Like many kids who are now of a certain age, I grew up watching all of the Disney TV shows and everything else that Disney’s Buena Vista studios put out. I still have a few tickets from my first visit to Disneyland in 1958 (the rides used to have a “value” and require a certain ticket type). I wore out my Dumbo plush toy (even early on, I understood that aviation can positively affect a diverse population, even baby elephants!). You get the idea.
“True Life Adventures” and other “real” reels produced by the Disney teams were great, but I really, really loved the animation. Still do even though most animation is now created using computers and released through Pixar. The Disney animators were so talented, both in their story telling and their art. They were also patriotic. Starting in 1933 and going through World War II, they designed – for free - more than 1,200 unit insignia for the US military as well as for some of the Allies. Many designs were based on familiar Disney cartoon characters, but they also created 90 new cats and 50 dogs as well as apes, owls, spiders, octopi, roosters, and storks. Interestingly, the units were allowed to deal directly with the Disney studios and didn’t have to go “through channels” to request an insignia design.
|An example of a non-traditional Disney cartoon character created for a unit insignia - the 452 Bomb Squadron 2|
Because of his quick temper and inability to back down from a challenge, Donald Duke ruled the roost with at least 216 insignia using his face or entire image.
|531 Bomb Squadron Emblem|
Mickey was featured in 37 designs but none for combat units since he wasn’t a scrapper. Instead, he was used in home front initiatives like medical and defense industries.
Bambi was the only Disney cartoon figure to never appear in an insignia design.
I particularly like the more obscure, older animated cartoons, a favorite being “The Reluctant Dragon,” about a dragon with floppy ears who would rather drink tea and recite poetry than fight the knight. I can still recall his poem about an upside down cake:
Poor little upside down cake
Troubles, you have got ‘em
Because little upside down cake
Your top is on your bottom.
Given his peaceable nature, you wouldn’t think the dragon would be a candidate for the war effort but here he is in all his glory, dropping bombs away.
Here’s a link to a good representation of the Disney insignias. See if you can find the St. Bernard watchdog “Nana” from "Peter Pan" (hint: she’s flying…).
Goin' To Tuskegee
Next week, the Mustang and RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit are going to where it all began - Tuskegee, Alabama. The Traveling Exhibit is scheduled to do school visits during the week and then both it and the Mustang will be open to the public at Moton Field, very near to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, on the weekend. Entry to our exhibits is always free as is admission to the National Historic Site. We're expecting good crowds and are so excited to bring the Mustang to the airfield where the Tuskegee Airmen trained to fly.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit redtail.org.