The Jolly Rogers were initiated during World War II as US Navy Fighter Squadron 17 (VF-17) on January 1, 1943 under the command of LCDR Tom Blackburn. The squadron was one of the first Navy squadrons to fly the Vought F4U Corsair fighter. Formally in charge of training new navy fighter pilots in Florida, Blackburn quickly got his new squadron up to speed and they soon deployed into combat aboard the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill (CV-17).

Prior to their deployment in the Pacific the Navy suddenly changed plans and decided to replace all Corsair squadrons on aircraft carriers with the Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter. The reason for this move was that many commanders had submitted negative reviews of the Corsair's carrier suitability, as it was a difficult plane to master, especially compared to the easy-to-fly Hellcat. Time would correct this initial change and later during WW2 Corsair Squadrons would again be deployed as Carrier Aircraft and this continued in later years to the Korean Conflict.

Blackburn (1)


So before VF17 had a chance to fire a shot, they were off-loaded from Bunker Hill and reassigned to land bases on the Solomon Islands in the Pacific. Because their plane was called the "Corsair", VF-17's men wanted a squadron name that would correspond with that pirate theme which would reflect the proper 'attitude'. Soon thereafter, a black flag with white skull-and-crossbones (the "Jolly Roger") was painted on either side of the F4Us engine cowlings, and the squadron's nickname was born.

"Whispering Death" was what the Japanese called the F4U Corsair during World War II. Appropriately so, as the last thing many Japanese pilots saw was a Corsair in their 6 o'clock position. More appropriate was the Skull and Crossbones, or Jolly Roger, painted on the noses of one particular group of Corsairs - those of Navy Squadron VF-17. This symbol flew from the masts of pirate ships who once sailed the seas looking for treasure to plunder. To cross paths with pirates meant death for those who chose to fight with them. From October 1943 to March 1944 many unfortunate Japanese pilots crossed paths with the Jolly Rogers and were dispatched in short order.


The Japanese stronghold on Rabaul, on the northeast corner of New Britain, remained a major thorn in the side of South Pacific Allied operations. In order to neutralise this threat, Task Group 50.3 (including the carriers Essex,Independence and Bunker Hill) launched a major strike on the morning of 1 November 1943.

While the carrier-based planes struck Rabaul, several land-based squadrons were assigned to CAP the task group. Fighting-17 joined VMF-212, VMF-221, the Hellcat-flying VF-33, and a squadron of New Zealand P-40s in this mission. The Jolly Rogers were to take off at 0400, CAP from dawn to 0900, refuel and (if needed) rearm on the carriers, and continue the CAP at 1030 until fuel/ammo/damage demanded they return to Ondongo.

After an hour of early-morning CAP, Blackburn destroyed a lone incoming Japanese Kawasaki Ki-61 which was detected by shipboard radar. There was no further action by 0900, when VF-17 and -33 landed to refuel. Blackburn noted that these landings proved to any skeptics that the Corsair was indeed carrier-worthy.

Morning faded into early afternoon, and the weather conditions over the task force began to degenerate. Puffy clouds developed into massive cumulous clouds; visibility shrank. At 1300, radar detected a large inbound Japanese strike, and the CAP was scrambled to intercept. A few minutes out from the carriers, the pilots of VF-17 sighted 65 Zekes escorting 25 Val dive bombers and 15 Nakajima B5N Kate torpedo bombers. They dove onto the Zekes with a considerable altitude advantage and all of the Jolly Rogers bagged at least one kill or more.

The remainder of the Nakajima B5N's  emerged from the protective clouds and initiated a torpedo run on the Bunker Hill. They were quickly bounced. As the planes closed on the carrier, 40mm and 20mm AA erupted around them and sent huge plumes of water before and between the planes. Fighting 17 engaged them again, this time destroying what was left of the Japanese attack.

For the day's action in what came to be called The Battle of the Solomon Sea, VF-17 was credited with 18.5 confirmed kills and 7 damaged Japanese planes. Two pilots, Baker and Hill, were forced to ditch their planes on-route to Ondongo; both were successfully rescued. The battle was a major strategic victory for the Allies, as the Japanese gave up all attempts to repel the invasion of Bougainville afterwards. Instead, they attempted whatever holding action they could in the Solomons while withdrawling their forces to the strongholds of Truk and Rabaul.


Tom Blackburn wanted fearless, aggressive pilots in the squadron. He didn't always discourage the raucous behavior of his pilots, as some in the Navy thought he should, but he ended up with the type of team he needed. Aggressiveness was an essential in all successful fighter units of the war.

Under his command, VF-17 became the highest scoring Navy Corsair squadron of WWII. They destroyed 154 Japanese planes in 76 days, beating the record of 'Pappy' Boyington's notorious Black Sheep VMF 214, a US Marine Squadron.

Although they were only there for a very short span of time, Navy Squadron VF-17 played an important role in shaping the course of WWII and the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific. The "Jolly Rogers" is continued to this day in the US Navy with VF-84 and VFA-103.


In April 1970, Jane Fonda, with Fred Gardner and Donald Sutherland formed the FTA Tour ("Free The Army", a play on the troop expression "Fuck The Army"), an anti-war road show designed as an answer to Bob Hope's USO tour. The tour, described as "political vaudeville" by Fonda, visited military towns along the West Coast, with the goal of establishing a dialogue with soldiers about their upcoming deployments to Vietnam. The dialogue was made into a movie (F.T.A.) which contained strong, frank criticism of the war by servicemen and servicewomen; it was released in 1972.

