10 Times Antiques Roadshow Proved WW2 Art is the Bomb (2021 Edition)
Hand-painted plane nose art and matching bomber jackets, comics and posters, Disney-designed insignia, folk art and more – America’s Greatest Generation artwork is badass. WW2 nose art often includes custom bombs or other symbols from successful missions. And so did the A-2 bomber jackets that pilots and crew wore.
Patriots are sometimes surprised at the value of art from World War II when there is an appraisal of a family heirloom on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow. One family on this list was surprised to learn the real meaning of a carved “pirate” and “surfer!”
We know our audience loves facts and trivia about our nation and military. So we’ve gathered some interesting tidbits about WW2 art from our military for you to enjoy and share with your friends and fellow service buddies!
10 Times Antiques Roadshow Proved WW2 Art is the Bomb
1. “E’Z Goin” Bomber Jacket
- Value: $3,000 to $4,000 at auction (2012)
- Item: A-2 jacket with custom paint
- Origin: John Burke, B-17 Radio Gunner
Check out the bombs representing Munich and Berlin missions on the back of the jacket!
Did you know? Julia Child, America’s cooking teacher, hoped to become a spy during WWII? She met her husband, Paul, while working for the Office of Strategic Services during the war. Child faced rejection by the Army and Navy for being too tall. Instead, she worked to develop shark repellant for downed pilots.
2. “Hadda Do It” Flight Jacket
- Value: $2,000 to $2,500 retail (2018)
- Item: A-2 jacket custom paint
- Origin: H. Dwayne Stratton, B-17 Pilot 490th Bomb Group
Evident in this Eighth Air Force insignia, they were one of the hardest-fighting groups in WWII.
Greatest Generation: About 325,000 of 16 million Americans who served in WWII are alive today.
3. WWII Aircraft Nose Art
- Value: $2,000 to $4,000 at auction (2005)
- Item: Insignia from a P-40 airplane, flight jacket patch painted on leather and photos of shark’s teeth on plane noses
- Origin: Stanley Schirro, 26th Fighter Squadron
This aluminum cut from the cowling of a P-40 aircraft depicts a hybrid of a reindeer and a P-40 airplane.
Home, Sweet, Home: Can you name the top states for living WWII Veterans in 2020?
- California: 34,553
- Florida: 31,898
- New York: 19,995
- Pennsylvania: 18,614
- Texas: 16,000
4. WWII Comic Art
- Value: $2,000 to $3,000 at auction (2014)
- Item: Comic Art
- Origin: PFC James F. Brown with Gen. Patton’s Third Army
The artwork is a bit edgy as the artist uses comics to deal with the tragedy of war.
“When a war poses for its picture, it leaves to the artist the selection of the attitude in which the artist may desire to draw it,” World War I Soldier-Artist J. Andre Smith.
5. Disney Insignia WWII
- Value: $3,500 to $4,325 at auction (2012)
- Item: Cartoon art
- Origin: Disney Studios
Fun Fact! Disney artists played a huge role in WWII insignia art, all with no licensing fees!
The National WWII Museum: Ranked the No. 1 attraction in New Orleans by TripAdvisor. These collections try to cover the epic and global scale of the war that changed the world.
6. A-2 Bomber Jacket and Photo
- Value: $3,000 to $4,000 retail (2012)
- Item: A-2 bomber jacket and photo
- Origin: Eighth Air Force
A whopping 30 bombs on the jacket’s chest indicate many successful American missions.
Did you know? The U.S. Army’s art program has produced more than 15,000 pieces of art. It began when the Army sent captains in the Corps of Engineers to Europe to create a record of the American Expeditionary Forces’ actions. The art program was cut from the Army’s budget in 1943 amid claims that it was frivolous.
7. World War II Folk Art
- Value: $10,000 to $15,000 at auction (2013)
- Item: Carved Figures
- Origin: Duluth, Minnesota
Pirate or Mussolini? Surfer or Stalin? Hand-carved from the Minnesota forest representing WWII world leaders, these are a Swedish immigrant’s political statement.
Keeping Art Alive: Life magazine hired 17 civilian artists to embed as WWII correspondents. And Abbott Labs paid a daily wage to more than two dozen Associated American Artists to serve as official combat artists in the field.
8. World War II Submarine Kill Flag
- Value: $2,500 to $3,000 retail (2015)
- Item: Flag with Disney-inspired vessel insignia
- Origin: USS Plaice, Balao-class submarine
In 1943, the USS Plaice conducted war patrols in the South Pacific towards the end of World War II, and the flag is a record of the ship’s service.
U.S. Army Historical Properties Section: In 1944, the Army’s art program returned. Today, the artwork of more than a thousand soldiers, from WWI to War on Terrorism, is part of the Army’s Historical Properties Section.
9. World War II Posters
- Value: $1,600 to $2,400 at auction (2019)
- Item: Poster Series
- Origin: Arthur Rothenberg
This series of posters, found in the artist’s mother’s closet recently, earned a letter from two brigadier generals thanking him for the artwork.
MyBaseGuide: Connect with local museum info for the military installation of your choice in MyBaseGuide’s Community Info.
10. A-2 Flight Jacket
- Value: $3,500 to $4,000 retail (2019)
- Item: A-2 flight jacket
- Origin: 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment
The 507th’s black and orange jumping spider, with his lightning bolt and lit bomb, is one of the most distinctive and memorable of all the Airborne patches of World War II.
Want more military history? Download a base guide from MyBaseGuide to find more in-depth info for a U.S. base or post.
Even after surprising appraisals like those listed here, many military families consider their WW2 art priceless. As time marches on, WWII’s sights and sounds disappear. But we can still see the courage exemplified by the veterans of the war in these artifacts. It is no wonder that some Americans choose to keep iconic pieces in the family to honor their loved one’s legacy of securing global freedom.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.