Art Honors a Sacrifice, and a Special Christmas

Art Honors a Sacrifice, and a Special Christmas

The custom aircraft nose art themes created at Victory Girl originate from the many diverse interests of our clients, from a loved one's portrait, to a racing team's logo  or a favorite vehicle.   One of our greatest joys as artists at Victory Girl is to create a piece of art that  exactly evokes the intent and emotion desired from the client request.  We recently  re-created a World War II nose art piece that flew on a Consolidated B-24 Liberator, SN 42-515448, nicknamed “Miss Conduct” on which the client's father served as the top turret gunner.   Staff Sgt. G. Billingsley survived the war, and came home to raise a family and finish a successful career in engineering. 

Mr. Billingsley (son) worked closely with us on several sketches to create the piece that he wanted, and we set up a concept that fit his ideas.  When the B25J Mitchell engine nacelle panel was finished (we were unable to obtain a B-24 piece), we shipped it off with a note to wish him well and thank his family for  service to our country.

Mr. Billingsley replied with a wonderful recounting of what the panel meant to him, and why now, looking at it in his home, would bring up those thoughts and emotions that meant so much to him when he was young, growing up with his father. We have Mr. Billingsley's permission to reproduce his notes, and think you will enjoy them as well.  

Excerpt from Mr. Billingsley's note (below photo):

B24 Liberator "Miss Conduct" w crew

"When I was 12 years old, I desperately wanted a .22 just like my country-boy cousins. I didn’t understand my father’s reluctance as I was sure I was a very level headed 12-year-old, and besides, one of my boy-cousins who was only 10 1/2 had his own Marlin single shot .22. I don’t think I had ever wanted something so much in my life as a 22.

But my father seemed immovable and I was heart-broken.  That Christmas we went to my grandfather’s farm and, of course, all of my boy cousins were there--appropriately armed for the occasion. 

And although my father was immovable, Santa seemed to have a much softer heart. Inside my Christmas package was a Browning semi-automatic .22 rifle. It is a beautiful gun. Sleek blued steel, hand engraved, a highly polished walnut stock and fore-end.  It seems as much a work of Art as a gun.

“It’s a Browning. it was made in Belgium,” my father said, “they make the best guns in the world.”  

I think only a child can feel as much joy as I felt that morning. But that afternoon the lessons began.

He began seriously. “Guns have only one purpose…to kill.” I was shocked, I had thought guns were to hunt rabbits or shoot pop bottles with my cousins 

He sighed and relaxed as he said, “Now I’m going to show you how to take it apart.” He effortlessly began to disassemble my Christmas present until it was just a jumble of metal and wood parts spread out before him. Then just as easily as a Magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, he put it back together. Then it was my turn. My 12-year-old hands fumbled as I tried to deconstruct this Belgium puzzle. He patiently guided me through the steps. Finally, it lay in pieces in front of me. “Now put it back together”. 

 "Always assume a gun is loaded”

 “Now take it apart and put it back together again.

 “Never point a gun at anyone”

“Now take it all apart again” 

“Don’t put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire” 

“Take it apart again.” By now my 12-year-old hands held the gun more confidently.

The first thing you do with a gun is to check to see if it’s loaded.”

“Now take it all apart again” 

“Always walk with the barrel pointed toward the ground”

He taught me how to clean it and oil it.  He taught me what to do if a bullet mis-fired. 

Finally, he taught me how to shoot it. 

Most importantly he taught me to respect it.


It was an aspect of my father I’d never seen before. He had never shown the slightest interest in guns. And suddenly he seemed to know everything about them.

It took a few years for me to realize, that my father was a trained killer. The Army Air Corps had trained him. He could take apart, reassemble and accurately fire just about every small arm the Army had in their arsenal. They taught how to shoot skeet from the back of a moving pickup. How did he know how to take apart his son’s Christmas present? He could take apart a 50-caliber machine gun while perched in a Plexiglas bubble atop a vibrating B-24 at 20 degrees below zero…with gloves on.  Even in the dark.  But one cold and hungry night in a German prisoner of war camp he put all of that away,

He was in his early 60’s when they created the Prisoner of War Metal.  The local Airforce Base arranged an award ceremony for him--complete with a jet fly over. The base commander referred to him as a hero. When father addressed the assembled officers and enlisted men he said, “I’m no hero--the hero’s are the ones that didn’t come back”

This was about the same time I {asked} him to tell me about the War.  I knew that he grew up poor in the depression, that he was happily married to my mother until he died at 84. I knew that he got an education and was a successful and award-winning Architect and Engineer. I knew he was raised 3 pretty good kids. I knew that everyone in town seemed to know him and like him. I knew he always stood solemnly, hand over his heart when they played the Star-Spangled Banner and humbly bowed his head in church every Sunday. I didn’t see the damage then, those unseen scars.

One day, when he was much older, I was getting my prized Browning semi-automatic .22 out of the back of his closet where I stored it in the years since I’d given up rabbit hunting. I casually asked him about why he’d never had a gun, lots of people do. He turned to me and in that same voice I’d heard when I was 12, he said, “Guns have only one purpose…to kill.” And then he added, “I’ve killed the last thing I’m ever going to kill.” 

So why did I want "Miss Conduct" to hang on my wall?  Not to glorify war. My father was of the opinion that anyone that glorifies War, hasn’t been there. Is it to honor his service to the United States? Not really, although I think it should be acknowledged. Is it to commemorate his Bravery? No, but I can’t imagine the courage it took for him to go through what he went through.

I want Miss Conduct on my wall to remind me of part of my father that got locked away for years, When I look at the image that you and I created, I feel the happiness, the heart breaking loneliness, the terror , the guilt, and the joy of that special Christmas. It reminds me of all that he shared with me and all that he couldn’t share with me that I have been able to piece together. It reminds me that in some ways I know him better than anyone else, and I guess that might be one definition of Love."