A-2 Painted Flight Jackets
a-2 jackets paint

What type or kind of paint is used for most or all flight jackets

In WW2 almost any kind of paint that could be used was used.  Enamels if they could get it, lead based aviation paint, oil paint…whatever the ‘artist’ could get their hands on.  Some squadron artists could only get their hands on yellow airplane paint, so the artwork on the jacket was done in yellow.  As troops settled in, painting flight jackets became a cottage industry for the local artisans. Since some of the paints were not meant to be used on leather, they rubbed off, flaked off, and faded.  WW2 flight jackets with visible paint jobs are highly prized by collectors.

Current artists who paint reproduction painted flight jackets use acrylic latex or enamel paint.  The opinion of the customers who want an enamel paint job, is that it’s more authentic to WW2.  Most modern artists use acrylic latex.  Acrylics wear extremely well, flexing and stretching with the leather, it’s easy to use, and dries quickly.  Personally, I like enamel paint jobs because they crack and craze with wear, giving the paint job a nice patina.  With that being said, I only own one jacket painted with enamel, all my other jackets were painted with acrylics.

This is wonderful. :) My boyfriend loves these type of planes and we both discovered we love bomber plane art. <3 Thank you for being here.

Kewl…now he’ll have to buy a jacket and get a paint job ;-)

FlyGirls Pin-Ups on FB

I have a Facebook page: FlyGirls Pin-Ups with photos of pin up girls wearing (more or less) leather flight jackets and modern reproduction painted jackets.


Click photo to see Iwo Jima Web Photo Albums.
Very dramatic photos of aircraft on Iwo Jima.

Click photo to see Iwo Jima Web Photo Albums.

Very dramatic photos of aircraft on Iwo Jima.

Examples of Korean War painted jackets.  The A-2 leather jacket was discontinued as an issued item for the Air Force during WW2.  Crew members in Korea wore their issued jackets from WW2, or purchased surplus A-2s or civilian A-2 type jackets for personal use.  In the photo of the two crew members, you’ll notice the person on the left has a 2 piece back with a seam running across the shoulders.  This was probably a personal purchase civilian A-2 style jacket.  The jacket art on the back indicates he served in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) during WW2 in a B-17 and in Korea a B-26.  The other aviator has a B-26 Invader painted on the back his jacket as well.

The Douglas A-26/B-26 bomber was the only American bomber to fly missions in three wars. After World War II, it served as a first-line bomber during the Korean War and later during the Vietnam War. 

During the Korean War, the twin engined Douglas B-26 light bomber played an important part in the U.S. Air Force’s interdiction campaign against communist ground forces. Initially, B-26 crews flew during the day, but the introduction of the MIG-15 jet fighter forced them to fly most missions at night.

B-26s were credited with the destruction of 38,500 vehicles, 406 locomotives, 3,700 railway trucks, and seven enemy aircraft on the ground. On 14 September 1951, Captain John S. Walmsley, Jr. attacked a supply train. When his guns jammed, he illuminated the target with his searchlight to enable his wingmen to destroy the train. Walmsley was shot down and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Invaders carried out the last USAF bombing mission of the war 24 minutes before the cease fire was signed on 27 June 1953.

The 80th Fighter Squadron was born in the rapid buildup of forces as the United States entered World War II, the Army Air Force stood up the unit as the 80th Pursuit Squadron on Jan. 6, 1942, less than a month after the Pearl Harbor attack.

By the end of the war, after converting from the P-39 Airacobra to the P-38 Lightning, the 80th FS  downed over 225 enemy aircraft (the second highest squadron in the theater, and overall second highest twin engine allied fighter squadron in the war), receiving the Presidential Unit Citation, ten campaign credits, four distinguished Unit Citations, and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. There were 24 “Headhunter” pilots who became aces during World War II in the Pacific Theater. The unit was inactivated Dec. 26, 1945. 

The squadron remained inactive until Feb. 20, 1947, when it was once again was activated and again assigned to the 8th Fighter Group, at Itazuke, Japan.   When North Korea invaded the South June 25, 1950 the Headhunters once again entered combat. A day after the invasion the 80th and the rest of the 8th Fighter Wing provided air defense for the evacuation of Americans from Seoul. Other than these initial air defense missions, the 80th spent the rest of the war flying bombing missions. The 80th served at several different bases during the Korean War, returning to Itazuke after the Communist Chinese intervention and later moving to Suwon, Korea after the United Nations pushed back the Chinese offensive. Shortly before the war ended, the squadron converted from the F-80 to the F-86 Sabre, but continued to fly air-to-ground missions in the Saber. 

Jacket art carried into the jet age with Korean War (1950-1954), but not to the extent of its heyday in WW 2.  Leather A-2 jackets were no longer issued and flight crews who were issued A-2s in WW 2 continued to wear their coveted A-2s.  It was not uncommon for pilots and flight crew to privately purchase surplus or civilian reproduction A-2s for themselves.

The airplane depicted on this jacket is an F-80 Shooting Star, which first saw combat service in the Korean War, employing both the F-80C variant and RF-80 photo-recon variants. The first jet-versus-jet aircraft battle took place on November 8, 1950 in which Lieutenant Russell J. Brown, flying an F-80, claimed a MiG-15 shot down.  Despite the initial claim of success, the straight-wing F-80s were inferior in performance to the MiGs and were soon replaced in the air superiority role by the swept wing North American F-86 Sabre. When sufficient Sabres were in operation, the Shooting Star was assigned to ground attack missions, advanced flight training duties and air defense in Japan. By the end of hostilities the only F-80s still flying in Korea were photo-reconnaissance variants.

The unit patch on this jacket is the 80th Fighter Squadron. The Headhunters’ history began only one month after Pearl Harbor, as the squadron shipped out to fight in the Pacific Theater. The Squadron was first activated on January 10, 1942 at Mitchel Field in New York. Originally designated as a pursuit squadron, they were redesignated in May 1942 as a fighter squadron. Attached to the 8th Fighter Group. One of the early squadron commanders, Edward “Porky” Cragg named the Squadron “The Headhunters” after the local New Guinean Headhunter tribes who hated the Japanese and helped to rescue downed pilots. He also commissioned a crew chief, M/Sgt. Yale Saffro, who was once offered a job to work for Walt Disney as a cartoonist but turned it down, to design the 80th’s patch. (This original patch design can be seen "here" and has been officially sanctioned by the Office of Air Force Heraldry for current uniform wear.)

During the war in Korea, the 8th Fighter Wing was credited with 18 enemy aircraft shot down, most in the earliest days of the war before the wing’s mission changed to air-to-ground operations.

Major George E. Preddy, Jr. of the 487th FS, 352nd FG based in Bodney, England was the top scoring Mustang Ace with 26.83 air to air enemy kills and 6th on the list of all time US WW2 Aces. 

Shade Ruff, a B-17 with the 401st Bomb Group.

Salvo Sadie.  Salvo: The simultaneous release of a rack of bombs from an aircraft.  Several bombers in both the ETO and PTO were named Salvo Sadie.