At I Agree to See we love to look back to the inspiration that still informs so much of modern political advertising – including the rich body of WWI and WWWII propaganda meant to inspire civilians on the home front.

But did you know there was plenty of advertising directed at soldiers and recruits as well?

Meet Private Snafu – an engaging character designed during WWII to help new recruits navigate the military.

In “Coming,” the first episode of the World War II cartoon series, we learn that there is a Private Snafu (military code for “Situation Normal: All ‘Fouled’ Up”) in every division of the military.

The private is a “patriotic, conscientious guy,” but is completely oblivious to the consequences of his mistakes. Whether it’s how to properly pack your gear or keep a secret, Private Snafu encounters all these lessons and usually learns what not to do the hard way.

Who is Private Snafu?

Private Snafu was the main character in a series of black-and-white American military instructional cartoon shorts produced from 1943 to 1945, during World War II.

The four-minute cartoons were created to instruct members of the military about military matters, including security, proper sanitation habits, booby traps and much more.

During World War II, American animation became a popular form of entertainment that helped build morale and spread government message. However, when Private Snafu videos were first released, they were originally a “military secret,” only to be viewed by the armed forces.

The cartoons were a tool to educate enlisted men who had weak literacy skills and had a hard time learning the Army’s strict rules and basic lessons.

The Star Studded Team Behind Private Snafu

The United States Army gave Walt Disney the first crack at creating the cartoons, but Leon Schlesinger of the Warner Bros. animation studio underbid Disney by two-thirds and won the contract. Additionally, Disney demanded exclusive ownership of the character, and merchandising rights.

Chuck Jones, famous for Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny, and a slew of Warner Bros. cartoons, directed the cartoon and Mel Blanc, the voice behind Bugs Bunny, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales and many more, was the voice of the Private Snafu.

Plus, famous authors including Dr. Seuss, Philip Eastman and Munro Leaf wrote many of the four-minute cartoon episodes.

Interested in checking out more World War II propaganda? Click here to see more.

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