Written by Clarence Simonsen
In 1933 Austrian-born, German politician, Adolf Hitler was appointed the new Chancellor of Germany. In the following six years the world watched and waited as Germany became the Third Reich, a single-party dictatorship, based on nazism. In 1936, the British Government began to prepare itself for possible war, forming the RAF Volunteer Reserve, which trained 6,646 pilots [including many Canadians] by 1 September 1939. The Canadian Liberal Government under P.M. Mackenzie King did little to change Canadian Forces, which remained small, and poorly trained, mostly due to 18 years of reduced defence spending. King was the most dominant Canadian political leader from 1920 to 1948, but was reluctant to enter war unless Great Britain were attacked. In 1937, King traveled to Germany and met Hitler, the only North American head of state to do so.
He believed Hitler would do good for Germany and not cause any world problems. On 21 September 1937, the Government formed No. 1 fighter Squadron RCAF at Trenton, Ontario, for protection of Canada. Eleven months later the new squadron was ordered to move West to a new constructed airfield located at Calgary, Alberta. They were equipped with six [two were not in flying condition] obsolete Siskin bi-planes of post WW I vintage, and this was the new total fighter protection for all of Canada.
In the same year, the Royal Air Force began advertising for trained pilots to come to England and receive a Short-Service Officers Commission to fly with the RAF. Hundreds of Canadians answered the call, sailing for England and a new career in the growing RAF, while the RCAF pilots in Calgary could not even maintain normal training hours in their ancient aircraft.
In February 1939, the Canadian Liberal Government began to see the threat from Germany and ordered 24 modern RAF Hurricane Mk. I fighters off the production line in U.K. These modern fighters were placed on ships and arrived one or two at a time at Sea Island, [Vancouver airport today]. They were assembled, test flown, with the first crossing the Rocky Mountains to Calgary on 1 June 1939. It was too little, too late, as before the total allotment of fighters could arrive on Canadian soil, Hitler invaded Poland, 1 September 1939 and the world was going to war. At 11:15 am 3 September, P.M. Chamberlain announced war had been declared on Germany, [followed by the famous ‘Kings Speech’] which was heard by over 1,000 Canadians now serving or undergoing training in the Royal Air Force. Canada officially declared war on Germany 10 September 1939, and three days later the British High Commissioner sent a telegram to Prime Minister Mackenzie King, requesting RCAF units in England as soon as possible. Due to the fact Canada only had a few modern Hurricane Mk. I fighter aircraft and no modern trained pilots [which was conveyed to the British], the Liberal Government could not send any trained RCAF pilots to England in the near future.
The Canadian Government did however wish to have early national presence overseas, and the idea of an RAF unit made up of all Canadians suddenly caught fire.
This touched off some memos, notes, telegrams, and tail-dragging, but no official Liberal Government commitment from Canada. The British did not wait for any Canadian Government approval, and proceeded to form No. 242 [Canadian] Squadron RAF on 30 October 1939. The flow of Canadian pilots from other RAF squadrons began on 5 November 1939, and the first four pilots from No. 242 flew to France on 14 May 1940.
The first Canadian fighter aircraft art appeared on Hurricane Mk I’s in France, but due to the steam rolling advance of the German Army and Luftwaffe, unit log records were lost, Hurricane fighters were abandoned [the RAF destroyed and left 178 Hurricane fighters in France] and few photos survived. On return to England the Canadians of 242 had very low morale, having lost many in battle, but the new Commanding Officer [legless Douglas Bader] took charge and not only allowed squadron art, designed it himself. Each Hurricane in the squadron [a first in the RAF] received the art of a black 242 RAF boot kicking Hitler in the pants, painted on both sides of the nose area. The Battle of Britain began on 10 July 1940, and during the last week of August, five Hurricane Squadrons join the fray. Two of the Squadrons are Polish, two are Czech, and the fifth is No. 1 [RCAF] Fighter Squadron, which is now operational in modern Hurricane aircraft. These five new squadron personnel are painting art on their aircraft and the British are not amused, but what can you do when these Allied airmen are risking their life to save the U.K.? You take control, and that is just what the RAF did. In early September 1940, RAF regulations stated
– “New Allied fighter squadrons are allowed to paint national insignia on the pilot position of their aircraft, provided is will not exceed 30 square inches in total area.”
That is the reason the images and movies taken of fighter aircraft during the Battle of Britain show art under pilot position. Fact – Canadians in No. 242 [RAF] Squadron and No. 1 [RCAF] Squadron played a direct role in the creation of WW II combat fighter aircraft nose art.
