100th Bomb Group, 349th Bomb Squadron
Thorpe Abbotts, England
Born in December 1929, Ernesto Lovato grew up in the Barelas area of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Soon after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the USAAC and trained at Sheppard Field, Texas, to become an aircraft mechanic. Once in England with the Bloody Hundredth's 349th Bomb Squadron at Thorpe Abbotts his skill and ability to paint outstanding images was soon recognised although he never had any previous formal art education.
Pilots and their crews lined up for his nose art creations and demand was so great that he could easily get $15.00 for each one, or the equivalent in any number of hard-to-get items. He chose the title and imagery for one Fortress as a tribute to his wife Crucita's Irish heritage. Another B17 was painted with a pilot's keepsake baby shoes and named for his son, born while he was overseas. "The Little Skipper" was similarly named for a little one-year-old back in the States. A popular Disney movie of 1941 was the inspiration for another of his nose arts. Several aircraft carried no image at all but utilised Lovato's sign writing skills.
It seems that several of his nose arts have not survived the passage of time as he recalled in later years a visit to the group Chaplain. A request was made for him to "add a few more items of clothing" to his nose arts. Athough unconfirmed, this comment may have been directed at "Laden Maiden" which displayed a nude girl. In fact, 349BS seems to have had remarkably few risque nose arts.
After the war, Ernesto moved to California to study art at the Woodbury College hoping to become a commercial artist. Sadly, illness in the family took him back to Albuquerque and ended his dream although he continued to draw throughout his life.
© Ray Bowden 26 January 2021