Naval Aviators Graffiti Jet Fighter After Pilot Lands On the Wrong Aircraft Carrier

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

If you look at photographs captured during the mid-20th century, odds are you’ll come across some that feature US Navy aircraft covered in graffiti. The majority of the phrases and tags are rather tame, while others are more risqué and inflammatory. You might assume these acts of vandalism were the work of enemy forces, but they were actually painted by American naval aviators who wanted to make light of a pilot accidentally landing their aircraft on the wrong vessel.

During the 1950s and ’60s, radar and GPS technology were still in their infancy, meaning it wasn’t uncommon for naval aviators to become turned around or lost, resulting in them landing on the wrong aircraft carrier. Innocent as their errors may have been, crewmen liked to pick on these pilots by covering their jets with graffiti, so they wouldn’t soon forget their mistakes.

As a 2018 tweet from the US Naval Institute explains, “Navy [tradition] holds that pilots who make a navigational error and land on the wrong carrier get mocked by the crew who ‘decorate’ the plane with graffiti. Adding @USAirForce markings is the ultimate insult to an already embarrassed naval aviator.”

The above photo is a prime example of this. Captured in 1952, it features a graffiti-covered US Navy McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee with Fighter Squadron 62 (VF-62). It’s parked on the flight deck of the USS Wasp (CV-18). The aircraft carrier, however, wasn’t the jet fighter’s assigned ship, which is why Wasp‘s crew tagged it with graffiti.

Among the comments painted on the F2H-2 include “Must be Air Force,” “VF-62 Guard Mail Original Coral Sea First,” “From Heaven to Coral Sea via Stinger,” “You name it – you land on it,” “Fouled up” and “Airman Adams reporting sir.”

VF-62 – known as the “Gladiators” – was operational between 1955-62. When this was taken, it was stationed aboard the USS Coral Sea (CVB-43) with Carrier Air Group 4 (CVG-4), which was taking part in a six-month deployment in the Mediterranean.

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While the practice is still around today, graffitiing US Navy aircraft occurs only on the rarest of occasions, given advancements in technology mean landing on the wrong vessel seldom happens anymore.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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