Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 8, 2006

Milton Caniff’s Aircraft Insignia Art


From longtime CR Reader John E. Williams:
Hey Tom, long time no see. I am currently working as an Advanced Graphics Specialist for the Navy in D.C., and yesterday an Admiral asked me to scan in the attached artwork. This is an aircraft insignia drawn by Milton Caniff for a Navy Night Squadron during World War II. The squadron was formed in 1943, so I'm guessing that's when Caniff was commissioned to do the work.

The piece I scanned is not an original but was the actual art presented by Caniff to the Navy. He enclosed a card with the piece with the following printed text:


This will serve as a release to the Navy Department of an aircraft insigne drawn by me for VFN-79, (recommissioned CVLG (N)-41, 25 August 1944).

The design shows a circular navigational star chart of night blue on which a stylized composite of navigational stars is shown in white (as if the latitude of the observer were 40 degrees North at 8 hours R.A. and at 16 Hours R.A.) to indicate the wide range of the squadron's activities.

Against the blue circle is the figure of a woman (symbolizing the traditional figurehead of ships of the line) astride a black charger in full gallop. The woman brandishes a tufted spear and shields her face with a black cloak, the ends of which stream in the wind. The charger's eyes are fiery red, symbolizing the fire power hidden beneath the swift darkness of the squadron's operations. The black cloak indicates the secrecy of the unit's missions. The spear is the type used by the American Indian, signifying the American character of the outfit's personnel. The lance further symbolizes the speedy destruction of the fighter cover overhead, balanced by the destructive power of the low level attack contained in the charger's hooves. The lance is grasped in the gloved hand of the woman, symbolizing the mailed fist under the velvet glove, all of which indicates the danger to the enemy in the surprise attack under cover of darkness which the squadron is able to deliver.

Finally, the golden hair and blue costume of the rider is in the tradition of the colors of NAVY SERVICE.


I thought you might be interested in seeing and possibly posting this drawing.

Thanks, John. And to run the disclaimer John sent along: "No problem with releasing this to a comics historian/writer, but clearly identify it as art created for the first night fighter carrier air group in Pacific in WWII, Night Light Carrier Air Group 41 (CVLG(N) 41)."
posted 10:45 pm PST | Permalink

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