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Nose Art Brings History Alive

February 11, 2016 - The Commemorative Air Force’s nose art exhibit, which opened as a temporary exhibit at the EAA AirVenture Museum in November 2015, is more than just a collection of more than 30 unique, large-scale artifacts: It’s a collection of stories and memories intertwined with history. In short, a collection of connections.

One such connection happened just the other day when a man named Jack O’Leary Jr. contacted EAA’s Museum Exhibits Coordinator Zack Baughman. As it turned out, O’Leary’s father, Jack Sr., was a crewmember on a B-17G named Target for Tonight whose nose art from the CAF collection is currently on display. Jack Sr. was a togglier—an enlisted position that was, in effect, a bombardier, but with somewhat less operational responsibility—on the airplane for the final four and a half months of World War II, under the command of pilot Griswald “Gris” Smith.

We were very fortunate that Jack Jr. was able to share some photos with us showing Target for Tonight as it looked during the war. The nose art, painted by tail gunner Eddy Saville with the assistance of crewmate Bob Garner, was originally inspired by a popular musical number at the time, “Wine, Women and Song,” but the crew decided that Target for Tonight was more appropriate.

As fascinated as we are to see and share the wartime photos of the airplane, we’re all the more humbled by the privileged opportunity we’ve had to help a son connect with such a momentous period in his father’s life. The CAF’s willingness to share this collection with EAA is so much appreciated, as it helps make connections such as this one.

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