Pin-up Girls Helped Win WWII

America’s entrance into WWII triggered the golden age of WWII Pin-ups — pictures of smiling women in a range of clothing-challenged situations.  The racy photos adorned lonely servicemen’s lockers, the walls of barracks, and even the sides of planes.  For the first time in its history, the U.S. military unofficially sanctioned this kind of art: pin-up pictures, magazines and calendars were shipped and distributed among the troops, often at government expense.

No history of any military unit would be complete without some info on its favorite pin-ups.  Keep in mind that in the days prior to women being in every military unit, soldiers would be in the field or in combat for months on end, or years as in WWII, without seeing or hearing a female voice.

Although a little revealing at times, pin-ups were not what you would recall pornography.  No one knows for sure when this trend began, but it is known that Napoleon’s soldiers carried pin-ups with them.

Usually pin-ups were wholesome American girls – movie stars, singers, dancers or just well-known celebrities, but occasionally, some of them were a bit on the “wild side”.  Some pin-ups were not real women at all, but drawings, like the well-known ones by Vargas.

“Gravy for the Navy”, Alberto Vargas

What would become the familiar pin-up began to take shape in 1917, when Wilson’s administration created the Division of Pictorial Publicity.  The art form’s ever-growing popularity bled over into other mediums, such as Hollywood, who jumped onto the bandwagon and movie execs began using sexually-charged imagery to promote their films.

This had such a success, it came as little surprise in WWII that pin-ups were used in recruitment posters and war bomb purchasing material.  Many considered this to be the pin-up’s “Golden Age” and thousands of images were commissioned to raise soldier morale while fighting overseas.  A U.S. soldier couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a pin-up girl: in barracks, on submarine walls and carried in pockets – they were never far away from a reminder of why they were fighting.

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Nose art for US aircraft regulations were eased and through WWII and into the Korean War, aircraft artistry would be in its ‘golden age.’  This not only helped the morale of the men, but it made a plane easier to identify rather than its serial numbers.  Although the art would also be of cartoon characters (“Thumper”) or hometowns (“Memphis Belle”), the majority were of women like “Lady Eve”, Forbidden Fruit” “Miss Behavin” and “Little Gem”, for example.

Adak Island, AK pin-up collection

The woman who became the champion pin-up girl was Betty Grable and winning that that title was a tough fight as she was up against such names as Hedy Lamarr, Dorothy Lamour, Ann Sheridan, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Esther Williams and many others.

For further research on pin-ups in aviation and nose art, Pierre Lagacé’s blog ‘Preserving the Past’ click HERE!  

                                                                                     Or ‘Preserving the Past II’ article HERE!

This information was condensed from stories found in “The Voice of the Angels” 11th Airborne newspaper.

For the 11th Airborne Division, the main woman was Olivia de Havilland, whose story will be in the next post.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Current News –

To watch the vintage WWII aircraft flyover in honor of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two, Please check here for the count down and link for you to watch!!

For my post concerning the 2 September 2020 flyover. Please click here!!

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Military Humor – 

 

blind dates

 

 

 

 

 

‘Only one man in 1,000 is a leader of men. The other 999 follow women!’

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Farewell Salutes – 

Max Abram – Carthage, MI; US Army, WWII, Lt. Colonel (Ret. 37 y.)

John Childs – Jacksonville, TX; US Army, Vietnam, 2/506/101st Airborne Division, Lt. Col. (Ret. 21 y.)

Robert Butler – Lismore, MN; US Army, WWII, ETO, decoder

David Iggo (101) – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 415697, WWII, Flt. Lt., 457th Squadron

Wayne Kellog – North Hornell, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Sgt.

Vincent P. Marketta – Brick, NJ; US Army, SSgt., 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (A)

Edward ‘Mike’ Reuter – Tacoma, WA; US Army, WWII, ETO

Tyler M. Shelton – San Bernadino, CA; US Army, Sgt., 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (A)

Margaret Shinners (100) – Middletown, RI; Civilian, US Naval photographer

Donald F. Wright – Coffeyville, KS; US Navy, WWII, PTO, PT-150/Ron 12

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About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on August 31, 2020, in Home Front, Post WWII, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 159 Comments.

