Flying Sharks!

If you thought you were safe in the air, think again.


The Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" has been going strong for 25 years. Visitors to the website can learn "Top 100 Shark Facts," including "When the USS Indianapolis was attacked by a shark during World War II, 900 sailors were stranded in the Philippine Sea near Guam for 4 days," and "Sharks move like airplanes. They create forward movement with their tails (like propellers) and water moves over their fins like wings."

We knew there was an aviation connection!

Actually, the shark has been embraced by aviators the world over, and has been used as airplane nose art for decades. Click on our photo gallery to learn more. Here, Frank, the 15th Army Air Forces' group mascot, considers a Consolidated B-24 Liberator bearing a massive sharkmouth. Some of the first multi-engine bombers to use the sharkmouth motif belonged to the 15th Air Force in Italy.



The sharkmouth motif dates back to World War I, when it was common to both German and Allied airplanes. "The sheer flamboyance of this uniquely aggressive insignia," writes Richard Ward in his 1970 book Sharkmouth, "has attracted the disapproval of the pompous and the dull-minded."

"The first aircraft on which a mouth insignia was regularly painted," writes Ward, "was the magnificently streamlined Roland C.II Walfisch of the First World War. Strictly speaking it was a 'whalemouth'—a narrow black slit, which was later divided into separate lips by a white gash." One of the earliest known examples of a sharkmouth (the LFG Roland C.II shown above), also sports painted curtains on the side windows.

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