As with everything, the true life habit of adorning ones aircraft with artistic and often sexual or humorous paint jobs and names has been depicted many times over in the media. From films such as ‘Memphis Belle’ to literature including ‘Path of the Fury’ by David Weber. Directors and writers alike have often realised that no war or aviation film is complete with out some example of the iconic art.
There is a brilliant line in ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979, Directed by Francis Ford Coppola) where nose art and people’s views on it is discussed briefly
Kurtz (Marlon Brando) : ”We train young men to drop fire on people. But their commanders wont allow them to write ‘fuck’ on their airplanes because its obscene!” .
In a previous scene we see Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall) flew into battle in a Huey with the epitaph “Death from Above” painted on its nose. The Huey’s also have the crossed sabre insignia on their noses which the real life unit is known to do. This name has become synonymous with the film, often seen adorning t-shirts.
In ‘Memphis Belle’ (1990, Directed by Michael Carton-Jones), the Belle and all the other bombers have nose art, with the bombers call signs being derived from the art, such as C-Cup. Although the Belle portrayed in the movie is a converted B-17G the actual aircraft is an F model. The artwork produced by Warner Bro’s is not actually accurate, this was intentional as it allowed them to avoid any legal concerns over duplicating the earlier scheme.
The actual ‘Memphis Belle’ ‘Sally B’ at Duxford photograph from http://www.davidtomlinsonphotos.com
As you can see from the film poster for Memphis Belle the art work has changed sides so as not to fully copy the original.
In ‘Path of the Fury’ by David Weber the protagonist has a full on military assault shuttle although posing as a free trader, which of course they can not justify, so use a garish paint job as camouflage. As the author describes here: ”Giolitti winced as he took in the garish crimson and black hull. Some unknown artist had painted staring white eyes on either side of the stiletto prow, jagged-toothed mouths gaped hungrily above the muzzles of energy and projectile cannons and lovingly detailed streamers of lurid flame twined about the engine pods”