Service with Character: Disney World War II Insignia

It is indeed an especially intriguing and engaging category of Disney-produced artwork.  The insignia designs that were created by the studio for military units during World War II remain, remarkably, quite inaccessible.  The book Disney Dons Dogtags by Walton Rawls presented a very extensive collection of Disney insignia-related artwork; it was published in 1992 but unfortunately has been long out of print.

For our newest 2719 Hyperion Exhibition Hall exhibit, we have collected many of those insignia designs from a somewhat unexpected source--the pages of the comic book series Walt Disney's Comics and Stories.  Frequently during the war years, the comic magazine would typically feature six twelve insignia designs in a single issue.  For this first installment in the Service with Character exhibit series, we present forty designs that were originally published in that comic during the last few months of 1942.  Included are the corresponding identifications and descriptions that appeared with each design.

Some quick background facts:
  • The Walt Disney Studio created an estimated 1200 insignia over the course of World War II.
  • Walt Disney assembled a crew of five artists under the direction of studio artist Hank Porter to produce insignia designs.  One of the crew's key members was Roy Williams, who would go on to become the "big moose-keteer" on the Mickey Mouse Club.
  • Donald Duck was the most popular character used for the designs.  He was featured on more than 200 insignia.

United States Mosquito Fleet
These motorboats are making history in this present war.
They are fast and maneuverable and can launch torpedoes with great speed.

The Flying Tiger
Used by the Army Volunteer Group in China air service, and also
proudly worn by Gen. and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek.

38th Bombardment Group, Air Corps
A fighting eagle, gripping a lightning bolt, ferociously striking at the enemy.
Such is the spirit of our bombing groups.

U.S.S. Hornet
Comparable to a hornet's nest is the U.S.S. Hornet and its
fighter planes that swarm out to intercept the enemy.

16th Bombardment Wing, 46th Bombardment Group
This thoroughbred is read to race to Victory, emblematic of the men he represents.

72nd Pursuit Squadron of the 15th Pursuit Group, Air Corps
A young squadron of able and experienced fliers, Little Hiawatha is the
spirit of cunning and audacity that marks their work.

503rd Parachute Battalion
Paratroops!  Uncommonly brave, these fighters.  Their emblem is well chosen--
a wild cat hurtling through the air, claws outspread, ready to attack.

40th Bombardment Group
Strength and force are typified in this insignia.  These pilots and
bombardiers are veterans and guard the air lanes well.

21st Bombardment Squadron
This little bee is a tough fighter and is ready for anything.
He has the right spirit.

46th Bombardment Group
This mother kangaroo makes use of her pouch to carry a few bombs.
She is an emblem of ingenuity in time of war.

11th Naval District Section Base
At San Pedro, Calif.  Here small boats comb the waters for mines.
The baby seal, who live near by, is a logical emblem.

4th Field Artillery Battalion
The Army Mule has always been quite a character.  Now he
gains new prominence by being pictured on this insignia.

74th Field Artillery Battalion
So important and courageous a part did the horse play in the old days
before mechanized units, that the 74th chose this insignia , in remembrance.

Aviation Repair Unit No. 1
It's a big job to "keep 'em flying" day after day, so the Practical Pig, noted
for his thoroughness and industry, is a fitting symbol for this task.

2nd Reconnaissance Squadron
An able flyer, with spyglass held securely in his little trunk,
Dumbo typifies alertness and awareness, in this insignia.

57th Signal Battalion
Communication must be maintained under all conditions.  This busy
little bee wears earphones, indicative of the duties of his battalion.

Battery D, 114th Field Artillery
Since California was the native state for this group, a California
cub bear was chosen as an appropriate emblem.

504th Military Police Battalion
First class fighting men, selected to be soldier policemen.
This insignia cop shows that the M.P. means business.

79th Bombardment Squadron
The warrior ant is well chosen as the emblem for the 79th, which, lighter
and faster than allied groups, meets the enemy with unresisting ferocity.

406th Bombardment Squadron
On the warpath!  A spyglass in one hand and a bomb in the other, this
little Indian anticipates action, just as do the fighters of the 406th.

47th School Squadron
Ready to take off!  This dodo bird was chosen as the emblem
for the 47th Schl. Squadron at Randolph Field, Texas.

Jackson Air Base
Tough, almost invincible in battle, this viscous
crocodile symbolizes strength of air power.

31st Pursuit Squadron
The task of the pursuit squadron requires craft and cunning,
as well as skill and bravery.  This emblem represents all.

Air Base Detachment
It's a job that requires lots of hands to keep planes in
readiness.  This insignia tells the story for Gray Field.

Airship Patrol Squadron, No. 32
An alert little flyer, carrying a bomb and riding balloons, is an effective
insignia for the lighter-than-air squadron the guards Pacific waters.

36th Military Police, Fort Lawton
It is more important to maintain law and order in wartime than any
other.  The M.P. keeps his eye open to see that every soldier conforms
to regulations.

Battery B, 202nd Coast Artillery
V is for Victory--say it with bullets!  The wise old owl does it, calmly
and thoroughly. A fitting insignia for this well-trained battalion.

774th Tank Destroyer Battalion
Power and lots of it!  This battalion, represented by a charging American
buffalo, is skilled in the grim business of destroying enemy tanks.

Fifth Signal Corps
The little Indian signals by blowing smoke, three dots and a dash.
Morsecode for the letter V--for Victory.  His ingenuity typifies the
spirit of this Signal Company of Fort Custer.

628th Tank Destroyer Battalion
"Stop that tank" is not just wishful thinking to this battalion.  Speed,
power, and cunning, represented in this insignia, make them
formidable in armored attacks.

67th Bombardment Squadron,
44th Bombardment Group
This wise old bird is enjoying the surprise his is giving the
enemy.  And what a surprise!  Bombs and lots of 'em.

56th Pursuit Squadron
Policemen of the skies.  This interceptor unit is alert and on
the job!  The insignia reflects the spirit of this group.

1st Defense Battalion, Fleet Marine Force
Heroes of Wake Island!  Courageous, efficient, and brave.  This insignia
shows a steadfastness of purpose inherent with American "Leathernecks."

342nd Bombardment Squadron
This little unicorn tells plainer than words, that his squadron of
Flying Fortresses gets a big kick out of dropping bombs on the enemy.

Eagle Squadron, R.A.F.
Many brave American pilots volunteered to aid England, long before our
country was in the war.  This is the insignia for their famous Eagle Squadron.

126th Observation Squadron, Air Corps
In earlier days, this group served as a National Guard unit of Wisconsin,
the "Badger State."  So the shrewd, keen-eyed badger is shown on their insignia.

3rd Reconnaissance Squadron
A cavalry troop, now mechanized.  But the well-loved army horse is not forgotten;
he has a position of prominence on the insignia . . . and seems to enjoy it!

44th Pursuit Squadron
There's and element of surprise, as well as endurance, in this design,
and "somewhere in the Pacific" these two qualities are having
telling effect on the enemy.

56th Signal Battalion
Performance of communications duty under fire requires speed and
agility as well as technical skill.  This insignia personifies all.

751st Tank Battalion
Power that cannot be denied; strength that will not be overcome.  That
is the story told in the design shown here, made especially for the 751st.