This July 1941 Star Weekly cover tells the full story, a Canadian Hurricane pilot paints under pilot position art on his fighter aircraft in England. [author collection]
Battle of Britain ace W/C Ian Gleed used the Walt Disney “Figaro” cat on first his first Hurricane [top] and later his Spitfire AAS742. This clearly shows the correct RAF pilot position art combined with the huge impact of Disney movies in WWII.
In a few short weeks this pilot position art moves to the front nose of WW II aircraft and receives the nickname “nose art.” 1940 to 1945 are considered the Golden Age of aircraft nose art, when almost every aircraft carried a hand-painted name or image, and Canadians came a close second to only the Americans in this nose art form. It would take another 64 years before full squadron nose art returned to Canadian wartime aircraft.
Modern Canadian manned aircraft nose art slowly reappeared with Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing helicopters, which became Canadian Helicopter Force Afghanistan [C.F.H.A.]. Beginning on 24 December 2008, six CH-47D ex-U.S. Army helicopters, from the 101st Airborne, landed at X-Ray ramp, Kandahar Airfield, property of Canadian Forces, and three carried American nose art. The American CH-47D helicopters were officially named “Chinooks” and the Canadians now joined an elite group known as “hookers”. [a slang term for the huge loads they sling]
Unofficial badge used in Afghanistan “Homeless Hookers”
The general policy of naming all U.S. Army aircraft after Indian tribes, Indian chiefs, or other Indian terms became official on 4 April 1969, [authority Army Regulations, A.R. #70-28]. The pre-production Boeing YHC-1B helicopter made its initial hover flight on 21 September 1961. The new helicopter was re-designated CH-47A in 1962, and given the Indian name “Chinook”, which became official seven years later.
The CH-47 Chinook was named for the “Chinookan” Indians who inhabited the upper and lower Columbia River in the states of Washington and Oregon. They were coastal bay and river people, dependent on salmon fishing and small game animals for survival. For some reason they lacked the woodcarving development skills of other west coast tribes of British Columbia and Washington, although they lived in the same cultural location.
Their name also extended to the warm wind called “snow eater” in Chinook jargon  and the large Columbia river “Chinook” salmon .
Chinook Salmon tribal symbol
Chinookan Indian tribe symbol featured the Chinook Salmon which was a sign of abundance and prosperity. They believed the Salmon were actually humans with eternal life, and lived in a large house in the ocean. Each spring, they put on Salmon disguises and offered themselves to the villages as food. When entire Salmon skeletons were returned to the sea, the spirits would rise again and change into Salmon people.
The cycle could begin again, year after year, a renewal and provider. The Chinook were the first Indians to tell stories of the “Old Man South Wind”, “Snow Eater”, an unusually strong westerly warm, dry wind that sweeps over the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and is very common in the southwest corner of Alberta, Canada.
The Boeing CH-47C was a special heavy-lift tandem-rotor helicopter first acquired by the Canadian Forces in 1974, officially a CH-147C in Canadian service. Canada uses the designation of aircraft which is almost identical to the United States. The “C” stands for Canada, the next letter for the aircrafts role, H for Helicopter, a dash, and then the aircraft number. Today’s Canadian aircraft numbers are always greater than 100.
The first CH-147C, crashed on its initial delivery flight, while the remaining seven were used extensively with 10 Tactical Air Group, primarily with No. 447 and 450 Transport Helicopter Squadrons. In 1991, the highly versatile helicopters became part of Canadian Conservative [Mulroney] Government economic cutbacks and were retired from the Forces. The seven helicopters were purchased by Boeing, refurbished and sold to the Dutch Armed Forces. Next began a long complex series of cutbacks for our Canadian Forces, which continued year after year under the Liberal Government, [ 4 November 1993, Jean Chretien and ended 6 February 2006, John Turner]. In a little fairness to the Mulroney Government, they had ordered a new Agusta [Italy] Westland [U.K.] joint constructed EH101 helicopter in 1987, to replace the aging Sea Kings and Labradors.
As soon as the Chretien Liberals took power they cancelled the contract and Canadians paid $500 million in cancellation penalties.
Ironically, in the next fifteen years this slowly conditioned our Canadian Forces to years of do-much-more, with much less and less, perfect for bureaucrats, but not wise for troops at war.
Ex-Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hiller, [16 February 2007] called it “A Decade of Darkness.” Then suddenly came 9-11, which clearly showed the Liberal Government had failed both Canadians and their Forces, when it came to our military readiness for any war.