Sensationalism and propaganda, often advanced by the power and influence of the media, have perpetually played a key role in controversial events, especially warring conflicts. The counterculture movement of the 1960’s and 70’s spawned an arousal of skepticism and defiance of authority, especially relating to the Vietnam War. Because of the humiliating Watergate Scandal and the unpopular Vietnam quagmire, people became disillusioned with the glory and virtue of the American government system and military. Viewing the system now as a concern requiring a watchdog and gatekeeper, the masses heavily depended on the media to reveal to them “the truth” in their news and event information. Anti-war activists became ubiquitous in popular culture. It became another epic struggle between the Hawks and the Doves. Even celebrities and high-profilers used their star-power to indoctrinate the masses into supporting the principles of socialism and communism and sympathising with North Vietnam, thus becoming a greater enemy to American soldiers than the Viet Cong themselves.



Perhaps the most famous instance of this type of sensationalism was Jane Fonda’s visit to Hanoi in July of 1972. As she openly posited, Fonda was a pro-communism socialist supporting Ho Chi Minh. Her two week, congenial visit to North Vietnam was meant to recognise the efforts and progress of the North Vietnamese while castigating the Nixon Administration, claiming that American tactics should be considered “genocide.” While in Hanoi, Fonda made many public appearances: posing for pictures with a smile on Vietnamese anti-aircraft weaponry and shaking the blood-stained hands of the Viet Cong men and women. Fonda even made live and taped radio broadcasts in which she claimed that American POWs were being treated benignly by the Vietnamese and admonished anyone who claimed he was tortured, saying these claims were fictitious inventions of self-interested “war criminals.” She told Americans to greet the soldiers when they returned home not as heroes, but rather as “hypocrites and liars.” Fonda’s outings were carefully documented by the media so to be used as sensationalism and propaganda supporting North Vietnam. When Fonda returned to the United States, the celebrity used her “peaceful encounters” and “heart-wrenching tales” in Hanoi as keynotes of her anti-war movement, much to the infuriation of Vietnam veterans earning her the nickname 'Hanoi Jane'.

Jane Fonda

Bui Tin, who served on the General Staff of the North Vietnam Army, was to have stated that “America lost because of its democracy; through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize a will to win.” The sensationalism inspired by celebrity visits, like Fonda’s, had the effect of a physical affliction on the already weathered soldiers; the scathing comments and public antagonism eroded the soldiers’ optimism, and eventually cost them the war. Anti-war activists, like Fonda, only aggravated tensions and violence on the home-front, thus bestowing upon the enemy an advantage, because a soldier with no cause or support is as worthless as a soldier with no ammunition. In effect, this form of sensationalism and propaganda led to the deaths of thousands of American lives. Sixteen years later, in 1988, Fonda made a public apology to the soldiers for her actions in Hanoi. However, there still remain many veterans and civilians who label her a traitor. Pins and patches we're manufactured with the slogan 'Fuck You Jane Fonda' and 'Hanoi Jane' both during the conflict and after.


When US Naval Academy plebes, who weren't even born when Fonda protested the Vietnam war, shouted out "Goodnight, Jane Fonda!", the entire company replied "Goodnight, bitch!" This practice has since been prohibited by the academy's Plebe Summer Standard Operating Procedures. In 2005, Michael A. Smith, a U.S. Navy veteran, was arrested for disorderly conduct in Kasas City, Missouri, after he spat chewing tobacco in Fonda's face during a book-signing event for her autobiography, My Life So Far. He told reporters that he "considered it a debt of honour", adding "she spat in our faces for 37 years. It was absolutely worth it. There are a lot of veterans who would love to do what I did." Fonda refused to press charges



It's widely accepted that all biker movies are the bastard children of The Wild One. Produced by Stanley Kramer as a vehicle for Marlon Brando, the 1953 Columbia release put a fictitious spin on the publicised AMA motorcycle rally that got out of hand in the northern California town of Hollister in July 1947. Despite this prestigious kick start, the biker subgenre only became a going concern after the success of Roger Corman's The Wild Angels in 1966. (The script by Corman and Charles Griffith, with an uncredited assist from Peter Bogdanovich and Polly Platt, was inspired by Life magazine's coverage of the funeral of Sacramento Hells Angels chieftain James "Mother" Miles in January of that year.) Leather-clad "trick-riders" had appeared in plenty of films in the interim but were rarely the focus of attention. In American International Pictures' "Beach Party" films, Eric von Zipper's leather-on-leather Ratz were comic foils for clean-cut Frankie Avalon and his whitebread preppy brothers.


It took the maverick Corman to see life through a biker's eyes. Shot for $360,000 as All the Fallen Angels, the film featured Peter Fonda (a last minute replacement for West Side Story star George Chakiris, who balked at having to ride a Harley) and Bruce Dern as gypsy riders wanting "to be free and to ride (their) machines without being hassled by the Man." Working as a production assistant to Corman, Jack Nicholson came up with the more marketable title and The Wild Angels, which opened the 1966 Venice Film Festival, went on to gross $10 million.


Independent producers rallied to cash in on that success. Bruce Dern's manager, Martin B. Cohen, quickly set up The Rebel Rousers for himself to direct, with prominent lead roles for both Dern and his then-wife Diane Ladd. Dern lobbied for the casting of Jack Nicholson, whom he had met in Martin Landau's acting class. Nicholson was despondent over the failure of his marriage to actress Sandra Knight and frustrated that the two westerns he had produced for director Monte Hellman in 1965 -- Ride the Whirlwind and The Shooting -- had been rejected by Corman.


