Cartoons were often used during the Second World War not just as propaganda, but to boost the morale of war-weary Americans. As such, many of our favorite characters are veterans. The following list features six iconic cartoon characters who answered the call to “serve,” whether that be in the US military or on the home front.
Private Pluto (1943)
In April 1943, Disney released the propaganda film, Private Pluto. In the cartoon, the character Pluto enlists in the US military as a private in the Army. The short also marks the first appearance of Chip and Dale.
Pluto first tries to follow marching orders, but can’t quite get the flow of it. Chip and Dale then decide to use howitzers to crack open acorns, which, of course, starts a feud between the characters.
Along with serving in the Army, Pluto also appeared as a US Navy sailor in a 1942 comic. In it, he defeats German saboteurs aboard a cruiser.
Popeye the Sailor
Since the popular cartoon character Popeye is a sailor, it’s only natural he “served” in the US military in some capacity during World War II. Initially, he was Coast Guardsman, before donning a white US Navy uniform and sailor’s cap.
He remained in the Navy until 1978, when he was put back into his original clothing.
During the Second World War, Popeye the Sailor cartoons and short films were regularly used to boost American morale. As a sailor, he served as a boatswain’s mate, helped the US Army with its tank program and processed incoming draftees.
Donald Duck was another lovable Disney cartoon character who served in the US military during WWII. Walt Disney Studios made several shorts that depicted Donald as a soldier. When he enlisted, the lovable character had high hopes of being a pilot, but, ultimately, became a paratrooper.
During the Second World War, Donald proved himself to be a capable soldier. After Drill Sgt. Pete put him through some tough training, he was given command of a mission in the Pacific Theater and succeeded with flying colors.
In 1987, Donald re-enlisted in the military, choosing this time to serve with the US Navy. However, there are few details available regarding his time as a sailor.
Daffy – The Commando (1943)
Daffy Duck, one of the beloved cartoon characters in the Looney Tunes gang, was dropped by the US military behind enemy lines to disrupt activity, destroy German infrastructure and even assassinate enemy leaders.
One of the most famous shorts starring Daffy is 1943’s Daffy – The Commando. In the film, he’s dropped behind enemy lines in Germany and manages to escape capture by a (fictional) German commander.
Despite the cartoon character Porky Pig being known for his shy and bashful mannerisms, he was the ultimate salesman of war bonds, something that was of the utmost importance to the US military during WWII.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a 1942 wartime cartoon titled Any Bonds Today featured Looney Tunes characters Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd encouraging viewers to buy war bonds through a one-minute song.
In another short, Porky Pig is a draftee who attempts to rally the American public to support the wartime production of tanks and aircraft, while also promoting the draft.
Superman was already a household name by the time the United States entered WWII in 1941. Despite literally being Superman, however, the cartoon and comic book character was never “technically” in the US military, but that didn’t stop him from helping out when he was needed.
In a 1942 comic titled The Failure, we learn why Clark Kent was denied enlistment. Despite being in perfect health, he can’t become a soldier because, according to the recruiter and physician, he’s as “blind as a bat.” He then realizes he used his X-ray vision to look at the eye-chart in the next room over.
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Despite not being in the military, Superman would do small jobs, including delivering mail and kitchen duty. He was involved in bigger missions, as well, including steering bombs toward targets. Perhaps him being involved in smaller tasks was intended to show Americans there wasn’t a need for Superman, as US soldiers could defeat the enemy.