Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Windows to the Past: The PT-9 Mosquito Boat

This particular Window to the Past bears a direct connection to our recently unveiled Service with Character: Disney World War II Insignia exhibit in the 2719 Hyperion Exhibition Hall.  The very first insignia featured in the presentation is that of the Mosquito Fleet and the design is prominently displayed in this Library of Congress archived photograph.

The image dates to before the United States entered the war--June 19, 1940.  The Library of Congress provided the following annotation:
New Mosquito Boat gets a tryout. Washington, D.C., June 19. The PT-9, first of the new 'Mosquito Boats' to be delivered to the U.S. Navy under the President's $15,000,000 experimental small craft program had a preview for the press today. This is the same type of boat that the government is in process of releasing to the British Navy, causing great unrest and indignation in Capitol circles. Eight other boats will be based at the naval operating base, Norfolk, Va., to undergo severe seagoing tests. The squadron will be known as the Mosquito Fleet and the insignia which was designed by Walt Disney consists of a mosquito riding on the top of a high speed torpedo. Shown in the picture is Lieutenant Earl S. Caldwell, USN, Commander of the squadron.
The Mosquito Fleet insignia was the first Disney-designed insignia used by the U.S. military.  According to an article in the May 26, 1941 issue of Life magazine, Caldwell wrote a letter to Walt Disney asking him to design an emblem for the new "Mosquito Fleet."  Within a few days, the studio returned the insignia design that soon graced the PT boats.  The article went on to say that, "As soon as word got around in the Army and Navy as to what Disney had done, the Disney office was bombarded with requests to design insignia for tanks, minesweepers, bombers and fighter planes."

A 1941 article in Readers Digest identified studio veteran Roy Williams as the artist who created the Mosquito Fleet insignia.

The story of the Mosquito Fleet insignia continues today in:
Vintage Headlines: Mosquito Master


DisneyDave said...

My research indicates the Mosquito Fleet design was the second insignia design created at the Disney Studio - it dates from March 1940.

The first officially sanctioned design to come out of the Disney Studio was created in May 1939 for fighter squadron VF-7 stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wasp.

The first time a Disney character was used on an military emblem was in the fall of 1931 - that design featured Mickey Mouse and it was created for a squadron based at a naval reserve aviation base in New York - this design, coincidentally, can be seen on airplanes attacking King Kong atop the Empire State Building - planes from the squadron were used in the filming of that live-action sequence. This particular emblem was created without the knowledge or approval of the Disney Studio.