Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


Bombs Away Comic Decal Transfer Death from the Sky World War Two Gallows Graphics

One day someone will write a book on the relationship between the rudimentary graphics of World War Two and tattoo art, pin up art and the comics. Maybe I will!

Countless cartoonists, illustrators and artists began their careers drawing for their foxhole friends, mostly for duffel bags, helmets and such. Most of the soldiers were barely out of high school, and what should have been drawn in schoolbooks and scratched onto desks were being created as patches for patriotic young cannon fodder.

Death became a game. It had to. We were losing the war, and encouraging a little more war fever with a clever drawn gag didn't hurt. War is ugly and the furthest thing from funny, but gallows humor thrives in the face of atrocity, and many a bomb was decorated with humorous graffiti before being dropped.

The illustrations here come from an enormous collection of circa 1940 paper decals I found.  All anonymous. All are on scraps of waxy paper, and I believe they are intended to be applied to uniforms, helmets and footlockers. I cleaned up and isolated the images from the paper backing. Anyone with more information on either the artist or the use of these graphic appliques of doom are encouraged to write.

World War Two decals circa 1940 collection Jim Linderman
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  1. Awesome find and great post! I think you're the one to do this book....looks like you're going to have to find more hours in the day :)

  2. Hi Jim! I am writing just such a book - well, I'm writing a book on the contexts of tattooing in relation to other forms of visual culture since the 18th century. Perhaps I could email you? It seems as if we could have some interesting conversations!

    Love your blog and your keen eye. Keep up the good work!

  3. Well, there you go Matt! Feel free to get in touch at j.winkel4@gmail.com

    The relationship between tats and other popular artistic forms (which for the most part cultural institutions sneered at for centuries) could use some good solid research and discussion.

  4. What you have found are fairly valuable to WW2 collectors, especially aviation collectors. These are depictions of actual official squadron patches. The USAF historian's office has produced a book of these (a very THICK book) which includes all of these. Your stickers could have been used on luggage, footlockers, or just stuck up around town. Even today, aviation squadrons of all the services have squadron stickers that they put up to show they were there, just like gang tags, but pre-made and with a lot more firepower to back them up.

    1. Thanks much for taking the time to contribute! They are pretty remarkable, and one day I'll scan them all.
      Jim Linderman