One of the larger and more flamboyant squadron nose art designs was carried by the “Parrot Hawks” of the 502 nd Fighter Squadron / 337th Fighter Group. This was a training squadron which was equipped with P-40N’s. This aircraft appears to be missing some paint due to an over-zealous effort to remove exhaust stains from the fuselage.
The Parrot Hawks were based at Napier Field, Alabama in late 1943. This flight line shows the markings in all their glory, although the fifth aircraft has not had the artwork applied yet.
The “Bushmasters” of the 78 th Fighter Squadron / 15 th Fighter Group operated their P-40K’s from the Hawaiian Islands and Midway in 1943. They carried a large snake head on the noses of their aircraft. An interesting if somewhat obscure marking.
The “Burma Banshees” of the 89 th Fighter Squadron / 80 th Fighter Group featured large skulls on their P-40N’s. Here Lt Philip Adair poses in front of his aircraft, named “Lulu Belle”.
A line up of Banshee aircraft at Assam, India in 1944. Each skull was unique, many featured fangs or dripping blood. Note the variations in the application of the tail numbers.
With the help of a small monkey, the first two victory flags are applied to the fuselage of the P-40K of Major “Big Ed” Nollmeyer. Nollmeyer was the Commanding Officer of the 26th Fighter Squadron, part of the 51st Fighter Group. Note the modified paint on the rudder.
Another view of the same scene showing details of the fuselage side. This is P-40K serial number 42-9766. It has proved confusing to some profile artists as the markings evolved over time. These pictures show the aircraft before many of the ultimate markings were added.
At this point the aircraft carries two yellow fuselage bands with a third at the nose and red outlined national insignia, which were only officially authorized for a few months in the summer of 1943.
A good profile view showing that several additional markings have been added to Major Nollmeyer’s aircraft. The aircraft displays five victory markings, numbers four and five being claimed on 22 December 43. The nose now displays a shark’s mouth with the squadron insignia inside and Big Ed’s personal Bugs Bunny emblem aft of the cockpit. The vertical tail and carburetor air scoop have received fresh paint (likely Olive Drab) and the national insignia are now outlined in a blue border.
The P-40K of Lt Robert “Jay” Overcash displays an interesting collection of markings. Under the engine exhausts are the dot-dot-dot-dash representing the Morse letter V for Victory, below that is the Black Scorpion marking of the 64 th Fighter Squadron / 57 th Fighter Group. Under the cockpit are Overcash’s five victory markings, other personal markings include the skull and the “Savoy” fez on the tail. The red spinner and RAF fin flash were introduced by the RAF and adopted by the Americans as Desert Air Force theater markings. Note that the aircraft’s original Olive Drab color has been painted over with a more appropriate Sand as evidenced by the background to the serial number on the tail and stenciling visible under the cockpit. (LIFE Magazine photograph)
Part I here: