Having discussed the art work adorning these wonderful war birds and the history and meanings behind them, I would now like to highlight one of the great, though often overlooked, war-time artists.
Cpl Al G Mirkling of the 20th Combat Mapping Squadron, Nadzab, New Guinea was born in Philidelphia and whilst working his way through school he paid his way by sketching tourists on the boardwalk of Atlantic City.
On one such occasion he sketched a gentleman who turned out to be toy manufacturer Spencer Embree. Embree, being so impressed with Merklings work went on to offer him a job as an illustrator and later as a toy designer.
In 1942 Merkling was drafted and assigned as a lab technician but hated the long hours working in the dark room. To keep himself amused he continued working on his fast paced sketches around the base and this talent did not go unnoticed by his contemporaries. Unsurprisingly he was soon put to work designing and painting artwork on the units special camera equipped B24’S which were used for photo mapping.
His first large art work was Lt John Wooten’s “Patched up Piece”, the name being given as she had required work before ever seeing any action. Many others followed and his exceptional art work could be seen embellishing at least a dozen B-24’s along with an A-20 and a two C-47’s.
One can imagine the difficult tasks considering the Pacific locations he was posted to. The temperatures could bake on the paint as quickly as Merkling could apply it. You can almost picture it sizzling in the heat as his brush touched the almost burning hot aluminium of the fuselage.
Merkling used his vivid imagination to construct his designs rather than the pin-ups often favoured by other nose artists as reference material.
In memory of brave talent…
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