Canada did not [could not] participate in the invasion of Afghanistan on 7 October 2001, and would not make any significant troop deployment until January 2002. On 13 February 2005, newly appointed Liberal Defence Minister Bill Graham doubled the Canadian ground troop strength to 1,200, and that is when the unnecessary Canadian death toll began. Chief of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier advised the government at once on the urgent need for medium and heavy lift helicopters for the protection of Canadian Forces, and even suggested the American Chinook. The Liberal Government of Canada did nothing but continued committing thousands of our men and women on the ground war in Afghanistan, knowing they did not have any Air Command helicopters capable of operating in the hot, high altitude of southern Afghanistan, in support of “their” ground troops. In September 2005, Minister of National Defence, Bill Graham, even acknowledged Canadian Forces did not have all the equipment it needed to deploy to Kandahar, but stated the needed helicopters would be furnished by other allies helicopter ‘pool’. NATO/ISAF had formed such a helicopter pool for ground troop transportation but remained short of medium-lift helicopters. Canada had contributed no helicopters to the pool and the Liberal government was accused of taking a ‘free ride’. True, Canada relied on favours from the U.S., British, Polish, Australian and yes – the irony of all ironies – Dutch pilots flying ex- Canadian CH-47D Chinooks, sold in 1991, and never replaced by the Liberals.
Another Rick Hiller quote puts it this way –
“Nothing pissed me off more, than being ferried about Afghanistan by a Dutch chopper with its painted-over “Maple Leaf” still visible underneath.”
After four years of war, Canadian ground troops bore the brunt of the fighting in Kandahar, but still faced a complete lack of “Canadian” in-combat helicopter support. The new Tory Government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, inherited the Liberal created Afghan helicopter problem on 6 February 2006, but continued to rely on their Allies for tactical helicopter support.
[It is important to take note that in May 2006, a Russian trade delegation in Ottawa, offered the Canadian [Harper] Government the chance to purchase the new more advanced Mi-17-V5 combat helicopter.]
The Russian offer was ignored and in June 2006, the Government ordered 16 new CH-147F Chinook helicopters from Boeing. This took care of the Canadian future long-term helicopter problem but did nothing for the present Canadian ground troops being killed on the unsafe Afghan roads.
In short – the present-day Canadian helicopters CH-146 Griffon and the ancient CH-124 Sea Kings [which troops called See Things’ – you had to see the f—–g things to believe them] could not carry useful workloads. DND had sworn to never fly Russian aircraft with Canadian pilots, and 16 new CH-147F Chinook helicopters would not arrive until at least late 2014. If this trend continued, [and it seemed it would] more and more Canadian ground troops would be killed by roadside bombs, then two brave senior Canadian Officers began to speak out in the press.
In July 2006, Canadian Lt-Col. Ian Hope, Commander of Canadian Task Force Orion in Kandahar, was quoted as following – Title – “Cemetery Side road: On the Ground in Afghanistan”
“It is quite possible [this lack of transport helicopters] has cost limbs, if not more, because we have had to sustain [resupply troops in remote areas using vehicles] on the ground.” “That has produced a risk that would be reduced if we could take helicopter flights. It does not take a military tactician to know this.”
This was followed by Canada’s senior logistician in Kandahar, [Lt. Col. John Conrad] who sent a clear message to the Canadian Government when he stated
– “The Canadian convoys are now in harm’s way almost daily because supplies have to follow the infantry and we have to send those supplies by land. We bid on [available coalition helicopter support] but it is like coming to potluck. Everyone brings a dish and, instead of potato salad, we come with a jug of water. [our allies] help us when they can, but we are at the end of [their priority] list [unless the requirement is close air support or MEDEVAC].” This confirmed Canada was a ‘free loader’.
Both statements were polite, nice, but directly and powerfully worded to inform the Canadian Conservative [minority] Government, the M.P.’s in Ottawa were not allowing Canadian Forces to pull their own weight in ground combat, as they relied on coalition forces to provide helicopter transport. This not only limited the ability for Canadian [including French/Canadian] ground troops to conduct operations, but of more importance, it placed the troops at greater risk of death from land mines and improvised explosive devices. Canada could not even remove its wounded or dead from the battle field by air, unless it called for coalition MEDEVAC support.
This should have opened the M.P.’s eyes in Ottawa, but it didn’t.
It took 21 months of minority government, opposition party political football before any action was announced, and that had to be forced upon them. The Liberal and Bloc Quebecois M. P.’s should hang their heads in shame, as during this time period, Canadian troops [including men and women from La Belle Province] were dying more and more frequently in ever-increasing roadside bombings. A war zone is not the place for bad French/Canadian politics. The Canadian military death total in Afghanistan gives the cold, hard facts.
