We love our Michigan history here at MGoBlog and this gem featured by the Alumni Association is especially cool.
It’s a curiosity: a B-24 Liberator bomber named “Michigan” with a picture of Michigan Stadium painted on its nose (along with a cheesecake photo of a leggy woman wearing a garrison cap). The Yankee Air Museum in Belleville, Michigan, has a research project under way to learn about the bomber. The museum knows the following:
- Type/Model: B-24J-161-CO Tail number: 44-40429
- Built by: Consolidated Aviation
- Built at: Consolidated plant in San Diego, California
- Maiden flight: March 31, 1944
- Delivery date: April 4, 1944
- Assigned to: 5th Army Air Force, 43rd Bombardment Group (Ie Shima), 64th Bomb Squadron (Clark Field, Luzon, Philippines)
- Nose art artist: S/Sgt. Sarkis E. Bartigian (usually misspelled as Bartigan)
The Yankee Air Museum is seeking information from anyone who might know something about the backstory of this aircraft and how it came to feature this Michigan Stadium scene. If you unearth something, email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will share it with the museum.
After some basic Google-sleuthing, it turns out that S/Sgt Bartigian was an especially famous nose art artist. He was from Massachusets, so he's not the link. Here's a representation of one of his most famous works, "The Dragon and His Tail". It is glorious. The painting is "Milk Run to Kyushu" by Jack Fellows.
...described by some as the "greatest painter of nose art of all time" and by others as "the Michelangelo of WWII aviation art.". His imagination and skill with paint was certainly exceptional and he was perhaps unique in seeing the side, indeed the whole, of a B24 as his potential "canvas." Working during the closing months of the war and in the isolation of the vast Pacific Ocean enabled his imagination to run wild. His creations stretched the entire length of the aircraft in some cases, from nose turret to tail gunner's position. They were enormous works of art which would have stretched any artist working under ideal conditions let alone the windy, sand-strewn wastes of the barren airfield on Ie Shima. It is reputed that his amazing "Dragon and His Tail" was the last B24 to be scrapped at the reclamation plant -- the workers there could hardly bear to chop her up and hoped, right up to the final minutes, that a buyer could be found to save her...
"The Dragon" was indeed scrapped, but the artwork has been reproduced on a B-24J. See this link for more including photos of the reproduction and a photo of the original as it sat in the boneyard prior to being broken up for scrap.