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Disney Insignia from World War II



During World War II, Disney had its artists draw up roughly 1,200 insignias for the U.S. military, many for Naval units. After Mickey Mouse rode a goose in a patch for a Naval Reserve squadron stationed at Floyd Bennett Field in New York, the illustrations became illustrious among units and inspired Naval artists to recreate the magic, designing their own logos in the Disney style.

Their popularity can be attributed to their humorous quality, which gave sailors a sense of nostalgia rather than being typically military logos.

“As incongruous as Disney characters are to the horrors of war, these cartoon military patches embodied pop culture, innocence, American values, and everything the troops loved about home—a much more fitting emblem than a heraldic pompous symbol with no sentimental significance,” the website @issue wrote.
Disney had to dedicate five artists to the task on a full-time basis because of the volume of requests by units for logos, according to @issue.

Almost every Disney character was used in the project— except Bambi. By far the most requested figure was Donald Duck.

Floyd Bennet field logo CPThis logo for Floyd Bennett Field depicts Mickey Mouse flying atop a goose (bomber) with a Navy trident in front of a silhouetted Statue of Liberty. The logo predates World War II and was not sanctioned by Disney. However the insignia likely led the charge for similar insignia after the start of the war.
King Kong scene with logoThe insignia was taken from the memorable silver-screen scene in King Kong. It can be seen briefly in this still frame.

blog donald torpedo bomberDonald Duck zooms from an air-launched torpedo, guiding it into its target.

Aviation Repair Unit 1cbThis insignia was for Aviation Repair Unit No. 1, providing aircraft repair and maintenance personnel for overseas deployment as advanced bases were readied.

USS Wasp cbUSS Wasp (CV-7), churning across the sea carrying aircraft, is clearly ready for the fight. She was sunk on Sept. 15, 1942 by a Japanese submarine.

USS Sapelo cbAfter decommissioning in 1933, the USS Sapelo (AO-11) was reactivated in 1941 to bring vital shipments of fuel to numerous places in the Atlantic.

USS Reliable cbThe caption says it all. Throughout the war, USS Reliable (AMc-100) safeguarded Los Angeles Harbor.

USS Positive cbAnother minesweeping ship, the USS Positive (AMc-95) swept up mines for the Naval Operating Base at Guantanamo, Cuba, from March 1943 to January 1945.

EscambiaUSS Escambia (AO-80) had the dangerous job of fueling various vessels during the invasion of the Marshall Islands, aircraft carriers as they launched strikes against the Philippines, task-force vessels supporting the invasion of Okinawa, and aircraft flying raids against the Japanese. The ship received five battle stars during the war.

Airship patrol 32 cb Airships were favored over airplanes to escort ships and scout for submarines because of their slower speeds. This logo for Airship Patrol 32 shows a mouse perched on balloons ready to drop bombs the enemy.

Airship Sqd 14 cbThis Airship Squadron 14 insignia depicts an airship atop of a cloud over the ocean with a telescope in one hand with a bomb in the other, combing the seas for enemy vessels.

GRO PAC 11cbDonald Duck hauls along a net dragging for mines, suggesting the duty as a minesweeping squadron.

78th Naval Construction Bn 60th Construction

Artists created about ten logos for Naval Construction Battalions (Seabees). Two of them are shown here — 78th and 60th Naval Construction Battalion — which added Disney flair to the classic Seabee logo.

USS Baya USS Baya (SS-318) completed five war patrols from August 23, 1944 to July 25, 1945 in the South China Sea, Gulf of Siam, Java Sea, and the Philippine Sea. She sank four Japanese vessels. The logo displays a bear ferociously ripping and chewing apart the naval ensign of Japan, depicting her relentless pursuit of Japanese sea craft.

USS Cythera cbUSS Cythera (PY-26) functioned as a civilian yacht before seeing service in both world wars.

USS Jason cbUSS Jason (AR-8) was a repair ship serving in Purvis Bay in the Solomon Islands, and Ulithi, where she spent the greatest part of the war.

USS YMS329USS YMS 329 was a minesweeper serving in the pacific. Her insignia contains an enthusiastic turtle at the ready with a broom, a telescope, fuel, and a mousetrap on its back. A Japanese mine sunk her off of Borneo on June 16, 1946.

USS PiedmontDuring World War II, the USS Piedmont (AD-17) serviced destroyers near battle areas in the Pacific to keep them fit for duty. She also served in the Cold War, Korean War, and the Vietnam War, winning four battle stars for her efforts in the Korean War and one for service in Vietnam.

A previous version of this post misstated the number of logos Disney designed for the military. It was 1,200 insignia, not 3,000. USNI News regrets the error. 

  • PK

    Very interesting stuff! Excellent writing John. Intern of the year without a doubt.

  • Matthew Hipple

    Wait, Donald is guilty of Stolen Valor? I saw the Duck Tales episodes; he wasn’t an LT!

  • cartooncrests

    I’d like to correct a few errors in this article. I’ll preface my remarks by saying I have studied Disney’s involvement in World War two for around 20 years now. Disney artists designed approximately 1,200 designs, not 3,000 as stated. NRAB Floyd Bennett was an unofficial design created by someone at the station and not by a Disney artist. The NRAB design was the first use of a Disney character on a military emblem but it was not the first design created at the Studio – that honor goes to VF-7 stationed aboard CV-7 USS Wasp – that design was created in 1939. Also, USS Wasp was not sunk by a Japanese submarine as stated. Wasp was crippled by Japanese submarine I-15 but it was the USS Lansdowne which was ordered to scuttle the crippled carrier with a salvo of torpedoes as the carrier was deemed to be unsalvageable. GRO PAC 11 was not exclusively a minesweeping squadron. GROPACs were Naval bases that served as off-loading, on-loading, and storage facilities. And finally, contrary to what the author of the article has written, the character Bambi was in fact used on combat insignia as were other characters from that film including Flower the Skunk. For more information regarding Walt Disney’s involvement in WW II please see my Amazon e-book: “Service With Character. The Disney Studio and World War II.”

    • Sam LaGrone

      Great points. We’ve amended the post.

  • Steven

    You forgot one. The one that is still in use today, “Oscar the Octopus” the mascot for NCTAMS LANT, the Navy’s Master Telecom Station in Norfolk.

  • Tamagawa_D9

    Great article, here’s another good one!
    [Link] http://www.avgrafix.com/images/flyingtiger.JPG
    Insignia of the Flying Tigers, a semi-official volunteer American air force that assisted the Republic of China against the Imperial Japanese Army Air Forces. A pretty awesome design which, if Wikipedia is to be believed, was also the work of the Walt Disney co.

  • USMC Cpl. Ret.!

    MCAS EL TORO, which was very close to Disney Land, had a Bull with wings. It was also a Disney thing and most of us stationed there did not like it!

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  • Chester

    Was the YMS 329 the last ship sunk by the Japanese? (Post war).