  1. Quite refreshing to read an article from the other side of the spectrum. And speaking of spectrum, reminds me of Hedy Lamarr who did more than being a pin-up, by co-inventing the frequency-hopping spread spectrum.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow! I remember watching the movie “Memphis Belle” and noticing the pin ups on the noses of the bombers. A few others I remember in the movie was C-cup, Windy City, Cherry Baby, and Mama’s Boys and I noticed them in the scene where the bombers were taking off to go on their mission to Bremin. Thank you for this history lesson! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Someone once told me that pinup girls were extremely important during war times because they reminded the boys that they “feel” something other than numbness. The fun, teasing and laughter are all to cover the horrors they seen, the pain they felt or the loss of a buddy.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Definitely the Golden Age of pin ups mate, I still enjoy the old movies that depict the Pin ups on the nose of the planes, somehow it seems to humanise the gravity of the situations at the time, cheers.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. These go back a long time! They were beautiful women. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Deze vrouwen hebben dus de oorlog draaglijker gemaakt

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Well, it’s enough to make a man re-up…maybe not! Great post.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I recognize many of these, especially Betty Grable. This was a fun post to read, GP.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. An interesting post, GP. I didn’t realize how extensive pin-up art was during WWII. In the midst of war, it provided a light-hearted break and connection with home that was greatly needed, .

    Liked by 5 people

  10. A fun post, GP. I remember when I was a little girl, my dad/parents had a playing card deck with pin-up girls that I loved to look at. They were all so glamorous! Lol. Thanks for the great memory that I’d forgotten. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  11. My Uncle’s oversees locker was adorned with Vargas style pinups. He served in the Navy between Korea and Vietnam. I remember sneaking in and…well I’ll leave it there.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. “Clothing-challenged situations” — lol! Loved this.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. A very entertaining post! My dad was a Betty Grable fan.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Somehow I am not surprised, GP. I know I am being politically incorrect, but inspiration comes in many shapes, and those pin-up girls are quite shapely. I hope this would not become the next part of history being erased.
    Love the jokes, too!

    Liked by 4 people

  15. LOL! Love this! And what red-blooded American wouldn’t fight for a pretty girl!

    Liked by 5 people

  16. Thank you GP! Thats very surprising information. Never thought pin-ups can origin at Napoleon soldiers. However a good way bringing fun to the troops. Enjoy your week! Michael

    Liked by 5 people

  17. I can’t believe it’s not butter. But it isn’t butter. It’s Robert Edward Butler, Oct 25, 1922 – Aug 18, 2020.

    “Robert served in the U.S. Army as a coding decipherer in Europe during WWII… Mr. Butler was remembered fondly as a good and caring teacher by many students… He will be buried with Military honors at the Veterans National Cemetery in Santa Nella. ” –Legacy.com

    My friend Dave Kenney also was a decipherer in WWI, receiving morse code messages from OSS agents in France. He’s currently in quarantine in the Los Angeles South Bay area.

    Liked by 5 people

  18. Thanks for your like of my post, “End Times 22, The Antichrist;” and so many more. Your kindness and encouragement are greatly appreciated, as is the work that you do.

    Liked by 5 people

  19. Great post GP, and much as I would like to contribute, my wife reads my comments 😉

    Liked by 5 people

  20. And Hedy Lamarr wasn’t just a pretty face. A summary from Wikipedia:

    “At the beginning of World War II, Lamarr and composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, intended to use frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. She also helped improve aviation designs for Howard Hughes while they dated during the war. Although the US Navy did not adopt Lamarr and Antheil’s invention until 1957, various spread-spectrum techniques are incorporated into Bluetooth technology and are similar to methods used in legacy versions of Wi-Fi. Recognition of the value of their work resulted in the pair being posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.”

    Liked by 7 people

    • Exactly, John, thank you for including that. Ms. Lamarr was certainly more than a pretty face!!

      Like

    • Yes, John and GP. I was just about to mention Hedy Lamarr. There was a documentary about her fairly recently… it may have been on Netflix, I’m not sure. She was gorgeous, but it makes me sad that her beauty is all that is remembered. Having spent decades in a field that is still “male dominated” today, I know the challenges she faced. I really admire her. A truly brilliant and fascinating woman.
      Thanks, GP. I didn’t know that about Napoleon’s soldiers. Hugs on the wing.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Enjoyed reading about the pin-up girls who even had their pictures on planes. That would certainly have made them easy to identify. The soldiers needed that female touch I’m sure. Too bad so many worry about political correctness instead of what is enjoyable for the time period. They weren’t harming anyone by this.

