Why Walt Disney designed Army & Navy insignia (1941)
One day last summer [at the start of World War II], when the new Navy torpedo boats were being launched, Lieutenant E S Caldwell, then of the Naval Operations office in Washington, wrote a letter to Walt Disney in Hollywood, and asked Disney to design an emblem appropriate for this new “mosquito fleet.”
Few days later, back to the fleet came the emblem painted outside the bridge of the torpedo boat shown [below].
The little mosquito, streaking through the water with a tar’s hat on his head and a shiny torpedo held between his many legs, made such a hit that every torpedo boat in the fleet soon had a Disney mosquito.
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. Disney did his best to comply.
When Brigadier General S B Buckner, commander of the Alaska Defense Force at Fort Richardson, Alaska, received his outfit’s design — a seal balancing the letters ADF, the general wrote Disney:
“Since the arrival of the insignia, all of the seals in the Bering Sea have been out on the ice pack balancing Ds on their noses, sneering derisively at the polar bears, expanding their chests, and cavorting merrily over being chosen to represent our defense forces.”
By last week, it was clear that Disney and his artists had created a whole new system of heraldry, comparable to the ancient knightly arms.
With requests for insignia still pouring in from the Army and Navy, the Disney studios announced that they had already completed more than 200 designs, and expected to do at least 500 more. Two of their artists were working full time on the job.