S/Sgt Lynn E. TRANK
405th Fighter Group, 510th Fighter Squadron
Christchurch, England, Picauville & St Dizier, France, Kitzingen
A graduate of the University of Nebraska, Lynn Trank was drafted into the USAAF and assigned to the 510th Squadron of the 405th Fighter Group destined to become part of the rapidly expanding 9th Air Force and dubbed "Jenkins' Jerry Junkers" after its commanding officer. Initially deployed at Christchurch, on the south coast of England, the 405th moved to France after D-Day. Trank used his artistic skill to great effect and provided many of the pilots of the 510FS with flamboyant and superbly executed nose arts. His glorious renditions of the female form, such as that painted on "Tipsy", reminded the men of their loved ones left back in the USA. The grim reality of war was made a little more bearable by the more humorous, light-hearted examples such as "K-Kid" and "Boog". His skill and talent was soon in great demand not only from members of the 510th Sqn, who included his CO Capt Jenkins, but other pilots in the group and also from visiting officers from Wing and the IXth Fighter Command.
Trank recalled that most of the paint he used was furnished by the squadron paint shop as primary colours of red, yellow, blue together with black and white. These were enamel type paints, quick drying and no problem to apply to the aluminium skin of the planes. The cowling, where most of the nose art was applied, could be removed to facilitate painting. He also painted numerous A2 leather jackets for the pilots.
S/Sgt Lynn Trank is believed to have painted most of the nose arts displayed in the 510th Fighter Squadron and he was described by many in the outfit as "the only indispensible man in the squadron." It was he who designed the unit emblem "Willie the Wolf" after a request from CO Ralph Jenkins. His work undoubtedly raised the morale of the fliers and ground crew and helped them to cope with the difficult conditions they had to endure, especially in the drive across France into Germany in the last year of the war in Europe.
After the war, Lynn Trank earned his BFA from the University of Nebraska and then a second BFA from Washington University in St Louis, MO, as well as an MFA and a PhD from other faculties. In 1988 he retired as Professor of Art at Eastern Illinois University and spent time indulging in his other passion -- growing flowers and raising miniature orchids and African violets until passing away in November 2004.
If you have any information, recollection or photos of Sgt Trank and his handiwork I would be delighted to have the chance to learn more about him and the planes he painted, their pilots and ground crew
© Ray Bowden 27 February 2024