New Disney Nose Art for B-17 ‘Swamp Ghost’

Aircorps Art Dec 2019

New Nose art for B-17 Swamp Ghost

PRESS RELEASE – Pacific Aviation Museum proudly announces a first-of-its-kind collaboration with the talented artists of Walt Disney Animation Studios & Disneytoon Studios. In order to honor the famed World War II-era B17 “Flying Fortress” affectionately named “Swamp Ghost,” artists Mike Gabriel (director, “Pocahontas,” “The Rescuers Down Under” and the Oscar-nominated short, “Lorenzo”) and Klay Hall (director, Disneytoon Studios “Planes”) worked together to create original nose art, to be exclusively displayed at the Museum. The announcement was made by TV personality David Hartman at the Museum’s Annual Gala on December 5th, 2015. The date for the exhibition opening will be announced at a later time.Adds VP, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disneytoon Studios Worldwide Marketing, Greg Coleman, “We hope that the creation and display of the Swamp Ghost nose art serves as a tribute to aviation history and to all those who serve.”

Dumbo, Disney's famed baby elephant, rides a bomb earthward on another of 30 Squadron's Avengers.
Dumbo, Disney’s famed baby elephant, rides a bomb earthward on another of 30 Squadron’s Avengers.

During the war, The Walt Disney Studios made over 1200 insignia for the US and Allied forces, many of which featured iconic characters, including Donald Duck. Disney characters were often painted onto the nose section of aircraft during this era. “Walt Disney’s “Donald Duck” was one of the most iconic and likable characters during the 1940’s,” says Klay Hall. “He was very popular amongst servicemen, possessing a feistiness with a “can do” attitude. He seemed like a natural fit for the Swamp Ghost nose art.”The history of Swamp Ghost, the airplane, is a unique one; no lives were lost in the crash. The plane, a B17 “Flying Fortress” ran critically low on fuel during a mission and had to be ditched in a jungle swamp in the Papua New Guinea area in 1942. All the men walked away from the plane unharmed. It was thought lost until 1972, when it was spotted by a Royal Australian Air Force helicopter, completely intact, resting in a swamp. The plane never received an honorary name or piece of nose art (that usually happened after a few missions). The plane gained the name “Swamp Ghost” because of where it was found. The plane was then carefully extracted from the swamp and ultimately moved to the Pacific Aviation Museum, where it has been exhibited in its “as is” condition since 2014. The exhibition of Swamp Ghost and its nose art joins a collection of more than 40 aircraft within the museum.

B-17 Swamp Ghost

Said Mike Gabriel: “My fervent hope was to do honor to the insignia and nose artwork that the Disney artists created back in the 1940s during the war, by doing a Swamp Ghost design that was totally convincing to the time in which the Swamp Ghost was flying. Klay and I analyzed every aspect of the nose art designs that were created to try and convincingly capture the look, feel, and colors of the time, in order to authentically transport the viewer back to the time. I hope when people see the nose art Klay and I have created, they sense the deep attachment and commitment we have to this exciting project.”

“This is not only an honor for us to be a part of, personally,” said Klay Hall, “it is in remembrance and tribute to our fathers and grandfathers who served their country during that time and those that serve today.”

About the Pacific Aviation Museum

Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. Its mission is to develop and maintain an internationally recognized aviation museum on Historic Ford Island that educates young and old alike, honors aviators and their support personnel who defended freedom in The Pacific Region, and to preserve Pacific aviation history. For more information visit


  1. this is so very interesting, My dad was in the Marines as a sniper during WW2. He was shot and survived. But he never talked about it. He was a proud Marine, but never shared it with his family. But we learned it from a family friend who was like family to us all. So sad to know that someone kept quiet all of those years and didn’t feel he could talk about it. Miss you Dad, Love you dearly

  2. Disney had a hand in well over about 2500 various military designs, some aviation, some ground units , but all usually very well liked, many were “Unofficial” but used by the units anyway , even some of the other countries had some , Canada, U.K. etc ………….

    They employed several artists to do the military emblems .

  3. If you look up Walt Disney’s personal history (he was a big fan of Mussolini in the 20s and 30s and came to “anti-fascism” and “anti-nazism” a bit late), his committment to putting Disney art on American planes was, to say the least, an act of political atonement. None of the old Disney artists from back then are around, but when they were 30 years ago, it wasn’t hard to hear stories about life in the World’s Happiest Place that “dissented” from the popular history. As a friend of mine once put it, “you could do all the research you need for a dystopian story of a (not so) benign police state over at Disney.”

    But thanks to the artists for doing this – I’m sure they were the instigators of the idea (like their forebears were 75 years ago).

    • Tom-

      You might be engaging in a bit of myth making yourself. While your comments about disney are interesting, they aren’t exactly fact based. Yes, he did meet with Mussolini, but persistent rumors of Walt’s alleged bigotry and anti-semitism have recently been debunked.

  4. Kind of odd that they chose to use Donald Duck who wears a sailor suit on an Army Air Corps aircraft? Nothing against the Navy, but I would have gone with a different Disney character. I’d have gone with Jessica Rabbit, she has 1940’s Hollywood glamor and is sweltering hot like the jungles of New Guinea.

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