National Geographic : 1948 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine what they call them, so long as they fly them and deliver the bombs." But the "high brass" was forced to take a hand in the case of Murder, Inc. A Fortress by that name was shot down over Germany. Members of the crew, captured after para chuting to earth, were found to have Murder, Inc. blazoned across the backs of their jackets. It was an inadvertent gift to the late Dr. Goebbels' propaganda machine, an opportunity to charge that a band of self-styled "mur derers" was bent upon wholesale slaughter of German citizens. A high headquarters promptly directed that in the future no airplane be given a name that could be used to the enemy's advantage. As for excessively ribald nicknames and pictures celebrating feminine pulchritude, a few half-hearted attempts were made to induce airmen to shun them in favor of more dignified decorations suitable for reproduction in home town newspapers. These efforts generally came to naught, possibly because more press ing matters demanded attention. Names were usually chosen by vote of offi cers and men in accordance with the demo cratic system under which bomber crews lived and fought. But sometimes the naming was done with happy-go-lucky informality. For instance, a pilot might wake to discover his plane named in honor of the crew chief's best girl, with her picture in four colors on the nose-and might just let it stand. Fighters, reconnaissance planes, and trans ports, too, gloried in nicknames, and the custom prevailed in all theaters of war. Regional pride was reflected by planes la beled Texas Tornado, Arkansas Traveler, Brooklyn, Connecticut Yankee, Idaho Potato Peeler, Maryland, My Maryland, and dozens of others. Comic strips, favorite literature of the GI's, inspired many decorative motifs. One For tress squadron named its bombers in honor of L'il Abner, Daisy Mae, Moonbeam McSwine, and the other citizens of mythical Dogpatch. There were many Sad Sacks, tributes to the popularity of the harassed little soldier who suffered his weekly humiliation in Sgt. George Baker's Yank cartoons. Likenesses of Sgt. Bill Mauldin's cartoon characters, "Willie" and "Joe," also became airplane adornments. A medium-bombard ment outfit based on Corsica called itself the "Dogface Squadron" because the commanding officer had been a "dogface," or infantryman. Mauldin executed a special series of "Willie" and "Joe" drawings for the unit's B-25's. There were dozens of planes named Snafu, a GI expression which has passed into the American language. One of these, a B-17, later was rechristened We the People. In more than thirty missions from its English base, it never carried exactly the same crew twice, and no crewman was ever wounded. One B-26, Idiot's Delight II, after smashing targets in France just prior to D-Day, was badly shot up by a swarm of Focke-Wulf 190's. The pilot, Flight Officer Frank M. Remmele, polled his crew on the interphone-and they voted to stay with the ship. By skillful manipulation of his remaining controls, Rem mele landed safely at an emergency field. Other Marauders which piled up scores of missions, often coming home full of holes, were Incendiary Mary, Frisco Kid, Missouri Mule, I Idalizya, Cornfed Commando, Shu Shu Baby, Satan's Sister, Impatient Virgin, L'il Po'kchop, Lady Halitosis, Sixovus, Nude Prude, Mild & Bitter, Bossy Lassie, Flak Bait, and Pappy's Pram. "No-Name" Tribute to Individualism A B-17 became known as No-Name. Its crew was composed of ten rugged individual ists. Each had a name he wanted to paint on the Fort's nose. None would give in. Delta Rebel, with a goateed colonel painted on its nose and a crew of men from the Deep South, fought the first rounds of the air war in 1942. Delta Rebel II carried on into 1943, until her pilot, George Birdsong, went home to Mississippi. Veteran crews refused to take over the ship. "George used up all her luck," they said. A crew newly arrived from the States took the Rebel on their first mission and "parachutes were seen to open." One of the most indestructible bombers was the B-17 Hell's Angels. It wore out six teen engines, five sets of brakes, three landing gears, countless tires, superchargers and oil cooling systems. Hell's Angels outlasted two combat crews, but came home for a morale tour with its original ground crew of six ser geants, four of whom had painted girls' names on the engine cowlings. As the war in Europe drew to a close, in ventiveness declined and more nameless planes appeared, their metal shining and bare of camouflage paint. One new bomber arrived in Italy with the legend Eat at Joe's on its nose-a sort of tired comment on the whole practice of nicknaming airplanes. After V-E Day, the Air Force units in Europe began packing for redeployment to the Pacific. Their plans-and the world's future-were changed when atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki from a couple of Twentieth Air Force Superfortresses named Enola Gay and The Great Artiste.