MSgt Jay COWAN
490th Bomb Group, 850th Bomb Squadron
Although self taught MSgt Jay Cowan, an aircraft mechanic, became a highly skilled artist who created several impressive pieces of work all with a highly graphic appearance. Prior to his enlistment in March 1942, Cowan had served as a Corporal in the Texas National Guard where he painted several posters and portraits as well other art work for the American Poster and Program Company. By 1940 he was at the University of Texas as an Art Assistant and a Corporal with the Medical Administrative Corps.
To date seven examples of his aircraft nose arts have been identified, at least three of them carrying his signature. Which other examples of nose art he completed has yet to be established but it is thought he was responsible for the majority in the 490th. It is known that he did also paint numerous leather jackets for many crew members. Such an accomplished artist was in great demand. As a mechanic working on the B17s at Eye, Cowan was awarded a Bronze Star for his work. The airplanes for which he was responsible reputedly accomplished 64 combat missions by the end of the war.
After the war, Cowan joined the Army's Corps of Engineers and worked as an architect in numerous overseas locations. In his later years he became a very successful business man and professional architect. If anyone can confirm any further examples of his work, please share information with me.
© Ray Bowden 2 December 2023