Pinups of World War II

Actress Gene Tierney as seen in Yank Magazine

Actress Gene Tierney as seen in Yank Magazine

Having been a military photographer, photo researcher and editor, and just an overall fan of photography for several years now, I am researching and collecting photographs and art for what I hope will result in a new book about pinups in World War II.

Pinups have been around since at least the 1920s, but gained fame during World War II, when soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines pinned up photos of scantily clad women to their barracks walls, footlockers, tents, or wherever there was a spot that could hold a photo. Yank, a magazine written by and for the soldiers, included a pinup in each issue, usually of a famous Hollywood starlet. Stars such as Lucille Ball, Lauren Bacall, and Gene Tierney all graced the pages of Yank, serving cheesecake to the boys that were serving far from home. Some veterans would claim after the war that these women were the very thing they were fighting for, but we also know these women represented the beauty, longing, and hope of home against the ugliness of war.

Actress Anne Baxter Photo by Frank Powolny

Actress Anne Baxter
Photo by Frank Powolny

My personal interest in pinups began many years ago, even before serving in the Navy. While a young sailor, I read many of the men’s magazines of the time, including Maxim, FHM, and the always-popular Playboy. Having had a lifelong interest in World War II aircraft and nose art, I rediscovered the World War II pinups all over again just a few years ago, when I was going through some old periodicals of Yank magazine. I was fairly amazed at the pinups and somewhat surprised that I recognized many of the names of the actresses and models in the photos. I was even more amazed to discover, when first dating my now-wife Kimberley Dawn, that she also has an interest in pinups (and is a huge Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit fan as well), and since then has done some modeling, including a couple of pinup shoots. She’s the redhead in the photograph I’ve added below. Not too shabby, eh boys?!

My beautiful wife Dawn in a pinup photo from this past summer.  Photo by Swadley Studio

My beautiful wife Dawn in a pinup photo from this past summer.
Photo by Swadley Studio

The legacy of pinups today has branched off into what has become the pornography most men of my generation recognize. When even Playboy seems tame in comparison to what is out there now, I personally still find the photos and artwork of pinups from the 1940s and 50s to be sexier then many of the show-it-all images made today. The thing that made pinups great in my mind is that the women in the photos seemed classy and sophisticated, even approachable. Sure many of them were gorgeous Hollywood actresses and may have seemed unattainable to the average GI, but all the women had an innocence about them that made one believe they could have been from the next town over, or the Prom Queen from your high school, and therefore, willing to talk to a lonely sailor out at sea, or a soldier dug in on the front lines. That’s not to say that other men didn’t think more lascivious thoughts upon gazing at the photos, and this dichotomy is what has made pinups somewhat controversial in this politically-correct day and age. But that is what also makes it art-each individual thinks and feels something differently about the images-which is what good art is supposed to do, and is also exactly the type of individual right our boys were fighting for.

I have to say that I’m pretty excited about this project and hope I can do it justice. If anyone reading this has any photos of dad or grandpa with a pinup, whether it’s tacked on the wall behind them, or on the nose of their airplane, and you’d be willing to share it, please feel free to contact me, as I’d really love to put it in the book.

Pat Clark in Yank Magazine

Pat Clark in Yank Magazine

2 comments on “Pinups of World War II

  1. Men will be men! And soldiers are no different 😛
    Please see if my blog interests you. It is about being an Army wife in India. Cheers!

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