S/Sgt Sarkis E. BARTIGIAN
43rd Bomb Group
My thanks to Dina DeCristofaro for providing information about Sarkis Bartigian (usually mis-spelt as Bartigan).
If you have any knowledge or information on him or his art works I would be delighted hear from you.
Sgt Sarkis Bartigian has been described by some as the "greatest painter of nose art of all time" and
by others as "the Michelangelo of WWII aviation art.". His imagination and skill with paint was certainly exceptional and he was perhaps unique in seeing the side, indeed the whole, of a B24 as his potential "canvas." Working during the closing months of the war and in the isolation of the vast Pacific Ocean enabled his imagination to run wild. His creations stretched the entire length of the aircraft in some cases, from nose turret to tail gunner's position. They were enormous works of art which would have stretched any artist working under ideal conditions let alone the windy, sand-strewn wastes of the barren airfield on Ie Shima. It is reputed that his amazing "Dragon and His Tail" was the last B24J to be scrapped at the reclamation plant -- the workers there could hardly bear to chop her up and hoped, right up to the final minutes, that a buyer could be found to save her.... although Bartigian's "Dragon" did have one final twist in its tale!
Sarkis Bartigian was born in Chelsea, Mass., 1906 and was stationed initially at Lowry AAB where he was trained on the Sperry bombsight, using his own illustrations to help to instruct others. He had joined the USAAF at the age of 36 or 37 having studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and subsequently worked as a commercial artist painting murals for restaurants and movie theatre marquees. Shortly after entering the service he married Mabel -- who became the subject of another of his impressive works of art, i.e. "Mabel's Labels". A portrait of his beautiful bride adorned one the 43rd Bomb Group's B24s together with several nudes and sets of strategically positioned red lips. When deploying to the Philippines, Bartigian passed the time by decorating the captain's quarters. Sadly, having survived the war and returned home to Mabel, Sarkis Bartigian was killed in a motor accident in 1955, aged only 49. A sad loss indeed. It is not hard to believe that such a talented man would not have further honed his skills to become a painter of repute.
© Ray Bowden 2 December 2023