Disney and the OGs

by Les Hughes

©2003 by author






OSS-Disney.JPG (30315 bytes)


OSS-Disney2.jpg (41540 bytes)



Return to OSS

Return to Articles

Home Page

Among the many military units for which Walt Disney Studios executed a patch design was the OSS's Operational Groups. There is no evidence, however, that the design, illustrated here, was ever translated into a patch. I found the image illustrated here in a marvelous book that was compiled by and for members of the Norwegian Special Operations (Norso) Group on the occasion of their reunion in 1975, a copy of which I am fortunate to own.

The photo of the Disney design was included in the reunion book without comment. My interest piqued, I embarked on a search for the source of the photo. The search led to a Norso veteran who clearly recalled having provided the photo but who was not sure whether he ever had the original. (His recollection was dimmed by poor health and the passage of 13 years since the compilation of the book.) He did recall first having encountered the design while serving, as an officer, at OSS Headquarters in Washington, DC, where the design had been filed away and forgotten. I maintained contact with this gentleman for over a year, hoping his health would improve and allow him to follow through on his promise to search his belongings for evidence of the design, and when it did not, the matter slipped from my mind. Until about a year later, after I had moved to a location near where this gentleman lived. Out of curiosity, I contacted him again. However, it was not the veteran I found myself talking with, it was his widow, who informed me that her husband had died several months earlier. When I identified myself and described why I had called, she recalled my contact with her husband; in fact, he had saved my letters. She informed me that she was in the process getting rid of items of her husband that she no longer needed, and that included his wartime mementos. She invited me to come to her home and take whatever I wanted of those mementos. Among what I found was the circular, central portion of the Disney design, an image of which is included here.

It was only later, when I obtained correspondence between Captain Joseph Alderdice, of the Operational Groups Branch at OSS Headquarters, and the Walt Disney Studios, that I was able to learn more about the origin of this design. On 2 August 1943, Captain Alderdice wrote to the Walt Disney Studios to explore the possibility of the Studios producing an insignia design for the OGs, and he included a rough drawing that included elements he thought reflected the mission of the OGs. On 4 October, Vernon Caldwell of the Studio’s Public Relations Office responded. “We have been endeavoring to create an insigne along the lines suggested in your letter of August 2nd but find that these ideas do not work out as a design. The insignia that we have been doing for the army and navy have been symbolic using Disney characters in cute or funny poses. If you so wish, we could depict Donald Duck breaking bridges, toy tanks, wooden soldiers, etc., with a wooden mallet, which would put over your idea and be more in line with our medium. Or, if you have any other ideas that might be worked out in the Disney manner, we should be glad to have them. In any event, please let us know if we can help you further on this.” While I have been unable to find further correspondence between Captain Alderdice and the Studios, it is apparent that the design illustrated here is essentially the one that Mr. Caldwell described.