Canada suffered the third-highest absolute number of deaths of any nation among the foreign military who served in Afghanistan, and the highest casualties per capita of all coalition countries since the start of the war. 157 Canadians died in the war in Afghanistan. 95 Canadians were killed by improvised explosive devices or landmines, 21 due to rocket-propelled grenade, small arms or mortar fire. 11 were killed by suicide bomb attacks and one fell from a cliff during a firefight. 22 soldiers died from non-combat circumstances.
In total 123 Canadians were killed from hostile enemy action, which could have been reduced or prevented by the American CH-47 helicopter. Early in the war  the U.S. Army found the CH-47 was the more powerful helicopter in the high altitude thin Afghanistan mountain air. The Chinook was an excellent assault helicopter, which could carry more troops, plus moved faster and further than their famous UH-60 “Blackhawk”.
When Peter MacKay became Stephen Harper’s second Minister of National Defence in August 2007, his priority was to jump the queue on the new CH-147F Chinook order, but the U.S. needed them mostly in Iraq, and the answer was ‘No’, you have to wait your turn.
In January 2008, the problem was at last solved, [on paper] by the Manley report, which was an independent panel ordered [October 2007] by the Parliament of Canada. P.M. Harper had wisely appointed former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister John Manley to head the panel. John Manley came to power as a cabinet minister under P.M. Jean Chretien after the 1993 election and had been part of the years of Liberal military spending cuts and he knew the problem had been caused by his party.
This independent panel had no problem getting to the point, [which surprised many eastern Canadians and Quebec opposition M.P.’s] when they minced few words in the key points of their report.
“To improve the safety and operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces in Kandahar, the Government should secure for them, no later than February 2009, new medium-lift helicopters and high-performance unmanned aerial vehicles. If this necessary equipment is not procured, the Government should give appropriate notice to the Afghan and allied governments of its intention to transfer responsibility for security of Kandahar.”
Finally, faced with this Parliamentary threat and total embarrassment for all Canadians, the Government M.P.’s came together and reacted. In August 2008, the Government of Canada purchased six CH-147D used Chinook helicopters from the U.S. Army under Foreign Military Sales Agreement with the United States Government, for $292 million. The six Chinooks were purchased to meet the immediate need of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, due to the March 2008 Parliamentary motion to extend their Afghan mission until May 2011. The six D-model Chinooks were employed with the U.S. Army [101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” Combat Aviation Brigade], at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, and when the delivery was completed December 30, 2008, three of the six came with their original American nose art.
[To understand what each CH-147D Chinook meant to Canadian Forces, [Air Command] please read the November 2009, article by Chinook pilot, Major Jonathan Knaul, titled “Above & Beyond: Canadian Helicopter Force, Afghanistan, published Smithsonian Air & Space magazine] Also found online. To get his facts published he had to turn to an American institution.
After spending the past 45 years on research, collecting, and repainting replica WW II nose art, including interviews with 83 men and women who painted in war, I feel it is not fair to compare the aviation art in Afghanistan to WW II images. During the Second World War, if a Canadian squadron earned the unofficial title “Hookers”, this would have produced a wide range of nude or semi-nude ladies of the evening with a huge play on words and double entendres. Today Canadians live in a much more politically sensitive world and the personalities of the majority of air and ground crews helped determined a much more appropriate helicopter nose art. That’s what I believed until I learned the truth.
The very first Canadian combat nose art [since 1945] was painted on a 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing, Griffon helicopter in November 2008. This art was ordered removed and censored by the NATO Canadian Officer in Command of all Canadians stationed at Kandahar.
As a direct result of this offensive helicopter nose art, a new formal line of command was formed to permit the use of ‘official’ Canadian aircraft nose art. While this special approval to paint the helicopters was not required by Ottawa, the Afghan Air Wing was required to notify the Department of National Defence on just what artwork personalized which aircraft. Senior Air Command officers also kept a keen eye on just what “nose art” the aircraft carried. However, one point will never change in time of war, manned aircraft nose art paintings, no matter what shape or name, provide esprit de corps, and most of all the feeling of good luck for air and ground crews alike. Both the Canadian modified American art and the new created nose art was painted on right [starboard] side between gunners door and pilot position. This was to avoid pilot glare and not interfere with helicopter identification numbers, in line with Air Command regulations.
