girls project web site was established to preserve, restore, and display the world’s largest collection of World War II aircraft nose art.

Hal’s Easy Maid image on a PB4Y-1 Navy bomber is included in the Nose Art Gallery. Click on the thumbnail for background information or the larger image.

He’a a very nice, talented guy, and I wanted to share his unique story. We have several watercolor paintings hanging on walls in our house that he graciously gave us (not nose art nudes, but landscape and beach scenes). I hope you found this interesting and liked the photos and information about nose art.

The Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge rules require you to post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or simply a short paragraph – it’s entirely up to you.

Then each day, nominate another blogger to carry on this challenge. Accepting the challenge is entirely up to the person nominated, it is not a command. And actually everyone can join in. So feel free to if you like the idea.

I would like to invite Sandi at Sappy as a Tree to join the party. I have known her since Blogging 101 and Photography 101, and she has been a frequent commenter on my blog. I’ve enjoyed following her blog, and she follows me as well. Although not as active, I thought she might be a good candidate to join this challenge anyway. As mentioned before, it is totally up to you to accept this challenge.

6 thoughts on “World War II Pinup Nose Art

  1. This was a fascinating post, Doug, and how interesting that your wife has a family connection to Hal. Thanks for the nomination 🙂 Maybe it is the jolt that I need to get me back into blogging?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Finding Words for Spring | sappy as a tree: celebrating beauty in creation

  3. Great story about my Dad, Hal Olsen. So interesting to hear about relatives I did not know I have. He turned 95 last month we had a great Birthday Party. He is in Wikipedia as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you liked it. Christine Dunlop is my wife. My mom is 95 also. She’s had Alzheimer’s for over 10 years now, and we just moved her from assisted living memory care into a nursing home yesterday


  4. Doug, I just found you article – the last posting was in 2016, and your posting said Hal had just turned 95. I dearly wish I had found it a few years earlier. My father was a crew member on a 3rd Photo Recon B-29. My brother and I have been researching his aircraft (Quan Yin Cha Ara) and I was fortunate enough to track down the pilot and navigator a few years ago and was able to talk with them (they are both passed now). However, the navigator was the one who came up with the nose art for the Quan and he was able to describe the color scheme in detail. I had a local artist paint it and made a framed copy with the Quan and crew for my brother, the pilot and navigator. Would dearly loved to have found out if Hal had painted the nose art for the Quan. I live in Santa Fe and if you might have come across any reference to the Quan I would really appreciate if you would be kind enough to contact me. Regards, Dick Kimberley,


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