Written quickly by Martin Cohen with Michael Kars and New York playwright Abe Polsky, The Rebel Rousers shuffles Orson Welles' Touch of Evil with Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo, pitting a middle-aged architect (Cameron Mitchell) and his expectant girlfriend (Ladd was pregnant at the time with daughter Laura Dern) against a biker gang led by the volatile partnership of Dern and Nicholson. Fourth-billed, Nicholson doesn't utter an intelligible line of dialogue until forty-five minutes in but is never less than eye-catching in striped convict pants and a black watch cap similar to one he'd wear in Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Nicholson looks like a 60’s tribute to Lee Marvin's iconic biker Chino from The Wild One. They both rode Harley Bobbers on screen – Nicholson on a 1945 Flathead for Rebel Rousers, Marvin on a 1949 or 50 Flathead in The Wild One.

Jack Nicholson went from the ignominy of The Rebel Rousers to a better role in AIP's Hells Angels on Wheels, which was endorsed by Hells Angels frontman Sonny Barger. It was only after Nicholson's Academy Award nominated appearance in Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider that The Rebel Rousers won a proper theatrical release, in April 1970.


Richard Ira Bong was born on September 24, 1920, the son of a Swedish immigrant. He grew up on a farm near the small town of Poplar, Wisconsin and would go on to become America's "Ace of Aces" during World War II.

Dick did well in high school, helped on the farm, and pursued many interests as a teenager. He played on the school's baseball, basketball and hockey teams; played clarinet in the school band; sang in the church choir; and enjoyed fishing and hunting. He became a quite a good shot with a hunting rifle. Like many boys of his era, he became interested in aviation at a young age, and was an avid model builder.

He started at Superior State Teachers College in 1938, where he enrolled in the Civilian Pilot training program, also taking private flying lessons. In 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program.

He received his primary flight training at Rankin Aeronautical Academy in California in June 1941, and completed Basic at at Gardner Field, California.  At Luke Field near Phoenix, Arizona, he received Advanced Training in single-engine (fighter) planes, where he learned to master the AT-6. One P-38 check pilot said Bong was the finest natural pilot he ever met. There was no way he could keep Bong from not getting on his tail, even though he was flying an AT-6, a very slow aeroplane. In January of 1942, just after Pearl Harbor, Bong earned his Army Air Corps commission and his coveted pilot's wings. He promptly became a "plow-back," staying on at Luke to teach gunnery. But after a few months he got the chance to train in Lockheed's big new fighter, the P-38. While mastering the twin-engine craft at Hamilton Field, San Francisco, he first attracted the attention of General George Kenney, his future mentor and head of the Fifth Air Force.

In a famous story, Bong was high-hatting all over San Francisco Bay, flying under the bridges, buzzing Market Street, and blowing washing off of clothes lines. One harried housewife complained. Kenney called Bong and told him,

"Monday morning you check this address out in Oakland and if the woman has any washing to be hung out on the line, you do it for her. Then you hang around being useful - mowing the lawn or something - and when the clothes are dry, take them off the line and bring them into the house. And don't drop any of them on the ground or you will have to wash them all over again. I want this woman to think we are good for something else besides annoying people. Now get out of here before I get mad and change my mind. That's all!"


When General Kenney went to the Pacific in September, 1942, Bong was one of the pilots he tapped to join the 49th Fighter Group. 2nd Lieutenant Bong was assigned to the 9th Fighter Squadron, the "Flying Knights," and was sent to Australia to "hurry up and wait." While waiting for P-38s to be delivered, Bong flew with Captain Thomas Lynch, 39th FS of the 35th FG, operating out of Port Moresby, New Guinea. On December 27th 1942, while flying with the 35th, Bong scored his first aerial victories, a Zero and an Oscar, for this he earned a Silver Star.

After this Bong began shooting down Japanese planes at a rapid rate. While he never had any hugely successful single mission such as McGuire or Shubin, Bong's kills were evenly spread out throughout his time flying combat. Also, most of his victories were in the earlier stages of the war against very experienced Japanese pilots. Bong also was considered extremely lucky in finding the enemy. Some pilots hardly saw any enemy fighters in all their time flying combat.


General Kenney took him out of action again and promoted him to Major. When Rickenbacker heard about it, he sent a message of congratulations reading, "Just received the good news that you are the first one to break my record in World War I by bringing down 27 planes in combat, as well as your promotion, so justly deserved. I hasten to offer my sincere congratulations with the hope that you will double or triple this number. But in trying, use the same calculating techniques that has brought you results to date, for we will need your kind back home after this war is over. My promise of a case of Scotch still holds. So be on the lookout for it." General Kenney also sent Bong a case of champagne. Word that alcohol was being supplied to the famous, clean-cut, young pilot caused a mild uproar in certain circles. In response General Arnold dispatched two cases of Coca Cola with the message: "I understand you prefer this type of refreshment to others. You thoroughly deserve to have the kind you want. The Army Air Forces are proud of you and your splendid record. Congratulations!" When word of this reached other squadrons, those pilots let it be known that they would be glad to take Bong's "unwanted" booze off his hands.

Bong returned to the Southwest Pacific on September 10, reporting to Gen. Kenney at Hollandia. Bong's latest HQ assignment was 'advanced gunnery instructor,' and while allowed to go on combat missions, he had orders to only defend himself, and not seek out the enemy.

aMajRichIraBong MedOfHonor

General MacArthur presented the Medal of Honor to Bong on the Tacloban airfield on December 12, 1944. He tossed away his written remarks and said, "Major Richard Ira Bong, who has ruled the air from New Guinea to the Philippines, I now induct you into the society of the bravest of the brave, the wearers of the Congressional Medal of Honor of the United States." Then he pinned the medal on Bong, they shook hands and saluted. 'For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty in the Southwest Pacific area from 10 October to 15 November 1944. Though assigned to duty as gunnery instructor and neither required nor expected to perform combat duty, Maj. Bong voluntarily and at his own urgent request engaged in repeated combat missions, including unusually hazardous sorties over Balikpapan, Borneo, and in the Leyte area of the Philippines. His aggressiveness and daring resulted in his shooting down 8 enemy airplanes during this period.'