Air Command serial number 147201, was delivered 24 December 2008. Originally built in 1968 as CH-47C serial 68-16017, she was converted to a CH-47D in 1988 with new serial 89-00130. This helicopter contained no American nose art but later received impressive Canadian art “Miss Behavin”. [Artist Master Corporal Robert Bannen]
[all photos 1 Wing – Kingston]
A photo worth a thousand words – Proud to have served and their Lady that protected them – August 2011.
This WW II sexy style pose nose art by Master Corporal Robert Bannen is “all-Canadian” and with name Miss Behavin”, and red dress, it could suggest a hidden crew meaning for ‘hooker’? This was the only Chinook painted by M/Cpl. Bannen, and by far the best. The lady pose originated from a poster used in a Quebec City, strip club. [1 Wing – Kingston]
Air Command serial # 147202, delivered 28 December 2008. Originally built as CH-47C in 1967, serial 67-188550, converted to CH-47D in 1984, new serial 84-24181. This 40 year old helicopter came with American nose art “The Magic Bus”.
[1 Wing Kingston]
[1 Wing – Kingston]
“The Magic Bus” 147202 was shot down and burnt on 5 August 2010. It was replaced by a leased CH-47D, serial 87-00096 and became Air Command 147207. The nose art was not repainted on the replacement helicopter.
Crash of “The Magic Bus”
Air Command 147203, originally built as CH-47C, serial 67-18477, converted to CH-47D, new serial 87-00081.
The red image of a Bat-winged female devil with spear on #147203. [1 Wing Kingston]
Air Command serial 147204, built as CH-47A, 1964, serial 64-13140, served a full tour in Viet Nam with “B” Company, 228th Aviation Support Helicopter Battalion, then operated with Thai Air Force, returned to U.S. in 1983, converted to CH-47D with new serial 84-24154. Had accumulated 3,598 hours as a 47-A, then logged 6,540 hours as a CH-47D, when purchased by Canadians. What an incredible aviation combat history.
[1 Wing – Kingston]
[1 Wing – Kingston]
Air Command serial 147205, built as CH-47A in 1966, serial 66-00103. Converted to a CH-47D, 26 March 1986, new serial 86-01650. Came with nose art of the Grim Reaper, which was modified by Canadians [under command of Sgt. Bob Patten, Kingston, Ont.] given red hockey helmet, stick, and name “2 for Hooking”. 16 May 2011, rolled on landing in Panjwaii riverbed. Four injured, helicopter recovered and returned to Canada.
[1 Wing – Kingston]
The artists took pity on the Toronto Maple Leafs fans and thus painted a red helmet. This could be the insignia of the 2015 Toronto Maple Leafs.
Recovery of “2 for Hooking”
[1 Wing Kingston – after recovery, art returned to Canada]
Air Command 147206, built as CH-47A 1965, serial 65-08015, converted CH-47D, 2 April 1986, serial 86-01651. Came with American nose art “Jack D Up”.
CH-147D, 147206, in American markings with American nose art, 651 for serial 86-01651
[1 Wing RCAF Trenton]
[1 Wing Kingston] Inside door of 147206 with Canadian artwork in “Jack” theme, Yukon Jack, a Canadian whiskey distilled in Valleyfield, Quebec.
The six used Chinook helicopters with original modified and new ‘nose art’ became the undeniable stars of the Canadians in the new Air Wing and would save countless Canadian ground troop lives in their 31 months of service. While this in-theatre purchase had solved the main Canadian Forces problem, the fact remained, Canada had not added one single medium-lift helicopter to the ISAF pool. In November 2008, DND leased six civilian Russian Mi-8T helicopters from Skylink Aviation, Inc. of Toronto. These contractor-owned [Aero Stan Airlines, Kazan built] were civilian flown helicopters which carried supplies for the Canadian Forces but never transported Canadian personnel. That all changed in May 2010, and Canadian Aviation history may never be the same? Four new Russian military Mi-17-V5 helicopters were leased by DND and painted in sand camouflage, with full “Canadian’ markings, given the Canadian Forces designation CH-178, with serial numbers 178404-178407. Canadian Navy spokeswomen – Lt. Kelly Rozenberg-Payne, stated they were requested by Canadian Commanders for special operations. [This is still shrouded in secrecy for safety of Canadian troops who remain training in Afghanistan] Well, that’s what the DND state? At long last the Canadian Government had added four Russian medium-lift helicopters to the NATO/ISAF transport helicopter pool. Did any of the four Mi-17 helicopters contain Canadian ‘nose art’? The answer I received from Canadian Officers was “No.” Did Canadian aircrew in uniform fly the Russian Helicopters? No one will answer that question, it is still classified?
