12th Bomb Group, 82nd Bomb Squadron
Details on Thomas Been’s background are hard to find but it is known that he was 30 years old when he enlisted at the Savannah Proving Ground in Illinois in April 1941. He hailed from Skanee, Baraga County Michigan and after a grammar school education became an architect. His full potential as an artist was recognised after joining the 12BG's 82nd Bomb Squadron where he became a SSgt but his Air Force role has not yet been established. He left the 82nd Bomb Squadron in March 1945 after painting several nose arts on the unit's Mitchell bombers.
Some times utilising the cartoon style based on Paul Benson’s LIFE magazine images he created several stunning nose arts which incorporated the “big eyes” which became closely associated with the group’s 82BS. However, several of his known works were more traditional pin-up style images with no cartoon emphasis at all. Fortunately, Been signed several of his nose art images and these can be definitely attributed to him. His style, when using a cartoon approach, is very similar to that used by Norman Harms, a co-pilot in the 82BS, and it is possible that Harms may have been involved in the creation of them.
We have not been able to find any photo of Thomas Been and if anyone can provide anything further on his wartime work and post-war history, please get in touch.
© Ray Bowden 11 August 2022