Cartoons were often used during the Second World War not just as propaganda but as a morale booster for war-weary Americans. As such, many of our favorite cartoon characters are veterans of the United States military. Here are seven iconic cartoon characters that answered the call and “served” in the US Army.
1. Private Pluto
In April 1943, Disney released the short propaganda film, Private Pluto. In this cartoon, Pluto is showcased as a soldier, serving as an Army private working to keep Army equipment safe. This short film marks the first appearance of the chipmunk characters, Chip and Dale, who pester Pluto.
Pluto first tries to follow marching orders but couldn’t quite get the flow of it. Then, Chip and Dale decide to use Army howitzers to crack open acorns, which of course, starts a feud between the characters.
Pluto also appeared as a sailor in the United States Navy in 1942 comic. In this comic, Pluto defeats Nazi saboteurs on a Navy cruiser.
2. Bugs Bunny and Japanese Imperial Forces
In the 1944 cartoon, Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips, Bugs Bunny finds himself on an island in the Pacific controlled by the Japanese Imperial Forces. Luckily for Bugs Bunny, he is able to defeat the Japanese Army and escape the island by hopping on a plane that looks similar to a Mitsubishi A6M Zero, and eventually locating other American forces on a battleship in the Atlantic. (Presumably this American battleship is the USS Iowa).
This film is now considered extremely controversial because of its racial serotyping. In fact, it has been banned from public viewing since the end of the Second World War due to its anti-Japanese sentiment.
3. Popeye the Sailor in the Navy
Because Popeye is a sailor, it is only natural that he would have “served” in the US Army in some capacity during the Second World War. Initially, Popeye the Sailor served as a US Coastguard until 1941 when his clothing changed to the white Navy uniform complete with a white sailor’s cap. Popeye would remain in Navy uniform until 1978, when he was put back into his original clothes, perhaps signifying that Popeye had retired from the Navy.
During the Second World War, Popeye cartoons and short films were regularly used to boost American morale. As a sailor, Popeye served as a boatswain’s mate, helped the Army with its tank program, and processed incoming draftees.
4. Donald Duck held multiple positions in the Military
Donald Duck was another lovable Walt Disney character-turned-patriot during the Second World War. Walt Disney Studios made several short cartoons that depict Donald Duck as a civilian soldier. When he enlisted into the army, Donald Duck had high hopes of being a pilot, but ultimately became a paratrooper.
During the Second World War, Donald Duck was able to prove himself as a capable soldier. After Drill Seargent Pete put Donald Duck through tough training, Donald was given a command mission in the Pacific theater, in which he came through with flying colors.
In 1987, Donald Duck reenlisted in the United States Military, but this time with the Navy, but there is not many details on his time in the Navy.
5. Daffy Duck slipped behind enemy lines
Bugs Bunny wasn’t the only member of the Looney Tunes gang to enlist in the army. Daffy Duck was dropped behind enemy lines to disrupt activity, destroyed Nazi infrastructure, and even assassinate enemy leaders.
One of the most famous short films starring Daffy Duck is the 1943 film, Daffy the Commando. In this film, Daffy is dropped behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany, where he escapes capture by a (fictional) German commander.
6. Porky Pig pushed war bonds
Despite Porky Pig being known for his shy and bashful mannerisms, he was the ultimate salesman for war bonds during the Second World War. After the Attacks on Pearl Harbour, a 1942 War Time Cartoon known as Any Bonds Today featured Looney Tune characters Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, and Elmer Fudd encouraged viewers to buy war bonds through a one minute song.
In another short cartoon, Porky Pig appears as a draftee who attempts to rally the American public to support wartime production of tanks and planes, while also promoting the draft.
Superman was already a household name by the time the United States entered the Second World War in 1941. Despite literally being Superman, he was never “technically” in the Army, but made sure to help out when he was needed.
In a 1942 comic titled “The Failure,” we learn why Clark Kent was denied from the Army. Despite being in perfect health, Clarke Kent can’t become a soldier because according to the recruiter and physician, he is as “blind as a bat.” It is then that Kent realized he accidentally had used his X-ray vision to look at the eye-chart in the next room over.
Despite not being in the army, Superman continues to help out when needed. Superman would do small jobs for the US Army, including helping deliver mail and take over kitchen duty, although he was involved in bigger missions as well, including steering bombs to targets. Perhaps the fact that Clarke Kent was involved in smaller missions was to show Americans that there was no need for Superman because the average American soldier could bring down the enemy.