At least 3 of these CH-178 helicopters were air lifted to Bulgaria on 18 August 2011, with all Canadian markings covered [taped over] by orders of D.N.D.
More information is required for a new “Canadian/Russian” helicopter painting.
[photo from Canadian civilian [retired veteran] working on his fifth tour in Afghanistan 2011]
Air Command serial 147207 CH-147D Chinook was leased from the U.S. Army serial 87-00096, and replaced burnt 147202 “Magic Bus”. This Chinook was returned to the U.S. Army when T.F. Afg. Air Wing stood down on 18 August 2011. This helicopter flew with American art on the front rotor area but never received Canadian nose art.
[1 Wing RCAF photo]
Damaged CH-147D 147205 “2 for Hooking” was returned to Canada, possibly to be used as a trainer for the new CH-147F’s beginning in 2014. The other four could not be sold and today are stored at Davis-Monthan, AFB in Tucson, Arizona, complete with their respective nose art.
The CH-146 Griffon Helicopter Canadian Nose Art
The Canadian Government placed a $700 million contract for 100 CH-146 [Bell modified 412EP] helicopters in 1992. They were received by Canadian Forces from 1995 to 1997, and took the official title Griffon, the name and spelling being adopted due to its use by Agusta-Westland [Bell] which builds the military model 412 under licence in Italy. “Grifone” in Italian means eagle-winged, lion body, methyl bird.
The January 2008, [Manley Report] Parliamentary threat of Canadian withdrawal from Afghanistan was preceded by a long vigorous Government and DND debate on the deployment of the Canadian CH-146 Griffon helicopter in the intense heart and high altitudes of Afghanistan. In March 2008, a Parliamentary motion passed and the Canadian Afghan mission was extended until May 2011. The Government then signed a contract with the Americans for the six used CH-47D helicopters, but the contract was not announced until August. The use of the CH-146 debate continued until 26 November 2008, when the Canadian Forces announced eight Griffon helicopters would be modified to act as escorts for the six CH-147 Chinook helicopters. The move began on 8 December from Mirabel, Quebec, in CC-117 transport aircraft, which holds three Griffon helicopters.
Serial numbers – 146401, 146414, 146434, 146438, 146465 146478, 146482, were the original Griffons that served in Afghanistan, but more than eight were used, as helicopters were rotated in and out of theatre.
During my research with active Canadian officers serving in Afghanistan, I learned of Canadian Forces “nose art” censorship involving the oldest veteran CH-146 Griffon Helicopter #146401. Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing [Canadian Air Command] stood-up on 6 December 2008 and the first CH-146 Griffon mission flight took place on 6 January 2009. This Griffon helicopter carried the nose art image of the Ace of Spades or “Death Card.” The art work was painted by M/Cpl. Gordon Bennett of 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, CFB Edmonton, Alberta, and the idea came from an American comic, “Lady Death.” At once senior Canadian Air Command Officers ordered the art removed and the official story became, the “Double Ace” was painted for bird strikes on the helicopter.
When I read this, I knew at once something was wrong?
The very first Canadian casualty of the Afghanistan War becomes the ‘truth.’ M/Cpl. Bennett should be credited with painting the very first Canadian combat helicopter nose art since 1945, but his work and history has been destroyed. We train young Canadian men and women to go to war and kill the enemy, but their Commanding Officer won’t allow the same aircrew to paint a ‘Death Card’ on their helicopter, because it’s obscene.
The “Lady Death” comic was created by Americans Brian Pulido and painted by artist Scott Lewis. In March 2009, the American Army 82nd airborne Division was stationed at Kabul, Afghanistan. These combat troops wrote to Brian Pulido and requested a special “Death Card” be created for them using the image of Lady Death. The card was completed and mailed to the troops in Kabul, where decks of 52 cards were printed and used against the Taliban enemy. The use of these cards was well known to all troops and inspired M/Cpl. Bennett to create his first helicopter nose art using the “Ace of Spade” image. This nose art represented the new Canadian 408 Squadron Helicopter Force bringing death to the Taliban enemy.
The NATO Officer in Command of all Canadian stationed at Kandahar on 2 December 2009 was Brigadier General Daniel Menard, a well respected family and senior Air Force Officer. The official orders to remove this new helicopter nose art came from B/Gen. Menard. At the same time B/Gen. Menard was having a sexual affair with a much lower rank female subordinate under his command in a war zone. When his sexual secret was exposed, Daniel Menard resigned from the Canadian Military in December 2010.