The following paragraph is quoted from the Dick Bong article at the National Aviation Hall of Fame:

Bong described combat flying as fun and a great game that made life interesting. Some pilots were only concerned with their scores, almost to the point of recklessness. Bong relished in the actual flying of combat, not how many enemy aircraft he could shoot down. Bong often referred to his gunnery skills as being lousy, perhaps the worst in the Army Air Force, and this was after breaking Eddie Rickenbacker's record of 26 kills! However, his skills were very adequate, and estimates were that he had a 91 percent hit rate. Bong also knew how to get the most from the aircraft he was flying. He loved flying the P-38, and many pilots who flew with him commented on his mastery of it. He was not a flashy pilot, and knew the limitations of the P-38 and never pushed it beyond. His analytical nature was valuable when flying combat, and he always analyzed the situation before going in with guns firing. Most importantly, he felt no shame in breaking off an engagement when the odds turned against him.

After Bong scored his 40th victory, General Kenney sent him home, this time for good. He was America's "Ace of Aces," with 40 aerial victories, 200 combat missions, and over 500 combat hours behind him. By New Year's Eve, 1945, America's number 1 ace was back in the "Z.I.," headed for Washington D.C. to meet the dignitaries, including General 'Hap' Arnold. At the Pentagon, he met Bob Johnson, also there on a PR tour. Dick explained that he had been dragged around the country on War Bond tours and hated it. "I've got this coming out my ears, Johnson. I'm sure glad to see you. You can help me bear up under this nonsense. It's worse than having a Zero on your tail."

After his PR trip, he returned to Wisconsin, and married Marge on February 10, 1945. After their California honeymoon, he went to work at Wright Field as a test pilot, helping to develop the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. He studied jet propulsion theory and boned up on the engineering details of the new plane for two months, before getting a chance to fly one. After being checked out in the P-80, he flew it eleven times that summer.

Hap Arnold and Dick Bong

On August 6, 1945, while half a world away the Enola Gay dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Bong stepped into an airplane for the last time. His P-80 malfunctioned just after take-off, and while he bailed out, he never had a chance. He was just too close to the ground. After surviving two years of combat flying, Richard Ira Bong met his end while on a routine acceptance flight.

Richard Bong's decorations included the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star (with 1 OLC), the Distinguished Flying Cross (with 6 OLC's), the Air Medal (with 14 OLC's), and many other American and foreign medals.

Major Bong was honored when the airport at Superior, Wisconsin, was named the Richard Bong Airport. In his hometown of Poplar, there is a Bong Memorial room in the Poplar High School that includes his uniform, all twenty-six of his decorations, photographs, newspaper clippings and even a fragment of the plane in which he was killed. Outside is mounted a P-38 Lightning fighter, similar to the one he flew to glory.


In 1968 Catherine Leroy, one of the first female combat photographers of the Vietnam War era. Many American soldiers along with male war correspondents were shocked to see Leroy in 1966 when she landed in Vietnam on a one-way ticket from Paris through Laos to Saigon, with her small Leica in hand. She was only 21 (or thereabouts) and her diminutive presence, at five feet tall and less than 90 pounds, didn’t match the profile of the average foreign war correspondent. As a Parisian girl growing up in a convent school she said that she weekly studied each new Paris Match magazine. When she was much older and reflecting upon her career Leroy said in an interview that as a child, “Photojournalists were my heroes. When I looked at Paris Match as a girl, to me that was an extraordinary window to the world.” Influenced by the magazine’s strong photojournalism and images of conflict on its pages, Leroy knew even then that she wanted to photograph war. And there was one going on at the time, in Vietnam.


She worked in the tradition of Margaret Bourke-White and Robert Capa. In Vietnam, she was cool under fire and one of the few woman photographers in the thick of the fighting and dying. Like Capa, she wanted to show war up close and personal. In one of her photographic sequences from Vietnam (1967), corpsman Vernon Wike applies first aid to a downed buddy, listens for a heartbeat, and then looks up from the body with an anguished and confused look having realized that the Marine is dead. The last photo shows the dead Marine alone – the landscape destroyed and the horizon blank. The series is a powerful reality check about the Vietnam War.



And Leroy didn’t just photograph the war from the sidelines - she jumped in feet first, literally. Becoming the only known accredited journalist – male or female – to jump into combat with American troops at war. Thanks to a former boyfriend who taught her how to sky dive, in 1967 she was a licensed parachutist when she joined up with the 173rd Airborne Division and jumped along with them into combat as part of Operation Junction City. Two weeks after the battle for Hill 881 she was wounded with a Marine unit near the DMZ. In 1968, during the Tet Offensive she was captured by the North Vietnamese Army. She managed to talk her way out and surprised her NVA Regular captors by photographing and interviewing them when they returned her cameras as they released her from detention. The photograph ended up on the cover of Life magazine.


LeRoy Woodson Jr, the editor of Military Week remembers a story that Leroy told him many years later when they talked in Paris in 1981. It’s her story about the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 and she happened to be in the New York offices of Look magazine. “The Look magazine photo editor asked her to go to Harlem to take reaction pictures,” Woodson says. “So Cathy, her blond pigtails and her Leicas in hand, set off for Harlem at this highly sensitive and charged moment. On arrival she got into trouble almost at once. She was surrounded by a hostile crowd that wanted to relieve her of her Leicas. It was a tense moment, when suddenly a voice penetrated the crowd: ‘Cathy, what are you doing here?’ It came from a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade with whom she had made a combat jump the previous year. He rescued her and took her home to his Mamma for a home cooked meal.”




