|AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE BOMBER STATION, England—Returning recently with a formation of B-24 Liberators from an attack over enemy territory, one of the Lib pilots noticed that a Royal
Air Force Spitfire had joined the bomber formation and was moving closer and closer to his Lib’s left wingtip. The pilot of the fighter aircraft seemed to be peering intently at
the Lib’s nose.
For a moment the Lib pilot failed to catch on. Then, remembering the “Flying Pin-up Girl” which was painted on the left side of the Lib’s nose, the bomber pilot was no longer surprised—even when, after reaching his home base, the fighter aircraft peeled off with him and followed him down to land right behind him.
As the Lib rolled from the runway to its hardstand, the Spitfire taxiied [sic] close behind. When the two aircraft came to a stop, the fighter pilot jumped out of his plane, walked over the side of the Lib, lit a cigarette, and preceded to admire the insignia from close range. A few moments later, his curiosity satisfied and his cigarette exhausted, the fighter pilot climbed into his aircraft and took off for his home base.
To many, the fighter pilot’s actions may have seemed somewhat unusual. To the crew of the Lib concerned, however, it only proved the RAF pilot possessed a rare and discerning artistic taste. The Lib’s ground crew join the air crew in this opinion because “every time high ranking inspecting officers make the rounds of the hardstands around the perimeter, they all stop and take a look at the insignia. In a way, it’s rough because we are always getting inspected. But in another way it isn’t so bad because the inspecting officers only look at the insignia and forget the rest of the airplane.”
The insignia that “broke up” the RAF fighter formation, is one of several drawn in what little spare time he has by Corporal Philip Brinkman, nephew of J. Jules Brinkman, 8525 Colonial Park, Clayton, Missouri. Cpl. Brinkman is a draftsman in a squadron commanded by Major Winfred D. Howell, Foley, Ala. He devotes his free time to complying with the eager requests by the bomber crews to “Draw us one, Phil—a good one.”
Actually, all of his insignias are ‘good.” It was back in Tucson, Arizona at Davis-Monthan Field that he first started painting his “Flying Pin-up Girls.” There, he got the idea that the signs of the Zodiac might lend themselves readily to unique insignia paintings which should prove popular with the Lib crews. In that opinion, he was absolutely right because as his paintings progressed, the insignias were not only popular, they were and still are sensational.
He clung to the Zodiac theme. If you examine his insignias close enough, you will detect the connection. But usually his critics—ground and air crews enjoying equal franchise in this extremely pleasant activity—never detect the Zodiac idea until the third or even the fourth examination of his handiwork. What takes their eye is the pin-up girl of each insignia and the girl, invariably, steals the Zodiac signs’ thunder.
For instance, the sign of Aries, the Ram, depicts a dream girl daintily shearing a ram, using the wool to knit additions to her somewhat inadequate garment. The twins of the sign of Gemini are two lovely maidens holding a bomb cradled in their arms. Aquaria [note 1] shows a scantily-clad beauty holding two jars which are filled with fifty-calibre shells instead of the water one might normally expect. Sagittarias is represented by a lovely archer shooting a bomb, instead of an arrow from a bow. Leo the Lion is not nearly as rough as his fangs make him out to be because a young lady, clad in a tiger skin, has her arms wrapped around his neck, completely ignoring his snarling ferocity.
However, not all of the signs of the Zodiac lend themselves too readily to the introduction of a “pin-up” girl in the designs. Scorpio shows a red-headed scorpion holding two bombs in his claws, his tail raised angrily over his helmeted and goggled head. On top of the tail is an upper turret with two machine guns hammering out red flashes. The only sign of the Zodiac Cpl. Brinkman has not drawn yet is the sign of Taurus, the Bull. He darkly hints that he is saving this particular sign to the last because it lends itself naturally to the portrayal of an unidentified first sergeant.
Drawing insignia on various aircraft to oblige constant requests by aircrew members is Cpl. Brinkman’s favorite method of spending his spare time. However, the soldier-artist’s G. I. Critics—and there are many of them at this Eighth Air Force Bomber base—are quick to point out that his work with water colors and oils are “dammed good because he paints things just like they are.”
Actually, Brinkman’s sketches and paintings demonstrate not only an ability to faithfully portray life at this bomber base but also, from an artistic standpoint, display outstanding professional ability and technique.
Brinkman had been doing sketches and paintings for some time, before he entered the Army at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, in June 1942. In St. Louis, he attended St. Louis University and Washington University as well as the American Academy at Chicago, Ill., and the Grand Central Academy in New York City. After his formal schooling was completed, he worked as a layout artist with advertising agencies in St. Louis, Chicago, and New York. He was doing free lance work for a year just prior to entering the Army.
When he first entered the service, he did several sketches of individuals which won him the first of his now-sizeable G. I. Following. Carrying a footlocker filled with brushes and paints from station to station in the United States, he devoted all his free time to painting. He painted pictures of Royal Air Force and United States Air Force aircraft in a day room at Salt Lake City, Utah. Next, at Tucson, he painted a mural in a guard squadron day room. Later, his sketch for a mural to be painted in the Service Club at Davis-Monthan Field in Tucson was approved by the Commanding Officer of that base. And he worked at odd moments for the next seven months to complete his work—a portrayal of the history of flight. It was while at Tucson that he first joined his present squadron and started drawing his now-famous Zodiac insignia. Besides numerous sketches, he has also painted a mural in the non-commissioned officer’s club at this Eighth Air Force bomber base in England.
Brinkman thoroughly enjoys his work, especially his G. I. Self-appointed “kibitzing” technical staff. Inevitably, whenever he is sketching anywhere in the vicinity, in their free time, mechanics will put aside their tools, and aircrew members will pause on their way to their ships to look over his shoulder. Ground crews cycling to or from chow will park their bikes to watch. And when that big of a following says a painting is good, it IS good.
Note 1: The latin distinguish gender in their names by spelling. Sagittarius is masculine, and Sagittaria is feminine.
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