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Dr. Seuss's World War II Training Films

Updated on February 28, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Background

Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, wanted to help the War Effort during World War II. He was too old for service though, and having a strong desire to do something he soon found himself making training films with Frank Capra's Signal Corps. it was during this time that he learned the art of animation, and he made several training films with a character that he had created called, Private Snafu.

Seuss' Private Snafu
Seuss' Private Snafu

Training Films

Training films are used even today by the military to get across important information during Boot Camp, and any subsequent training. Most of us who have been through boot camp will tell you, though, that nothing we saw compared to the fantastic animation and humor that Capra and Seuss used in the training films that they created during World War II.

These vintage films are full of propaganda, and when viewing them, one should consider the time period and the events of that period. This films were not meant to be politically correct or socially acceptable but they were meant to train young men, and women, who were being sent into dangerous conditions. The fact that it was done with such wit and talent is an amazing testimony to the brilliance of Seuss.

Booby Traps

In Booby Traps Private Snafu shows would be soldiers the dangers of hidden bombs, and weapons. It was meant to alert the troops to the fact that even a deserted battlefield held the threat of death.

Snafuperman

In Snafuperman Private Snafu gets a little big for his britches. He thinks he knows the basics of warfare and ends up making some pretty big mistakes in the process. This film reminded the soldiers that war did not have room for prima donas and that the Army was a group that worked together as a team, following orders with careful preparation.

Chowhound

Chowhound reminds the troops how important that nutrition is to the soldier. At the same time it cautions that people are sacrificing on the Home Front, and that waste is the most horrendous of crimes.

Rumors

Rumors can ruin the morale of any camp, whether stateside or overseas. In this film Private Snafu finds just how much those nasty rumors can tear down the men and cause problems in the camp.

In many of these films you may notice scenes that you remember from later Bugs Bunny Cartoons. Keep an eye out for them...they are there.

Private Snafu FIghting Tools

The private might have the best weapons available but troops watching this film quickly learn that they are worthless if they are not taken care of! Much of the dialogue for this particular film was banned.

Camoflauge

Now, Private Snafu learns the fine are of camoflauge witht he Technical Fairy First Class.

He learns about how to literally cover his tracks, that the enemy also knows camoflauge techniques, and that camoflauge needs to be carefully thought out and used. As usual Snafu doesn't get it.

The Home Front

Poor Private Snafu is freezing in the Arctic and imagines allt he fun his family is having at home. TF First Class (that is technical fairy first class) shows him that family and friends have not forgotten him, and have not forgotten about the war but are working hard to support the war effort as they can. This was shown to build morale amongst the troops and combat the counter-propaganda that the Axis forces were sending out by way of Tokyo Rose.

There were literally hundreds of these training cartoons shown to military personel during World War 2. Watching them today is a fascinating lesson in history. The fact that they were created by Dr. Seuss, himself, makes them all that much more interesting.

Interestingly Mel Blanc used his Bugs Bunny voice as Private Snafu, and Warner Brothers used alot of the creative ideas, music, and script in later cartoons.

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    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      this is fascinating--I had no idea.....thanks

    • tjmum profile image

      tjmum 8 years ago from Isle of Wight

      I loved Dr Suess as a child (especially Green Eggs and Ham) and now I'm teaching them to my boys. The nonsense rhymes are something children can really enjoy and the pictures add to the brilliance. Long live Dr Seuss!

    • Karen Ellis profile image

      Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon

      Nice bit of history to know about - thanks

    • rmr profile image

      rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

      I would never have guessed that the good doctor had military connections. And did I detect the vocal talents of Mel Blanc? Excellent hub!

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      These are cute cartoons.

    • donnaleemason profile image

      donnaleemason 8 years ago from North Dakota, USA

      Great cartoons.

      Donna

    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 8 years ago from USA

      Dr Seuss is a great way to teach reading, his rhymes were wonderful. I loved this and him! great information..I learned a lot. so fun

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      This is another great hub. Dr. Seuss was a favorite around our house. My kids owned everyone of his books. I never knew what Dr. Seuss did other then write. Thanks for sharing this piece of history.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Awesome clips, awesome slice of history, especially the Dr. Seuss connection. Thanks Marye for another great hub.

      SNAFU: Situation Normal, All Fouled Up.

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