After Vietnam, she covered conflicts in several countries, including Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Lebanon. After her experiences in Beirut she swore off war coverage. Leroy won numerous awards for her work, including in 1967 the George Polk award, Picture of the Year, The Sigma Delta Chi and The Art Director's Club of New York. She was the first woman to receive the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award – "best published photographic reporting from abroad requiring exceptional courage and enterprise" – for her coverage of the civil war in Lebanon, in 1976. In 1997, she was the recipient of an Honour Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri.


One of the purest expressions of Walt Disney’s genuine patriotism during the war years was his decision to establish a unit devoted to producing customised military unit insignia free of charge for U.S. armed forces and their allies. Headed by the talented draftsman Hank Porter, whom Walt referred to as a “one-man art department,” the unit worked steadily throughout the war, turning out nearly 1,300 insignia upon request.

By far, the single most requested and used Disney insignia character during the war was Donald Duck, who was featured in at least 146 designs. The numerous requests for insignia bearing Donald’s likeness resulted in a wealth of drawings that successfully channeled his irascibility as patriotism and military zeal, often with a comedic flourish.

Next to Donald, the character that appeared in more insignia (about 35) than any other was Pluto. Like Donald, Pluto was popular,  and his trademark facial expressions that made it easy for the artists to incorporate him into a variety of military insignia. Goofy was next in popularity at 25 insignia, and Jiminy Cricket appeared in 24.


Sometimes a unit had a specific design already in mind, and was seeking a Disney artist’s skill to bring it to life, attaching a rough sketch to their request letter for reference. The bulk of insignia were designed for Army units and Navy vessels, but occasionally individuals requested their own personal insignia design. These requests were accommodated and executed with the same level of care as insignia for an entire ship, bombardment group, or battalion.


The request letters were often addressed simply to “Walt Disney, Hollywood, California.” Once a letter was received, it would be placed in the queue of pending requests, and the turnaround time was usually three to four weeks, though a wait of several months was possible when the insignia unit was particularly swamped. The procedure for the creation of an insignia design varied, but it typically involved a preliminary pencil drawing in which the image was established, then a full-colour pencil version, and finally a full-colour gouache on art board that would then be forwarded to the requesting unit or party. This would often hang in the unit headquarters and serve as a template for reproducing the emblem on airplanes, tanks, and other military equipment, as well as on uniforms and unit letterhead.

It is difficult today to fully appreciate how it felt for a serviceman to have his unit represented by a Disney-designed insignia. For the generation that fought World War II, Disney character images possessed an iconic heft that has no contemporary in todays animation.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. A Donald Duck insignia boosted morale, not just because it reminded soldiers of home, but also because it signified that the job they were doing was important enough to be acknowledged by Walt Disney.

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. Almost every Disney character was used in the project— except Bambi.

Floyd Bennet field logo CP

This 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 logo

The insignia was taken from the memorable silver-screen scene in King Kong. It can be seen briefly in this still frame.

blog donald torpedo bomber

Donald Duck zooms from an air-launched torpedo, guiding it into its target.

Aviation Repair Unit 1cb

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

USS Wasp cb

USS 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 cb

After 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 cb

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

USS Positive cb

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


USS 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 cb

This 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 11cb

Donald 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 cb

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

USS Jason cb

USS 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 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 Piedmont

During 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.


As the United States military involvement in South Vietnam shifted from an advisory role to combat operations, Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) advisors to the South Vietnamese government noticed an increase in the amount of military supplies and weapons being smuggled into the county by way of North Vietnamese junks and other small craft. The extent of infiltration was underscored in February 1965 by the detection of a North Vietnamese trawler disguised as an "island" by a United States Army helicopter crew. The event would later be known as the Vung Roy Bay Incident, named for the small bay that was the trawler's destination. After the Army helicopter crew called in air strikes on the trawler, it was sunk and captured after a five-day action conducted by elements of the South Vietnamese Navy (SVN). Investigators found 1 million rounds of small arms ammunition, more than 1,000 stick grenades, 500 pounds of prepared TNT charges, 2,000 rounds of 82mm mortar ammunition, 500 anti-tank grenades, 1,500 rounds of recoilless rifle ammunition, 3,600 rifles and sub-machine guns, and 500 pounds of medical supplies. Labels on captured equipment and supplies and other papers found in the wreckage indicated that the shipment was from North Vietnam. Concern by top MACV advisors as to whether the SVN was up to the task of interdicting shipments originating in North Vietnam led to the request by General Westmoreland commanding general of MACV, for Navy assistance.



On 22 April 1965, representatives of the Coast Guard and the Navy signed an agreement where the Coast Guard would supply 17 Point-class cutters and their crews and the Navy would provide transport to South Vietnam and logistical support with two LSTs that had been converted to repair ships. Ten of the cutters were sourced from stations on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and seven were sourced from Pacific coast stations. After removal of the Oerlikon 20mm cannon on the bow, each cutter was fitted with a combination over-under M2 Browning Machine gun / MK2 trigger and drop fired 81mm mortar and loaded on merchant ships for shipment to US Naval Base Subic Bay in the Philippines.


On 29 April President LBJ authorised Coast Guard units to operate under Navy command in Vietnam and to provide surveillance and interdiction assistance to Navy vessels and aircraft in an effort to stop the infiltration of troops, weapons and ammunition into South Vietnam by North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) forces. The combined Navy, Coast Guard and South Vietnamese Navy effort was designated Operation Market Time.

