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Sat, Nov 04, 2023

Military Aviation Museum to Premier WWII Bomber Jacket Exhibit

Beauty Begotten of War’s Horrors

On Saturday, 18 November 2023, Virginia Beach, Virginia’s Military Aviation Museum will proudly open a new exhibit titled Bomber Jackets: The Painted Jacket Art of World War II.

Icons of the savage and more-so-than-ever historically instructive Second World War, hand-painted Bomber Jackets, known formally as the Type A-2 Flying Jacket, are among the most celebrated artifacts of the period spanning 01 September 1939 to 02 September 1945. Initially designed to protect the pilots and crews of the epoch’s unpressurized bombers from altitude’s bitter cold, the jackets evolved into status symbols, and means by which to exercise creativity and assert individualism in operational theaters characterized by Olive Drab Green (ODG) uniformity. Moreover, the jackets, resplendent in Wing and Squadron insignias and duplications of works of nose-art peculiar to the aircraft flown by their wearers, chronicled feats of wartime courage and combat airmanship.

Aspiring to catalog surviving hand-painted bomber jackets of the WWII era, photographer John Slemp traveled the United States, visiting museums’ reliquaries and veterans’ attics, snapping photos and archiving memories otherwise lost among the specters haunting the shadowlands between the limits of human memory and time’s eternal vastness.

Bomber Jackets: The Painted Jacket Art of World War II represents the first instance in which the Slemp’s work has been displayed as a cohesive museum exhibition. While the book born of Mr. Slemp’s photo odyssey contains images not included in the exhibition, the latter affords aviation enthusiasts and historians opportunity to enjoy the jackets against the larger-than-life backdrop of the museum’s immersive gallery. 

The Bomber Jackets: The Painted Jacket Art of World War II exhibition will open with a member preview, followed by general access (included with Museum admission) to a ribbon cutting punctuated with remarks from the exhibition development team. The exhibit’s opening will also include a live demonstration of an artist painting on a reproduction A-2 Jacket.



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