Ruptured Duck Nose Art

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Corporal Roger Lovelace

Letter to the Editor/ The Eugene Guard
Sent from Roger V. Lovelace, Cottage Grove, OR.
Feb 15th 1989:

Dear Sir:
       April 18, 1989 will mark the forty-seventh anniversary of the famous Doolittle Raid On Tokyo. One might not expect to find any newsworthy new material about that event this many years later. The short account attached is perhaps a bit of such material. In these many years I have never written down this true story before.
       If the Register-Guard plans to take note of the anniversary mentioned above, it is possible my story may be of interest. Also enclosed are machine copies of the aircraft and the nose art. I recreated them from memory.
       The story may give the impression that I personally went on the Tokyo Raid. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, who knows?) I was seriously injured in a car wreck the night before Doolittle and the Raiders left Florida. They flew directly to Alameda Naval Air Station to be placed on board the U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier. That was March 22, 1942.
       Even the book “30 Seconds Over Tokyo”, in which I am credited with the nose art, the artists drawings are incorrect.
       After consideration, if the newspaper does not wish to use my story, please return the material in the SASE. If the reader can provide any constructive comments about my story, I would appreciate it.

Roger V. Lovelace

February 3, 1989
“The Ruptured Duck-Bomber Nose Art” 
(made famous by the book and movie “30 Seconds Over Tokyo”)

     It seems to me that I am qualified to write on the subject of the title…I am the one who did the piece of nose art. That was forty-seven years ago, but the events of February and March 1942 are clear in my mind. After all, training with the Doolittle Raiders was not your everyday Air Corps bill of fare. The Tokyo Raid was so top secret that as far as I know there was almost no film documentation….not even by the military people. There was of course some film taken when the B-25 Mitchell bombers flew off the flight deck of the U.S.S. Hornet headed for the famous Tokyo Raid.
     Many books have been written about the Tokyo Raid. The most famous book was “30 Seconds Over Tokyo”. That account was written by my former pilot and good friend Ted Lawson. Even in that book, the explanation about the duck nose art is not quite correct.
     Here, forty-seven years later, is the straight skinny:
Ruptured Duck Nose Art     We (the Doolittle Raiders) were at Eglin Field, Florida nearing the completion of our training. In that short time each pilot and crew made many simulated aircraft carrier take offs. Eglin Field was not used for that practice since there might be “observers”. An isolated field in the Florida booneys was where we practiced. The distance we would be able to utilize on the carrier deck had been carefully marked out. I saw many of those take offs…Our crew did at least as many as any other crew. I even rode in the plexiglass nose a couple of times until the Naval officer directing us, Lieutenant Henry L. Miller, flagged our ship to a stop one day. He told Ted Lawson to “get that guy out of the nose”. His added comment was “that’s just asking for it.”
     The planes would lock their brakes at the end of the marked space, put down full flaps and then gradually rev the engines up to full throttle. When they then kicked the brakes loose the aircraft would try to leap into the air. In a very short distance there was a marker which indicated where each aircraft must be airborne to sustain flight. In that space (about three hundred feet) many of the planes would lift off and then sort of bounce again off the runway maybe three or four times. Like an injured bird? No, like a ruptured duck. That’s where I got the idea for the name.
     Popular cartoon characters were my favorite subjects for drawings, so with simple skills I borrowed a duck image. I put the duck in a pilot’s uniform and placed an overseas camp and headphones on and then the crossed crutches underneath.
     I have seen many versions of that nose art, but none of them have gotten it exactly right.

-Roger Lovelace, artist
(ex-Air Corps gunner)

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