    Liked by 6 people

  22. Well, I wouldn’t have been offended then, any more than I’m offended today when I see a semi-truck with those silver silhouettes on the mud flaps. I think they’re a little silly, but no more so than the (ahem) “truknutz” that hang from trailer hitches on guys’ trucks.

    There’s a world of difference between appreciating the opposite sex, and abusing someone. I’ve worked in boatyards and on the docks for more than thirty years, and I’ve never been treated with anything but respect — along with a little teasing and flirting. And while this sort of pinup isn’t around, there are some very interesting calendars hanging in work spaces!

    Now: my own funny tale. I had a great aunt who always was coming up with malapropisms. She called Hawthorne’s famous story, “The House of the Seven Grables.”

    Liked by 6 people

  23. I love the nose art and the history behind it and the artists who inspired it. I have a nice collections of mutoscope cards (from my son). Those pictures – at least most of them – are so sweet.

    Liked by 6 people

  24. This is a great post, GP!!!
    I’ve always loved seeing the pin-ups…on planes…and when I was a little girl, on calendars and posters in garages and gas stations, etc… 🙂 (I miss Chris around her SO much…he often shared some great pinup art and photos!)
    Lately, we’ve been watching some of those ladies you named in some old movies…movies I remember my parents enjoyed… We’ve watched movies with Olivia de Havilland, Claudette Colbert, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth…etc. 🙂
    HUGS!!! 😉

    Liked by 5 people

  25. Vargas was an amazing talent. And yes, it wouldn’t be acceptable today, women are not a commodity…but his images were beautifully rendered.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Vargas painted fantasy women, there were no models, so I don’t understand the politically correct complaint some people have, but like everything else, someone somewhere is somehow offended. I agree he was very talented.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I suspect we could have a long and fruitful discussion about this topic 😊
        Let me pick up on the point you made – fantasy. You see I had a stalker once. I didn’t know him, I’d never met him. But as I met some fantasy in his mind, he selected me. I was lucky that it only went on for 6-months, and I was unharmed.

        I think it’s impossible for a man to understand the constant bombardment that many women endure, week after week. Having your bottom pinched on the streetcar, and as there are enough people standing in the aisle, you can’t tell who will have left that bruise. Men talking to your chest instead of looking you in the eye, and when they do, they’re smirking. Your boss trying to show you pornography in the stock room – yes, that happened to me.

        Cat calls on the streets…telling you to smile. Imagine if you were walking down the street and a woman yelled at you to dance. Hey, maybe you would the first time…but how long before you thought the women of the world had gone crazy. I’m talking about the ordinary, everyman who was never provided with the understanding that his intrusion is not welcome.

        If you have daughters, granddaughters, and great granddaughters, chances are pretty high they been through much of this and more. Maybe they’ve been strong enough to shrug it off like I have…but what of those who can’t. What about the other woman with a 6-month stalker who is still afraid to go outside?

        This goes back further than any can recall. But let’s take something a bit closer in history. Back to the days when women were considered chattel. You know, listed with the furniture and livestock as a commodity/possession. It seems that for many men there is a deeply rooted feeling that women are there to direct and command. And they’ve never been asked to examine their conscience about this.

        Am I a manhater? Never! Smart, vibrant and caring men are part of my world. My husband is one of them, and we have two sons.

        Are Vargas images the cause of this? Of course not, and I appreciate his renderings. Such things are just the thin edge of the wedge, that combined with decades of other issues have brought us to where we are now. I’m asking you to walk a mile in our bras to know how we feel. 😊

        Best…

        Liked by 3 people

        • I can understand your feelings, but you must remember that we are discussing a world of 75-80 years ago. These were men far from home for years at a time, always in danger,, never knowing if they’d ever see a woman again. It is not like today where a soldier pulls out his computer and Skypes home to his girlfriend or his smart phone and texts her. These guys could write letters but who knew when or if they’d ever get delivered back home or if they’d even receive a letter from home. These weren’t men at home who saw women every day like your stalker. To me a man like that needs some serious psych help.

