Coked-Up Aircrew

Coca-Cola’s ubiquity is taken for granted today, and that ubiquity stretched back well into the Twentieth Century. Widely known and drunk pre-World War Two across America, it was that war and the American service personnel who drank it worldwide that were the first major wave of the drink’s globalisation.


I don’t have a date for the poster above, but it certainly looks like a World War Two training airman (the kit doesn’t look like combat equipment to me) but it also seems to be a companion piece to the aviatrix below – who I’m pretty sure is a pre-war subject, not a wartime Women’s Air Service Pilot or WASP. (One source gives 1940, when the US was not yet at war, but gearing up for it.)


So does that make both pre-war? (Note the design’s essentially the same, as is the 5 cent price.) There seems to be a modern repro version available online now where the pre-war civil aircraft behind her has been taken out.


Or is this genuine too? Either way, both fliers represent the fresh-faced look that Coke wanted to put over, and then, aviators were in an exceptional role as examples to the less privileged population.

As you’d expect Coke was available to the United States Air Force airmen after the formation of their own service from the army in 1947, and their own uniforms, and into the Cold War.


I’m sure ‘an upper hand on thirst’ was a key component of that war’s victory. Unquestionably, the infrastructure to provide luxuries like this drink to American service personnel across the globe from World War Two onwards that laid the groundwork for the international supply chains and multi-national companies we have today – for better or for worse.

EDIT: A quick response from Alan More via e-mail, which I’ve added here below:

Dear Mr. Kightly,
  Your first ad, “Take off refreshed,” bears the copyright date of 1940, just visible below the lower left corner of the artwork. The gossport tubes indicate a pilot in training, as you wrote.
  Your second ad, “Your thirst takes wings,” is copyright 1941, but that info has been cropped from the image you posted. An uncropped version of the ad is on eBay: [LINK]
   The copyright notice appears at the very bottom right of the page. The second photo in the eBay listing is a closeup of that.
  Because this art predates the formation of the WASP, the woman cannot be a WASP. Well, at least she wasn’t yet.  😉
  Hope this helps.
  Alan Moore
  Geneseo, NY USA

Thanks Alan! Here’s an enlargement showing that 1941 date:


James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

Thanks to Fiona Shanahan for the suggestion. Images found online, including the ‘army pilot’ here, and original here and ‘repro’ aviatrix here, and the USAF airman here.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. milieux01 says:

    I love this- thank you for sharing!

    1. jkightly says:

      Glad you do! Like your work on your blog too – have a browse back on the blog, there’s quite a few posts about exceptional women aviators – it’d be great if they were of use to you. – Regards, James

      1. milieux01 says:

        Thank you! It’s great to be able to promote your work- will look through.

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