The Coast Guard presence in Vietnam was designated Squadron One which consisted CG Divisions 11 and 12. Squadron One was active throughout the conflict, with its Cutters earning the Navy Presidential Unit Citation for their assistance provided to the Navy during Operation Sealords. CG Squadron Three was activated in support of Market Time beginning March 1967 and consisted initially of five High Endurance Cutters (WHEC) tasked to the Navy for used in coastal interdiction and naval gunfire support for shore operations in South Vietnam.



Several Coast Guard aviators served with the US Air Force 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron in Southeast Asia from 1968 to 1972. They were involved in combat search and rescue operations in both Vietnam and Laos.

The Coast Guard also provided Explosive Loading Detachments (ELD) to the US Army 1st Logistics Command in several locations in Vietnam. The ELD's were responsible for the supervision of Army stevedores in the unloading of explosives and ammunition from U.S. Merchant Marine ships. The ELD's were also responsible for assisting the Army in port security operations at each port and eventually were made a part of a Port Security and Waterways Detail (PS&WD) reporting to the Commanding General, United States Army, Vietnam USARV. They earned the Army Meritorious Unit Commendation or their efforts.



In August 1970 the Coast Guard finished turning over the patrol boats of Squadron One to the South Vietnamese Navy. The training of South Vietnamese crews had started in February 1969 and continued through to the end of operations for Squadron One. Eventually three other WHEC's were turned over to the South Vietnamese Navy. The Coast Guard's involvement in the Vietnam War ended at 12.46 local time 29 April 1975 when LORAN Station Con Son went off the air for good. Its signal was necessary for the safe evacuation of Saigon by US Embassy personnel in the final days before the fall of the South Vietnamese government and it was kept on the air as long as possible. On 3 October 1975 the Coast Guard disestablished the remaining LORAN-C stations in Thailand.Seven Coast Guardsmen were killed during the war in combat and search and rescue operations.


As is the premise for ELMC, all US motorcycle clubs, whether of the law-abiding or outlaw biker gang variety, were descended from WWII vets who caught the "riding" bug in the combat zone. But what role, exactly, did motorcycles play in the military?

Next to a jeep or tank, a two-wheeled vehicle that leaves its operator exposed seems a poor choice for an army vehicle; but there are worthwhile tradeoffs. A motorcycle's speed makes it ideal for scouting, reconnaissance and messenger capacities. It can travel where larger vehicles cannot. It uses less fuel, and you can fit several of them into a transport vehicle. Adverse weather and terrains could reduce their effectiveness, but clever engineers would counter that with design.


The Harley-Davidson WLA, which first saw production in 1940 was the US Army motorcycle of choice. Harley engineers took an existing civilian bike, the WL, and adapted it for military use with several changes. The fenders were shaped in such a way that mud flung by the wheel could exit from the sides rather than clog. It was fitted with a heavy duty carrying rack in the rear that could support an ammunition box or two radios, and saddlebags could be hung from its sides. A scabbard placed up front was sized large enough for the driver to tuck a Thompson submachine gun in. On the other side of the front wheel, another ammo box could be attached. A secondary set of "blackout lights" were added, which diffused the light to reduce the bike's nighttime visibility to observers.


There were mechanical changes as well. In a nod to the Army's logistical needs, the air filter was replaced with an oil-bath air cleaner - something then used in farm tractors in high-dust environments - for ease of maintenance; rather than having to stock replacement air filters, the rider could "freshen up" his filter by adding regular motor oil. And the crankcase was redesigned to reduce water intake, so that the vehicle could reportedly ford 16 inches of water without stalling out.


Harley had been building motorcycles since 1906. BMW got a much later start, around 1921; but by the time World War II rolled around, BMW's design & engineering was already world-class. In the 1930s BMW had mastered the emerging production method of electric arc welding, and were able to create incredibly strong joints. This practice was borne of necessity; sidecars were popular in Germany, perhaps more popular than in the US, where Americans aspired to ride around in automobiles. Sidecars placed a lot of stress on a motorcycle frame. But in thrifty Germany, with one passenger in the sidecar and another behind the driver, a sidecar-equipped motorcycle was an economical way to transport three people. BMW made their frames strong enough to handle that load.


Sometime around 1941, BMW began producing an improved motorcycle at the German army's request. Their resultant R75 had a permanently-attached sidecar whose wheel was connected, via axle, to the motorcycle's rear wheel. The R75 thus effectively had two-wheel drive, which greatly improved the motorcycle's handling in adverse conditions. To simplify inventory and maintenance, all three wheels were designed to be interchangeable, and a spare was attached to the rear of each sidecar. Loaded up with two Jerrycans on the sidecar, one on the bike's rear, an extra seat behind the driver and a machine gun, the R75 made for a formidable and utilitarian vehicle capable of carrying three.

Both the R12 and the R75 - and indeed, any motorcycle made by BMW until 1994 - also incorporated another clever mechanical trick that Harley-Davidson had not been able to pull off: shaft drive. The rear wheel of the motorcycle was driven by a rotating shaft connected to a universal joint. In contrast, Harley's SLA, like most other motorcycles of the era, was chain-driven. As both the U.S. and Germany military would discover in the North African campaign, BMW's enclosed shaft was superior, in sandy conditions, to an exposed chain that grit could get inside of.


In the 1930s and '40s, to an American engineer, shaft-drive and telescoping forks were something like the concept of laser pistols today; we can envision how they should work in theory, but we can't yet figure out how to make them. BMW had worked it out, and their advanced design and engineering was therefore providing the German military with a material advantage.

However, as with the Jerry Can, at some point Allied troops captured a German R12 or R75 and sent it back home to be studied. Once the U.S. engineers had ripped the bike apart, converted the metric to Standard and reverse-engineered the manufacturing technology, Harley-Davidson was then tasked with producing a similar shaft-driven design. As it worked out, just over 1,000 XA models were produced - and they never got to see the North African sands for which they were designed. Military bureaucracy, combined with an increasing Army reliance on jeeps, meant that the relatively few XAs produced were wastefully relegated to base duty on U.S. soil. Today the XA is a collector's item and the motorcycles produced both in the US and Germany during WWII helped to push forward the boundaries of mechanical engineering in many respects affording us the machines we have today.