It is clear to see this senior officer showed much more concern for the Canadian helicopter nose art painting of “Double Ace” and much less for his “Double Standard” concerning family, military career, and “CANADA?”
Sadly, this historical first wartime nose art painting by M/Cpl. Bennett and 408 [Goose] Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Edmonton, Alberta, has been censored and destroyed by high ranking RCAF Officials, the D.N.D. and our Canadian Government. I believe this was wrong, and for that reason completed the following painting.
This painting was completed on original WWII aircraft skin taken from Norseman Mk. IV, assigned to the RCAF on 9 September 1942 and given RCAF serial #494. It flew most of its wartime career at No. 3 Training Command, Montreal, Quebec. Sold by War Assets on 1 August 1946, it crashed into Allen lake, N.W.T. on 25 August 1947 and remained on the shore line for the next 46 years. Recovered in 1993, it was restored to static display in 1998, and can be seen in the Alberta Aviation Museum today. This original Norseman skin was saved from the garbage bin in 1999, by pilot Tony Jarvis and mailed to Clarence Simonsen.
This painting is based on classified facts which may not be correct, and due to the censorship on this helicopter art, no photos could be found? People have the photos but they are not allowed to expose them to the public? This painting honors all members of 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron who served Canada in their first rotation in Afghanistan fall of 2008, and for the forgotten artist M/Cpl. Bennett who made wartime nose art history.
Any corrections or future information, most of all any known nose art photo, would be most welcome by the author.
On 8 January 2009, a Canadian CH-147D Chinook made its debut flight from its base at Kandahar Airfield. For the next 31 months, a number of modified CH-146 Griffon utility Tactical helicopters provided escort and over watch protection for the larger Chinooks.
Did the “Death Card” nose art fly any Canadian combat operations?
On 6 July 2009, Griffon helicopter 146434 crash landed, killing two Canadians and one British soldier. During the last Canadian rotation in 2011, a very talented Corporal Richard Aucoin painted five of the of CH-146 Griffon helicopters with “Canadian” Squadron nose art, which showed heavy content of the Canadian “Maple Leaf.”
[ photo credits – 1Wing Kingston]
Corporal Richard Aucoin with his Griffon Canadian helicopter nose art “Dragon’s Breath” #146425.
Griffon serial 146482 “Aggressive Eagle with Canadian Flag.
A very talented Cpl. Aucoin and his Griffon nose art
Griffon [serial ] Gun Slinger Cpl. Aucoin
Cpl. Aucoin, Popeye with Canadian tattoos – “To the Finish” serial 146414.
The most impressive Griffon [serial 146410] which featured the 1 Wing Badge flying bat and the M-134D mini-Gatling gun “BAT OUTTA HEL”. This was painted over and lost.
[1 Wing photo]
The completion of the last operational mission of Canadian Helicopter Force Afghanistan took place on 27 July 2011, ending an incredible 31 months of Canadian tactical aviation history. The most outstanding accomplishment by 1 Wing was the staffing of the air wing under extremely tight time restraints. New pilots were recruited for the Chinook helicopters, many whom had never flown helicopters, quickly trained in the United States and within weeks entered the combat theatre flying operations. New Griffon pilots were also quickly selected and entered combat weeks later. New air gunners where quickly trained for the high-powered M-134D mini-Gatling gun, which the insurgents called “Allah’s Breath of Death.” These Canadians were able to refine new combat tactics, procedures, and techniques which will be passed on when the 15 new CH-147F Chinook helicopters arrive in 2013. Canada’s first expeditionary force with helicopters in the Afghanistan combat theatre saved untold lives on the brutal Afghan roads, and now their nose art is part of the Canadian Forces history books.
Four of the five Griffon nose art panels have been saved and donated to the War Museum in Ottawa. Sadly the most famous “Bat Outta Hel’” was painted over and lost.
