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    From Hitler's Easter to Grumpy Cat, We've Been Putting Art on Weapons Forever

    Written by

    Fruzsina Eördögh


    A soldier stenciled Grumpy Cat on a bomb, and it almost ripped the Internet apart yesterday. Viewed more than 750,000 times in less than 24 hours, the image of the beloved cat on a weapon is apparently too much for some people.

    “Sorry for my language, but what the FUCK is funny about killing people?” writes Haje on a comment upvoted on Imgur 54 times. “Would this be so funny if this bomb was meant for killing Americans?” The thing is, Grumpy Cat on a bomb doesn’t equate to Americans thinking killing people is funny. Far from it.

    It was almost as if the outraged parties were contemplating the notion of war for the first time, mixed with the realization that Internet culture and memes don't exist in a digital safe space--they are free to be appropriated by anyone from Rihanna to ad agencies to soldiers trying to normalize the act of killing another human being. "Count the ways that it's deplorable and obscene to paint 'grumpy cat' on a bomb that will kill people in afghanistan," Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle tweeted. No one bothered to count the ways though.   

    Yes, war is bad, but everyone needs to cool their jets and relax for a second because painting on weapons does not mean that these US soldiers are monsters. Actually, painting on weapons is a long standing military tradition, as it’s a great morale booster and one of the few artistic outlets allowed for soldiers. Men have been painting pictures on their weapons since the dawn of warfare, everyone. A long time ago, they thought it was “lucky.”

    In Aircraft Nose Art: From World War I to Today, a 1991 book by Jeffrey L. Ethell and Clarence Simonsen, a American pilot in Vietnam mused that the impulse to personalize planes with artwork was “deeply related to the very primitive magical notion that, once you have named something, you have control over it.”

    Frowning cat stencils on bombs aside, this image of African American soldiers posing with an artillery shell during World War II went “viral” in the 40’s:

    Did Hitler find his Easter Eggs funny? Probably not, nor did he ever see them, but that’s not the point of writing on the shells now is it?

    Don't forget the big bombs from Doctor Strangelove:

    At the start of the Iraq war, this message was scrawled on this piece of ordnance.

    In 2009, the phrase "High Jack This Fags" appeared on a bomb before it was flown off the USS Enterprise. "We immediately notified navy commanders involved with Operation Enduring Freedom to ensure steps were taken to prevent a recurrence of this unfortunate incident. They have done so," said Navy Rear Adm. Stephen Pietropaoli at the time. He added that the crew had been warned to watch "the spontaneous acts of penmanship by our sailors.

    "We've gotten word to our commanders saying, 'That's not up to our standards, guys.' We want to keep the messages positive. Most of what gets written on them is — they'll write things like FDNY or I [heart] NY. That's more keeping in line with what we want to do." 

    Then there is the long history of nose art--the practice of painting the front of airplanes, boats and submarines--made famous through photography collections focused on pin-up styled women drawn by sexually frustrated men. American soldiers did paint other things besides “bombshells” though, a term coincidentally made popular around the same time period:  

    Well, it’s the 21st century now, and the military still likes painting their flying death machines. This Canadian helicopter painted their emblem "Dragon's Breath," for the nickname the Taliban gave the two mounted guns, known as "Allah's Breath of Death."

    This penguin flew from 2005 to 2006 in Afghanistan:

    And this babe flew in 2010.

    Here's some tiger teeth on a reconnaissance drone in Iraq:

    Maybe the outrage over a Grumpy Cat meme painted on a bomb isn't so bad, at least if it helps remind people that, ten years after our latest war began, we're still dropping missiles IRL.


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