On July 4, 1942, General Claire Lee Chennault's American Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers, went out of business, turning its planes and bases over to the newly formed AAF China Air Task Force, later to become Fourteenth Air Force. A few of the AVG pilots stayed on, among them Tex Hill and Ajax Baumler, who had been an ace in Spain. Even before the turnover, AAF pilots began arriving to man the CATF's 23d Fighter Group. One of them was Maj. John Alison, fresh from a year in Russia, introducing our erstwhile allies to the P-40, A-20, and B-25.

The 23d, like its AVG predecessor, was strictly a frontier air force, operating at the end of the war's longest and most difficult supply line. Everything--fuel, ammunition, spare parts for its obsolescent P-40s--had to be flown in over the Hump. There was no ground radar and little in the way of radio aids. At one point, the 75th Fighter Squadron 'Tiger Sharks', to which Alison was assigned as Tex Hill's deputy, had nothing but five-gallon cans to refuel its fighters.


Alison's first few missions were relatively uneventful, with no Japanese aircraft showing up. Then about 3 a.m. on July 18, the warning net of Chinese ground observers reported bombers heading for the 75th's field at Hengyang. Alison and Hill stood outside their barracks about a mile from the runway and watched the bombs explode.

Alison asked Hill if the AVG had ever attacked Japanese bombers at night. It seems they had tried early on, but with no success, and had given it up. Whenever there was a moon, the Japanese enjoyed a free ride against Chinese towns and American airfields. "If they come over tomorrow night," said Alison, "I'm going to be up there waiting."


New-guy Alison convinced veteran Baumler that he was onto a good idea, and sure enough, the warning net reported approaching bombers the next night. Alison took up a position in his P-40 at 12,000 feet with Baumler below him, while warning-net position reports were relayed to them by radio.

The bombers, expecting another free ride, made two leisurely passes over the Hengyang runway before Alison was able to pick up the faint flame from their engine exhausts above him as the bombers turned on their bombing run. He pulled up the nose of his P-40, firewalled the throttle, and at the last moment saw he was closing too fast in this unpracticed nighttime maneuver. Chopping the throttle, Alison sideslipped to kill his speed and slid smack into the middle of a three-bomber V formation.

The top turret of the bomber on his right opened up at point-blank range, stitching Alison's P-40 from nose to tail. His radio was knocked out, one slug went through the seat, and another grazed his left arm. Almost immediately the P-40's engine began to run rough. In that situation, any fighter pilot could have been forgiven for thinking the AVG was right, and now was a good time to head for home. Not Alison. He kicked his fighter around and blasted the bomber on his left with the P-40's six .50-caliber guns. Oil covered his windshield as the bomber pulled straight up and disappeared. Swinging back to the right, he exploded the bomber that had hit him. By that time, flames were popping out from the engine cowling as he turned on the lead bomber and blew it up.

Alison at last pointed the nose of his wounded fighter down, heading for the blacked-out 3,500-foot runway as the engine threatened to jump out of its mountings and flames spewed from the cowling. There wasn't time for a planned approach. He came in too fast with only one viable alternative--to overshoot and crash-land in the river about two miles ahead. Clearing a railroad trestle by inches, he hit the water with a resounding crash, climbed out of the sinking P-40, and swam to a log raft near the shore. A young Chinese man pulled the bleeding Alison out of the water.

While all this was going on, Baumler had shot down two more bombers. As a result of Alison's experiment in night interception, for which he was awarded the DSC, Japanese bombers didn't come back in darkness for almost a year.


Alison ended his tour with the colorful 23d Fighter Group as an ace with six air-to-air victories and several probables. He then became Phil Cochran's deputy commander of the equally colorful 1st Air Commando Group in Burma.

After the war, Alison served as an Assistant Secretary of Commerce, President of AFA, a major general in the Reserve, and a vice president of Northrop Corp. On a visit to one of Northrop's research organizations near Boston, he was introduced to its chief engineer, a Dr. Tsien. It came out that Tsien had lived near Hengyang while Alison was stationed there.

"Were you a bomber pilot?" asked Tsien. Alison replied that he had been deputy commander, then commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron. "Then we have met before," said Dr. Tsien. "I'm the man who pulled you out of the river."

The Eastman Leather 75th Fighter Group CBI Tiger Sharks A-2 flight jacket is available now to order in the Elite Units section of the website.

Portrait of aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

Forty years before Annie Hall flirted with menswear, Amelia Earhart put women in pants (and, of course, planes).

In 1923, Earhart, fondly known as "Lady Lindy," became the 16th woman to be issued a pilot's license. Taking her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921, in six months she had managed to save enough money to buy her first plane. The second-hand Kinner Airster was a two-seater biplane painted bright yellow—Earhart named her newest obsession "The Canary" and used it to set her first women's record by rising to an altitude of 14,000 feet. Her strong will and conviction enabled her to overcome the challenging technical problems, gender bias and financial obstacles of the day.

Her many accomplishments in aviation went on to inspire a generation of female aviators, including more than 1,000 women pilots of the USAAF Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) who ferried military aircraft, towed gliders, flew target practice aircraft, and served as transport pilots during World War II.


Earhart was a widely known international celebrity during her lifetime. Her shyly charismatic appeal, sartorial style, independence, persistence, coolness under pressure, courage and goal-oriented career along with the circumstances of her disappearance at a young age have afforded her lasting fame in popular culture.


