History of nose art in the AAC, USAF, & ANG

Please allow time for images to load. Updated - 12 July, 2020

See also...
B-25 Noseart
French Air Force
Other Armed Forces

Bats have appeared in nose-art, or have contributed to aircraft nicknames painted on the sides of individual airplanes
for over a hundred years. The 185th Night Pursuit Squadron of the American Expeditionary Force would seem to be the
first unit to display a 'bat' on their aircraft during the last month of WWI. The insignia was sequentially refined to be a
bat against the yellow disk of the moon.

Sopwith Camel (12 October, 1918). Canvas section of fuselage bearing the squadrons' Insignia (www.earlyaviator.com).

The second documented example of a bat painted on an aircraft is on this Nieuport 17
of the 30th Air Detachment, Red Army (Winter 1920). Note the cow in the photograph.

The first post-war use of bats as Squadron insignia was by Observation Squadron VOS-3S US Navy (circa 1923).
This squadron had been supplied with scout aircraft (Vought O2U-1 Corsair) that were so poorly suited to observation
duties that crews complained of being 'blind as bats'. During this time, several observation squadrons were flying out
of Guantanamo Bay and all designated a Cuban bat (Artibeus?) to represent their 'blind' status. VOS-3S retained
this insignia throughout its history, even as its designation changed to VS-5S, VS-5B, VCS-2 ( below) and finally VS-6S.
The a/c pictured below is a VOS-3S O2U-1 attached to the USN Cruiser SS Raleigh.

Cloth patch and collectors stamp from the late 1930's: Scouting Squadron VCS-2
[See also: The Plane that wouldn't fly]

US Army Air Corps

LEFT: Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress from the 97 BG (?) - 'Bat outa hell'.
RIGHT:: 'Wicked Witch'- 92nd Bomb Group (small bats and witch; USAF Museum)

LEFT: Consolidated B-24-J Liberator. Unit unknown.
RIGHT: Consolidated B-24-J Liberator 'Bull Bat' of the 578th BS.

Northrop P-61A-1 Black Widow. 'Jap Batty' - 6th Nightfighter Sqd. Note: Bat has boxing gloves on its hind feet.

Middle photo: Dave White

This Consolidated B-24-J Liberator first appeared as 'Bat out of Hell' with the 39th BS.
A new a/c kept the name as the squadron became the 819th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy).

B-24-J Liberator of the 819th BS, 'Bat out of Hell' seen at different points in time: 25, 64, and 70 missions (left photo: Lloyd, 1986)

'Bat-outa-Hell II'
was a Martin B-26 Marauder that flew with the 387th BG, 557th BS.http://www.b26.com/marauderman/billh/02.htm
Note the increasing number of missions that appear below the cockpit, 59(?) on the lower right photo.

The Blind Bat - Consolidated B-24-J Liberator of the 479th Antisubmarine Group.

Republic P-47C Thunderbolt 'Bat Out Of Hell' of the 63rd Fighter Squadron. Piloted by Lt. G. E. Batdorf.

This P-51C-5-NT Mustang (42-10350) was flown by Capt. C. D. Sumner, 364th FS. The name of this
aircraft stemmed from a GI War Bond effort in Bat Cave, NC. Note the small bat painted behind the text.

US Air Force

LEFT: Republic P-47(N?) Thunderbolts of the 44th Fighter Squadron (Photo: Time-Life via Google)
RIGHT: F-86 Sabres of the 44th Fighter Squadron (Photo: Time-Life via Google)

F-86 Sabres of the 44th Fighter Squadron (Time-Life). If interested in the 44th, please visit this PAGE.

Republic EF-105-F Thunderchief was an a/c designated to fly Wild Weasel surface-to-air missile suppression missions
during the Vietnam war. One of these flew with the 44th Tactical Fighter Sqd. (Vampires) and displayed a caricature of
a bat on its wing-root 'Sinister Vampire' (J. Robinson). If interested in the 44th, visit this PAGE.

McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle of the 44th Tactical Fighter Sqd. (Vampires) (via T. Williams).

Northrop F-89 Scorpions 325th FIW 59th FIS, June 1957 (C. Seevers). Sign-board (R. Guthrie). Note bats on wing-tip tanks and tail fin.

Lockheed F-94B Starfire 325th FIW 59th Fighter Interceptor Sqd. (5/2020: Apologies to Frederic J. Adam for a long overdue photo attribution)

Frederic J. Adam and a Lockheed F-94B Starfire (1953) 325th FIW 59th Fighter Interceptor Sqd.
Unofficial patch used by the squadron mid-1952. Freicudan Du is gaelic for the Black Watch/Black Guard.