Today over 50 nations, [including Canada] currently operate Unmanned Aerial Systems [UAS] for military activity. The United States, Russia, Israel, Iran and China have large Government manufacturing companies, while other counties like Canada depend on aviation firms, universities and government funded research projects for their military drones. The world leader is United States of American [U.S. Department of Defense] with over 30 different known types that have been released for publication. What American flies at Area 51 may never be released to the public? They fly over 11,000 UAS vehicles, which come in a new generation of all shapes and sizes, from a 5 inch robotic hummingbird to a monster with a 160 foot wingspan. At this very moment, a young blonde haired American twenty something lady, sits in an air conditioned control room in the United States, and on command she can fly an unmanned aerial system aircraft to any point in the world and take out a target. [The pin-up girl of WW II has moved from nose art to the pilot seat] In 2011, the USAF trained more male and female pilots to fly unmanned aircraft than fighters and bombers combined, a first in American aviation history. The future is here and Canada joined the club in August 2003, with the purchase of six CU-161 Sperwer [Dutch for Sparrow hawk] unmanned aerial systems, manufactured by SAGEM firm in France. The CU-161 Sperwer was used in Afghanistan from 29 October 2003 until 18 April 2009 and became the first UAV operated by Canadian Forces, paving the way for future UAV systems such as the leased CU-170 Israeli built Heron. During its 67 month operation, 36 Sperwer vehicles were used but only four survived intact. The vehicle used a catapult launch, with a parachute and airbag recovery which caused 16 to be completely destroyed when they impacted the ground at too high a speed. It took two C-130 aircraft to transport the entire system from one point to another. The launch required a ground control station, a transport hydraulic catapult, and a ground data terminal housed in a communications shelter, which had to be transported by a number of mobile vehicles. On 11 August 2009, four surviving intact and two damaged but flyable vehicles, were sold back to the French Government. Thanks again to the January 2008 Manley report, [which recommended new high-performance unmanned aerial vehicles] the Canadian Government spent $12 million [May 08] and $30 [April 09] for new UAV aircraft, [the Israeli built CU-170 Heron] which highly improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for Canadian troops on the ground in Afghanistan. From the very beginning in October 2003, the French built Sperwer proved to be inadequate for Canadian troop protection requirements in Afghanistan. The D.N.D. [Liberal Government] chose badly and wasted taxpayer money for a quick fix to the large number of Canadian troops being killed by the roadside bombs. Forgotten in all this history is the fact the CU-161 Sperwer ushered in the first unmanned Canadian nose art in the Afghan combat theatre of war. Today five replica Sperwer drone UAS have been reconstructed from some of the 32 crashed vehicles. Displayed in Canadian Military Museum’s they tell the official story from DND point of view and totally omit the true failure of the first Canadian use of UAS vehicles, the combat nose art, or the names of the ground crew who painted them? More censorship?
The following images were obtained by 1 Wing H.Q in Kingston, Ontario, and show some of the Canadians UAV art used in Afghanistan. These were painted by members of the 6th rotation, but who were they?
The author would like to hear from anyone who served, painted, and can assist in telling the truth on this rare Sperwer art form in time of war? I believe some of the art work paid tribute to the high crash rate of the inadequate vehicle, but only the artist can reveal that truth.
The creation of Canadian nose art on the CU-161 Sperwer was a pun on the fact so many of the UAS drones crashed. The Duracell Bunny used the alkaline battery which could function for a longer amount of time. This is Sperwer # 161011 which could not “Keep Going and Going.”
Wile E. Coyote on his rocket and we all know the end results will be a crash, just like the CU-161 Sperwer will end its infamous Canadian career?
Nose and tail fins of 161011 contained “Death Head” and Duracell Bunny with “We Keep Going & Going.”
Serial 161021 was delivered in 2006. [history unknown]
This most impressive WW II “Betty Boop” nose art appeared on 161027 which crashed after launch at Kandahar on 18 March 2008. Destroyed on ground impact. [artist ?]
The famous Mad magazine “Spy Vs Spy” serial 161020. Destroyed at Kandahar 10 July 2007, parachute deployed too low, ground impact.
In the winter of 2012, I painted a memorial to the men and women who served under 1 Wing in Afghanistan. The painting honors the two members killed in action on 6 July 2009, and the total images of helicopter nose art which flew in Afghanistan. This was unveiled by Colonel K. G. Whale, Commander 1 Wing, 10 November 2013.
Image 1 Wing HQ Kingston, Ontario.
This painting was completed on the original fabric from RCAF WWII Norseman serial 494, which today can be seen in the Alberta Aviation Museum as CF-EIH.
The painting contains the image of the original “Death Card” painted on Helicopter #146401 by M/Cpl. Gordon Bennett 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Edmonton, Alberta.
The painting took three months to complete, and during this time a special request was received from Canadian Helicopter pilots who flew in Afghanistan. They requested the black silhouette of a Russian built Mi-17-V5, [CH-178] be painted in the dark clouds. The reason given was the Russian helicopter was tough, built for the combat conditions, cheap to operate, and most important, it – “Saved Canadian Lives.”
Five of the above original Afghanistan Helicopter war nose art images were saved and returned to Canada. It is not known it they will ever be displayed or the true history of the combat artist will be recorded for future history?