Christmas Eve. Lots of Santa Claus-with-aircraft-posts, but this story from the Aviation Geek club here (do click, have a read, come back) is a fascinating story. In the Vietnam War, an American Caribou transport was painted as a Santa reindeer for Christmas:
‘No group of children ever carried off the fantasy so well.
A young soldier shook my hand with tears in his eyes and said, “Sir, this is the best thing that has ever happened here. Thank-you so much!”’
First, it’s a different riff on the ‘Santa aircraft’ idea, which has existed for the entire history of aviation. Secondly we have an example of nose art, but that’s not in any of the the normal boxes for the genre. There’s a famous Gary Larson cartoon of Santa, sleigh and reindeer as bugsmash on a jet’s nose, and an airline (one good on publicity, not so good on everything else) did a painted on version of that Santa bugsmash idea, photos of which are easy to find online but won’t be shared here. So that’s the aviation side.
Next the art. Artistically, it’s not going to win any prizes. There’s a number of images of the Caibou in these colours, and most of the schemes and photos, frankly look awkward – this (in part because it’s black and white) works the best of them.
Then there’s the social history. The story of the DHC-4 C-7 Caribou crew, the ‘Donut Dollies’ and the young American soldiers is a microcosm of the insanity of war, the Vietnam War being a case study for it, as we now well know. Reading
James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.