The thought police over at DoD are at it again…
WASHINGTON, DC, June 20, 2013/Dayton Herald-Post/ She survived 25 bombing missions in Europe in World War II, shot down eight Nazi aircraft, earned the stateside mission of touring the U.S. with her flight crew promoting war bonds and inspired the making of two major motion pictures. The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress nicknamed Memphis Belle is perhaps the most recognizable historical military aircraft in the world. Her fame is due not only to her combat accomplishments, but also to her iconic “nose art” depicting a curvaceous Belle in a tight-fitting swimsuit and heels.
For some, the vintage art arouses a range of emotions from pride in the flyboys who waged war over the skies of Europe and the Pacific to general nostalgia for a bygone era known for its big bands and the “greatest generation.” But for others, the “cheesecake” on the side of an American military aircraft, even one that is no longer in service, is a painful reminder of a patriarchal and misogynistic tradition that still exists in today’s armed services. In a turn of events that surprised veteran Pentagon reporters, the Department of Defense has apparently sided with those that hold the latter opinion.
So, like jeeps, c-rations and the prohibition on women in combat, the zaftig Belle and her swimsuit, will soon be a distant memory. Reaffirming DoD’s commitment to addressing sexual harassment and assault in the military, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Richard Stilton announced today that the famous, but offending, artwork will be removed from the nose of the aircraft. “While the Department of Defense honors the proud heritage of Memphis Belle and her brave crew,” said Stilton, “we feel that the art on the foreword fuselage is demeaning to the 200,000 plus women serving honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces and contravenes current DoD policy regarding sexual harassment.”
The most famous of the United States Air Force bombers in Europe, Memphis Belle was named for pilot Robert Morgan’s girlfriend, Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee and the image is based on a pinup drawing from Esquire magazine’s April 1941 issue. After the war, the aircraft was saved from reclamation by the city of Memphis for a mere $350, and was then parked outside the Tennessee National Guard armory well into the 1980s. Slowly deteriorating from the weather, souvenir hunters, scavengers and vandals, Belle was eventually donated back to the Air Force. The aircraft is currently undergoing extensive restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.
As part of the restoration process, the swimsuit pinup images will be carefully removed by technicians using the slowest and safest chemical solvents, including Methyl-Pyrrolidone, which dissolve paint from the top layer down. The technicians will not touch the other painted images, including the 25 bombs (one for each mission), eight swastikas (one for each German aircraft shot down by the plane’s crew) and the crew names stenciled below station windows.
Memphis Belle is only one of many existing WWII aircraft depicting voluptuous women in various states of undress, but most are privately owned and beyond the reach of the DoD. In addition to Memphis Belle the National Museum of the United States Air Force holds Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby, also a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress. This aircraft’s artwork includes the backside of a topless woman in half a swimsuit, which is scheduled for removal after work on Belle is completed.
OK, enough. Yes, I made up this story. But tell the truth, you believed it for awhile, didn’t you?