McDonnell F-101B Voodoo of the 25th FIW 59th Fighter Interceptor Sqd., 1969. [More info please!]

Convair F-102A Delta Dagger of the 59th FIS, 325th FIW [More information needed, please].

F-16C of the 363rd TFW. This a/c flew 45 missions in Desert Storm. (Photo right by M. Steadman).

Fairchild-Republic A-10 Warthog of the 422 TES (Photo by Jake Melampy)

Lockheed C-130 Hercules of the 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron (note bats on forward fuselage)

Lockheed C-130 Hercules of the 435th TAW: (Photo by A. Kreager) More Herky Noseart!
Note the two signs in the lower windows: 'For Sale' and 'BAT-60'.

Lockheed MC-130 Talon II's (photos: (L) F. Rocha, (R) M. Stares). More Herky Noseart!

Blind Bat Operation: Martin RB-57D (Bat Nose art and Blind Bat Patches):

Rockwell B-1B 9th Bombardment Sqd (Bill Spidle photo; Dryess AFB) Note: small bat on black band on tail.

LEFT: Noseart on a Rockwell B-1B of the 9th BS based at Dyess AFB, Texas. Note: World TradeTowers on the patch (D. Hobbs).
RIGHT: This excellent artwork depicts the common 'free-tailed' bat - Tadarida brasiliensis. This small harmless bat lives in huge
colonies across Texas which fly together to eat several tons of crop-pests in night-skies over Texas each evening. This is the
most anatomically correct image of a bat ever been painted on an a/c - and arguably one of the best metaphors out there.

LEFT: KC-135 Stratotanker of the 351st ARS named 'Bat outta Hell'. RIGHT: photo of the same a/c (Stephen Kuhn)

Bell CH-146 Griffon [#146401] was the first CH-146 to receive approved nose art. Here, that includes the Bat symbol of the 1 Wing Crest
(see patch) and the newly approved M134 mini-Gatling gun package for the a/c. 'Hell' with only one “L” stood for the Tactical Helicopter
community “Tac. Hel” (Artist: MCpl. T. Patry; Photo: R. Aucoin)

LEFT: Patch: A Co., 5/159 AVN - Operation Iraqi Freedom. RIGHT: Boeing CH-47D Chinook #90-00194. Operation Iraqi Freedom [2003-2004]

Air National Guard Units

Vought A-7D - Corsair II's of the 174th Fighter Sqd. (a/c 70-008, small bat on fin, photo: K. Jackson).

Vought A-7K - Corsair II of the 174th Fighter Sqd. (small bat on fin).

ABOVE: F-16C's of the 174th Fighter Sqd., 185th FW, Iowa National Guard (Photo R. Launderville).

ABOVE: This KC-135R Stratotanker displays the yellow tail flash of the 174th ARS (Iowa National Guard).
Note: The bat-head artwork is the same as that used when this unit was 174th FS - a nice nod to the history of the unit.

Honorable mention...

(i.e., bat wings without bats)

LEFT: Boeing CH-147F (Canadian designation) Chinook built for the RCAF. A/C #147203 flew over
Afghanistan in 2009. This stencil depicts a bat-winged she-devil with a trident (Canadian DND).

LEFT: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress: 'Hell's Angel' (with bat wings) flew for both the 381st and the 601st BS
RIGHT: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, 'Bat out of Hell' of the 819th BS(?).

Northrop P-61A Black Widow of the 548th CTS(?). There is not an image of a bat in this photo,
but the female figure has bat wings. The name 'Bat Outa Hell' deserves honorable mention.

Northrop P-61A Black Widow of the 341st NFS(?) - "Bat out a Hell". There are no bats in this noase art,
nor does the female figure have bat wings. But the name 'Bat Outa Hell' deserves honorable mention.
LEFT: Pacificvictoryroll.com (URL is defunct).

Lockheed P-38F Lightning of the 94th FS, 1st FG - Biggs Field, El Paso TX. The script "Bat Out Of Hell" appears
on the right side of the nose of this a/c and Lt J. Hagenback is tagged as the pilot, who flew over Tunisia in 1943.
On the right is a different a/c aka "Bat Out of Hell" of the 94th FS, 1st FG, flown again by Lt j. Hagenback.
(The artwork on the two a/c differs slightly but neither looks much like a bat, despite the name.)

Rockwell B-1B, 13th Bombardment Sqd (28th BW) named 'Dark Knight'. Not bat, no bat wings, but I will let this one slide.

Batman iconography: B Company, 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion flies UH-60 Black Hawks (Louisiana National Guard).
Patch is held by Sgt. D. Vanmol (photo: Seargent L. Hoke). Batman appears in a variety of places (photo: J Dermansky).

Thanks to Robert Beach for corrections to this page.