Sgt Joe E PUMPHREY
79th Fighter Group, 85th Fighter Squadron
Very little is known about Joe Pumphrey beyond the fact that he hailed from Copperton, Utah. He was assigned to the armament section of 85th squadron and was responsible for numerous risqué paintings that were not strictly nose art because they were applied to the tail fins of the squadron's P40 Warhawks. The reason for this was the large unit emblems applied to noses of all the Warhawks left little space for anything else and the tail fin offered a useful alternative. Originally, all Pumphrey's pin-up girls were painted totally nude but an order soon arrived to cover them up with clothing. The minimum flimsy covering was applied leaving nothing to the imagination.
When the unit first arrived at the desolate Landing Ground near Amaryia, designated LD 174, his talent for classic pin up artworks was soon put to use in decorating the bare walls of the Officers' Club. His obvious skill implies some prior training in art but whether this was through art schooling or bill board painting is not known.
As well as painting various pin up girls onto the tail canvas of the Warhawks he is also known to have embellished some of the tents which housed the pilots and ground crews. But when the war moved on after the North African campaign had been won an order was apparently issued for the raunchy artworks to be removed before the unit moved to Italy.
When the squadron was re-equipped with Thunderbolt P47s, Pumprey once again embellished the planes but this time on the nose cowling.
© Ray Bowden 23 April 2017