The Short Life of The Most Famous “Banned” US Navy WWII Nose Art
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Banned Nose Art?
During WWII, the US Army Air Force was known to be pretty tolerant of artwork for morale purposes. It also served as a visual aid to help identify planes and squadrons. However, while there are rules, there are few notable instances of the US Navy and Marine pilots putting nose art on their aircraft. The most famous is the “Cat Mouth” F6F Hellcat.
The artwork, somewhat similar to the Flying Tiger Shark mouth, featured cat eyes, and mouth with sharp fangs placed on its engine cowling.
24 F6Fs from VF-27 were stationed at USS Princeton CVL-23, with the higher-ups not having any problems with its nose art whatsoever. VF-27 would have one of the most successful light carrier tours during the war, assisting in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944.
During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the VF-27 Hellcats were able to down 36 Japanese fighters near Polilo Island. 9 out of 24 VF-27 Hellcats were up in the air that morning when a dive bomber attacked the Princeton. The Princeton was scuttled that afternoon, becoming the only light US Carrier lost during the war.
The 9 remaining Hellcats were able to land on friendly task forces, but their “non-regulation nose art” was painted over that night – as per US Navy regulations. This marked the official end of a legendary artwork design on the F6F Hellcat.