WWII Artist – Pinup Calendar Guru Lou Varro – Pinup Art Photography


I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to acquire a few photographs from the estate of the venerated Lou Varro, the best known WWII pinup calendar artist in the MTO during WWII.  Lou is well known for his small-print monthly pinup calendars that would be posted in B-24 and B-17 bombers during missions in Italy.  I’ve seen a handful of his calendars during my time collecting WWII photography and am happy to have acquired a few photos of the artist.  I also snagged an original Varro December 1944 “topless” calendar page.

Lou Varro

Lou Varro

Lou’s most popular subject was attractive women from his hometown.  Although the subject of the portrait is currently unknown, we do know that this photo made the news in Lou’s hometown of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1944.  I would love to track down the article, it apparently featured Lou and his exploits during his service with a B-24 bomb group during WWII.  See below for the photo that “made the article.”

Lou Varro in 1944

Lou Varro in 1944

Reverse Side

Reverse Side

The woman featured in the above sketch can clearly be seen in a shot of Lou’s bunk taken shortly thereafter.  His calendar obsession can be seen in the image……. what a great glimpse into the everyday life of a bomb group EM.

Lou's Room January 1945 - Italy

Lou’s Room January 1945 – Italy

Lou passed away a few years ago, but had a lot to say about his wartime art career:

“Soon after, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and served in World War II as a non-commissioned officer. While stationed in southern Italy, he worked as a processor for films that came off bomber planes after they were sent for an attack. Here, he found another opportunity to work as an artist.”

I dabbled in photography, but my specialty then was calendars,” Varro said.

(from the above linked article) Varro would use his spare time in the photography lab — an old barn that had been converted for military use — to make calendars for his fellow servicemen.

“I would find a picture of a pretty girl, make a couple of them and give them away for the guys to put in their planes or their huts,” he said. “A lot of guys knew and liked me for that.”

This is a continual post and will be updated as more material and information is added to the PortraitsofWar collection.

One of Varro’s famous WWII pinup calendars.  Most of his models were taken from previously exiting “nudie magazines” and retrofitted into calendars.  Please enjoy Miss December, 1944!

Miss December 1944

Miss December 1944

Spectacular WWII Aircraft Nose Art DVD Documentary – Interviews with Veterans of the 8th USAAF


I just came across a wonderful DVD from a British documentary film company that fits right in here at PortraitsofWar.  Filmed and edited by Whirl Wind Productions in the UK, this documentary follows the lives of WWII nose artists as well as the men who flew those famous warbirds.  Check it out and make sure to order a copy!

http://www.noseartfilms.co.uk/

WWII Nose Art – Hal Olsen, the Last Living WWII Nose Artist


I recently had the esteemed pleasure of acquiring five nose art photos of PB4Y-2 airplanes.  Using the power of the internet, I was able to look up four of the  planes, the Green Cherries, and the Lady Luck II.  With a bit of luck I tracked down the name of the original artist.  Hal Olsen painted over 100 nose art pin-up ladies on various planes in the PTO during his stint with the US Navy during WWII.  He charged $50 per painting and eventually used the money to enter formal art school and travel with his wife.  He is considered the last living nose art painter of WWII.    Having tracked him down, I wrote him a nice letter asking for his autograph and promising that I would send along some copies of my photos. He graciously signed all of my photos and added an inspiring letter with the group.  Thanks Hal!  You’re one for the story books.

Thanks Hal!

Lady Luck II
Green Cherries

Hal’s Autograph
"Gear Down and Locked Up" - an image shot by Lt. Theodore Rowcliffe, USNR before the plane was shot down in August of 1945Special thanks to Dave Rowcliffe for providing this image watermark free!

“Gear Down and Locked ” – an image shot by Lt. Theodore Rowcliffe, USNR before the plane was shot down in August of 1945
Special thanks to Dave Rowcliffe for providing this image watermark free!

UPDATED POST – WWII Refrigeration Truck Unit Photos – “The Penguin Fleet” Blood and Plasma Transfer Trucks


One aspect of war that is not normally discussed is the transportation of temperature sensitive material.  Blood, meat, and some chemicals needed to be kept cool for use in the field and needed special trucks to deliver the goods.  Here is a set of photos showing the trucks of the unit!  Try finding these anywhere else!  Scanned from original negatives.

 

UPDATE:

After cleaning out a forgotten box in my closet, I was able to find some additional negatives from this grouping.  Enjoy!