          Liked by 3 people

          • I actually agree with your point. God knows they needed all incentive they could get to remain alive and fighting. To return home as whole as possible. My mother was part of a church group who knitted items and packed war boxes. Tying them with string and pulling so hard her fingers bled.

            And yes my stalker needed help, unlikely that he found it in prison for reasons unrelated to me.

            So yes, I get it. It was sometime ago. Men and women both were different then. I always look for the good in people. Some though, behave like idiots and should be ashamed of themselves.

            Liked by 2 people

  26. I read or heard it somewhere there women doing pin-up calendars still

    Liked by 5 people

  27. The other 999 follow women! Yep, that’s about right 😂

    Liked by 5 people

  28. Super story, GP. This was indeed the Golden age of nose art.

    Liked by 6 people

  29. Airplanes deserve names and tasteful nose art! Virgin Atlantic still uses names and nose art for its airplanes. The nose art is the traditional women in one-piece swimsuits but also includes men and women models of African and Asian descent. As far as the sexual orientation of figures depicted, that is left up to the viewer, if it matters.

    Liked by 6 people

  30. “clothing-challenged” LOL. Oh you!

    Liked by 6 people

  31. Another fine post, GP. I am a real Vargas fan. As far as the 82nd Airborne Marlene Dietrich was the one. She attended the 82nd reunions every year she stayed in the public eye, even if it meant interrupting a film shoot.

    Liked by 6 people

  32. To take peoples’ minds off the disaster of the retreat from Russia Napoleon ordered that the female dancers of the Paris ballet should appear without their black drawers…

    Liked by 6 people

  33. I’ve always admired the beautiful art these images really are. So much painting talent!

    Liked by 7 people

  34. “clothing-challenged situation” – don’t you love that? Women at home at that time probably were not offended. In the PC environs, we live today, that will be heinous.

    Liked by 6 people

  35. These pin-ups are very modest in what they reveal by today’s standards. Thanks for sharing this interesting part of military history, GP!

    Liked by 6 people

  36. When I was painting lady fantasy models I had a book of Vargas paintings, he was brilliant. Some of those were made into 3D versions too, fab post GP!

    Liked by 6 people

  37. I hate to be a spoilsport, but I do find the whole idea of pin-ups offensive. I realize the men were lonely, and I know teens post posters of their celebrity crushes all the time. But in 2020, this just feels wrong. I wonder whether soldiers still do this—and what the women in the service do or how they feel about seeing pin-ups of scantily dressed women. If men did that in an office, it surely would be considered a form of creating a hostile environment. Would it be in the military now?

    Liked by 6 people

  38. Will leave it t the boys to comment.

    Liked by 6 people

  39. This was a fun post. When I was deployed to Taszar, Hungary in 1997, as part of Operation Joint Guard, the San Francisco Cheerleaders visited us as part of a USO tour. There were obviously dozens of civilian and military females assigned to the base. The young Hungarian women that lived nearby were gorgeous-with long legs, and red, black, or bleach blonde hair the color they were not born with. Obviously lots of girls around. However, when the Cheerleaders arrived, the guys acted like their father and grandfathers did in WWII, picking out their favorite cheerleader and whether she was or was not staring at him. Guess some GI behavior doesn’t change despite the greater presence of women.

    Liked by 7 people

  40. “clothing-challenged” – that’s good. Those women were beautiful.

    Liked by 6 people

  41. “Range of clothing-challenged situations”–gotta remember that one.

    Liked by 9 people

  42. The nose art was great to see, and must have boosted the spirits of the flyboys. I remember my dad talking about Betty Grable’s legs. They were considered to be the ‘ultimate’ in attractive legs at the time, and I believe they were insured for $1 million, as a publicity stunt.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 9 people

  43. Pierre Lagacé

    An about your post…? I grade it A+.

    Liked by 5 people

  44. Pierre Lagacé

    Thanks for the links GP. There is more than pin-ups articles on Preserving the Past, but I will let your readers find that out.

    Liked by 8 people

  45. I wonder what is acceptable (“p.c.”!) now?

    Liked by 8 people

  1. Pingback: Pin-up Girls Helped Win WWII – faujibratsden

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