Amelia’s sense of style reflected her independent personality, she was at odds with the feminine fashion trends of the day and instead was seen and pictured in newspapers wearing mens aviation clothing including military issue chinos trousers and leather flight jackets, revolutionary for the time. In 1932, Amelia developed flying clothes for the Ninety-Nines. Her first creation was a flying suit with loose trousers, a zipper top and big pockets. Vogue advertised it with a two-page photo spread. Then, she began designing her own line of clothes "for the woman who lives actively." It didn’t take long for masculine tailoring to become de rigueur for the Fashion Houses and style conscious females of the 1930’s.


In 1937, as Earhart neared her 40th birthday, she was ready for a monumental, and final, challenge: she wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world. Despite a botched attempt in March that severely damaged her plane, a determined Earhart had the twin engine Lockheed Electra rebuilt. "I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system, and I hope this trip is it," she said. On June 1st, Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan departed from Miami and began the 29,000-mile journey. By June 29th, when they landed in Lae, New Guinea, all but 7,000 miles had been completed. Frequently inaccurate maps had made navigation difficult for Noonan, and their next hop—to Howland Island—was by far the most challenging. Located 2,556 miles from Lae in the mid-Pacific, Howland Island is a mile and a half long and a half-mile wide. Every unessential item was removed from the plane to make room for additional fuel, which gave Earhart approximately 274 extra miles. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter ITASCA, their radio contact, was stationed just offshore of Howland Island. Two other U.S. ships, ordered to burn every light on board, were positioned along the flight route as markers. "Howland is such a small spot in the Pacific that every aid to locating it must be available," Earhart emphasised.

On July 2nd, At 10 am local time, zero Greenwich time, the pair took off. Despite ideal weather reports, they flew into overcast skies and intermittent rain showers. This made Noonan's favored method of tracking, celestial navigation, difficult. As dawn neared, Earhart called the ITASCA, reporting "cloudy weather, cloudy." In later transmissions, Earhart asked the ITASCA to take bearings on her. The ITASCA sent her a steady stream of transmissions but she could not hear them. Her radio transmissions, irregular through most of the flight, were faint or interrupted with static. At 7:42 am, the ITASCA picked up the message, "We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet." The ship tried to reply, but the plane seemed not to hear. At 8:45, Earhart reported, "We are running north and south." Nothing further was heard from her.


A rescue attempt immediately commenced and became the most extensive air and sea search in naval history. On July 19th, after spending $4 million and scouring 250,000 square miles of ocean, the United States government reluctantly called off the operation. In 1938, a lighthouse was constructed on Howland Island in her memory, and across the United States, streets, schools, and airports are named after Earhart. Her birthplace, Atchison, Kansas, became a virtual shrine to her memory. Amelia Earhart awards and scholarships are given out every year.

Amelia Earhart

Despite many theories, no proof of Earhart’s fate exists. There is no doubt, however, that the world will always remember Amelia Earhart for her courage, vision, and groundbreaking achievements, both in aviation and for women.


The U. S. Navy developed and used many different styles of cold weather gear and clothing during the 1940’s. A sailors duties are very often performed in the most challenging and harsh weather conditions while at sea, thus clothing needed to be durable, warm and functional. Winter jackets, commonly referred to as “Deck Jackets,” became the most cherished clothing articles of sailors during WWII and among collectors today. Most of the deck jackets used in WWII evolved from a dark blue zip-front design that was very similar in appearance to the U. S. Army’s Winter Combat Jacket (Tanker Jacket). By late 1943, the second version of this Deck Jacket design was being phased out of production and an entirely new design was being brought into use.



This all-new jacket took into account the lessons learned from two hard years of warfare at sea. Though still manufactured with the same dark blue heavy corded cotton outer shell (known as Jungle Cloth) as on earlier examples, alpaca fur was now used as the lining material and the torso length grew longer for greater protection from the elements. The knit collar was replaced with an alpaca fur collar, and also gone were the knit waist bands, exposed knit cuffs and patch pockets of the old jackets, all of which tended to snag on various objects or parts of a ship and cause tearing. A new cuff design incorporated the knit cuff hidden up inside the sleeve, thus keeping the knit from snagging while still keeping out the cold wind, and the frontal jacket closure was now facilitated by a zipper as well as buttons. A drawstring at the jacket’s bottom edges kept the wind out more effectively than the old knit band, all the while eliminating the snagging problem associated with knit bands, and gusseted armpit areas with eyelet vents provided greater freedom of movement and rapid drying of built-up perspiration.



Produced in very small numbers for a brief period, this new design was quickly superseded by a second version manufactured in a khaki/light olive green colour of the same heavy corded fabric. The fabric colour was changed from blue to this khaki shade of olive drab to better enable camouflaging of USN personnel both at sea and on landing operations. This newer khaki version of the winter deck jacket was available in limited numbers by the spring of 1944 and photo documentation clearly reveals some sailors, including Rear Admiral A. D. Struble onboard the command ship USS AUGUSTA, outfitted with this jacket style during the D-Day landings in Normandy, France on 6 June 1944. The deck jacket was modified again after WWII, with the most notable difference being the change in color from khaki/light olive green to a dark olive green. It was this deck jacket that was officially designated and marked on the neck label as the N-1, but since it retained most of the design appearance of it’s older siblings from WWII, both the blue and khaki versions have commonly been called N-1’s too, albeit erroneously. Further modifications were made to the design before being completely phased out in the 1960’s, thus making the N-1-style deck jacket the longest serving in the U. S. Navy, and possible the best remembered. The N-1-style Deck Jacket is an all-American classic that looks as great today as it did in 1944, functioning within any contemporary wardrobe.

deck jacket