SEXY sirens of the sky are flying high again as the stars of a new Second World War documentary by local filmmaker Gail Downey. Pin-ups such as Blondie, Miss Dallas and Our Gal Sal kept the spirits of American servicemen up while they were stationed in Britain. Commercial artist Don Allen was in demand to decorate the fighter planes and bombers and was often asked to paint nudes – but his Eagle Scout background meant he felt he had to keep the “necessary parts” covered up.
Nuneaton filmmaker Gail, who runs Coventry-based Whirlwind Productions, has spent the past four years making documentary special Nose Art And Pin-Ups, which tells the stories behind the painted beauties, humorous images of animals and cartoon characters that decorated the planes. The film is being released to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) bombing offensives against Germany in the Second World War, and Gail has been invited to show thedocumentary in America next month.
She used her own money to travel to the USA to meet war veterans and interview and artist Don Allen.
He was a crew chief at the American base at Debden in Essex – home of the “Mighty Eighth” – and painted more than 100 aircraft. Blondie was his last painting before he returned home to America. Gail said: “These were young men, thousands of miles from home, who faced death every day and they told me the artwork personalised their aircraft and gave them something ‘to pat’ before and after every mission. “It was also much easier to talk about Our Gal Sal or Turnip Termite than plane number 123. People remember names, not numbers.”
Of all the bombers that went out to fight in the war, only one in seven returned.
Gail said: “Servicemen distanced themselves from one another for fear that a potential friend could be taken away from them.”
Dog lover Lt Ralph Kidd Hofer was also among those who perished. He used to fly low over the airbase and then duck down so it would look as though his painted dog was flying. Gail has been invited by the Eighth Air Force HistoricalSociety to a reunion of veterans in Texas next month to show the film.
She said: “It has taken four years in total to make and I did itbecause I wanted to keep these stories alive.”
Nose Art And Pin-Ups is being shown in select cinemas throughout the UK and is available via www.noseartfilms.co.uk. It is also on sale from Amazon UK and eBay, as well as a several museum shops.