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Don't Be a Dope! Training Comics from World War II to the Korean War

Don’t Be a Dope includes training comics created for the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force. Many of these posters depicted characters putting themselves in deadly situations by doing the wrong thing. The illustrations in this exhibit were a sample of the ways military personnel could make light of dangerous situations. Most of these items were created by service personnel of the era.

The onset of World War II for the United States was one of uncertainty, followed by a rallying of people to the “American ideals” and a fight against tyranny. The use of illustrated drawings, be it through cartoons, comic strips or comic books sought to inform the American viewer through information, humor, and stereotypes. The films shown in this series were from the Disney studios, and convey the need of Americans to understand their enemy, and how the war would affect them. The films chosen were ones that were available to both the general public as well as military units.

Works in this exhibit were drawn by a variety of well-known artists including Will Eisner, Herblock, Dr. Seuss, Al Capp, Robert Osborn, and Arthur Szyk.

  • Arthur Szyk produced hundreds of anti-Axis illustrations and cartoons during World War II.

  • The Tex Lane comic strips were created within the confines of a single Air Force division and were circulated solely on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. Donated By Dr. Jonathan Hood

  • Created partly for amusement, the Tex Lane comic strips served as both training devices and reminders of proper procedures to airmen stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base. Donated By Dr. Jonathan Hood

  • Tex Lane sprouted from the imagination of Lt. Cleary Paquette of the 10th Air Division. Donated By Dr. Jonathan Hood

  • Herb Block was born and raised in Chicago. In 1943, he was drafted into the Army, where he illustrated posters like this one. From the Lavina “Duffy” Schwartz World War II Poster Collection

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  • During World War II, the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery created cartoon-like public health propaganda posters aimed at soldiers warning against two distinct enemies: mosquitoes carrying malaria and venereal disease.

  • Flat hatting, as described in this pamphlet, is needlessly low flying, grandstanding, or flying foolishly.

  • This pamphlet was issued to trainees who had completed pilot school and were learning to fire a plane’s armaments. On loan from Cord Scott

  • Will Eisner was a successful comic book writer prior to World War II, and produced The Spirit. After being drafted into the Army, he was sent to the Aberdeen Proving Ground. On loan from Cord Scott

  • In 1941 Robert Osborn was commissioned into the Training Division of the Navy as a lieutenant. From his imagination sprang Dilbert Groundloop, an arrogant and incompetent pilot. Donated by John Zukowsky

  • Dilbert Groundloop, an arrogant and incompetent pilot created by Robert Osborn, was featured in training manuals and posters during World War II. Donated by John Zukowsky