How Snoopy Celebrated D-Day in Peanuts (2024)

Summary

  • Charles Schulz used Snoopy to pay tribute to D-Day in his Peanuts comic strip.
  • Schulz's personal experience in the military influenced his portrayal of Snoopy's tribute to D-Day.
  • Snoopy's D-Day tribute evolved over the years, mixing humor and respect for the historical event.

Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me. Today, in honor of last month's 80th anniversary of D-Day, I am showing how Charles Schulz used Snoopy to pay tribute to D-Day over the years.

Last month marked the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy by the Allied forces during World War II, part of Operation Overlord (specifically, the invasion itself was called Operation Neptune), but more commonly referred to as "D-Day" (D-Day, along with H-Hour, was a preexisting military term used to denote the day and hour of a planned attack, but obviously, with Operation Neptune being such a historic attack, this specific D-Day has gained secondary meaning). This signified the Allied forces making their push into France as the military began to retake Europe from the forces of Nazi Germany. Over 150,000 soldiers landed on five sectors of the 50-mile-long beach in northern France. Over 10,000 soldiers lost their lives while taking the beach, as the German forces were heavily fortified with mines and other obstacles (like wooden stakes, metal tripods and barbed wire) and, of course, machine gun emplacements firing down from above the beach. It was a harrowing day, but a tremendous victory for the Allied forces and the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany's takeover of Europe.

Every year, the anniversary is celebrated in a number of places, but I thought I'd specifically spotlight an interesting series of celebrations of the famed moment in history that began 31 years ago, Charles Schulz's D-Day tributes in the pages of his iconic Peanuts strip, using his famed character, Snoopy, to celebrate the memory of the then-49th anniversary of the invasion. I will also show you how Schulz gave the 50th anniversary a whole week's worth of strips (plus a few other tributes in the final years of the Peanuts strip).

UPDATE: 2024/07/04 15:35 EST BY BRIAN CRONIN

I've updated this piece to note the 80th anniversary of D-Day, as well as some formatting changes to meet current CBR standards, and some further details on Charles Schulz's military service.

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Charles Schulz's history in the military

Charles Schulz was drafted into the military right out of high school in 1943. His mother was sick with cervical cancer at the time, and while Schulz was at Fort Snelling in Minnesota for induction, he would go home to visit his mother as often as possible. Interestingly, during one of those visits, his mother suggested that they get a new dog, and name him Snoopy. Tragically, Schulz's mother died a few days before Schulz headed to Kentucky for basic training. Schulz later recalled routinely crying himself to sleep at camp, dealing with the loss of his mother, and the stress of basic training.

Schulz became a staff sergeant in the 20th Armored Division, and was a squad leader of a .50 caliber machine gun. Schulz actually had personal experience with D-Day, after the fact, as he was stationed in Normandy in 1945. Schulz, like all veterans, was highly affected by his time in the service, recalling in My Life with Charlie Brown, “The three years I spent in the army taught me all I needed to know about loneliness. My sympathy for the loneliness that all of us experience is dropped heavily upon poor Charlie Brown."

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How Schulz first paid tribute to the military with Peanuts

In 1965, Schulz first had Snoopy get involved in the military in any way by debuting Snoopy's fantasy of being a World War I fighter pilot...

How Snoopy Celebrated D-Day in Peanuts (3)

Four years later, in 1969, Snoopy first celebrated Veterans Day by going to visit cartoonist Blil Mauldin while dressed in an Army uniform, to go have a few root beers and talk about the war. Mauldin was a famous cartoonist whose cartoon, Willie and Joe, ran in the Stars and Stripes during World War II, showing the day-to-day lives of soldiers during the war (Mauldin was a sergeant of the 45th Infantry Division's press corps, and traveled with the Army, even getting wounded at one point in 1943). Schulz was a great admirer of Mauldin's work. The two became friends following this 1969 strip, and remained friends for the rest of their respective lives...

How Charles Schulz came to celebrate D-Day with Snoopy

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The way that Schulz would write Peanuts was to look at a calendar as he planned out future strips, looking at future dates to see if there was anything that piqued his interest. When planning out his 1993 strips, he saw the 49th anniversary of D-Day coming up, and noticed that it was specifically on a Sunday, where he would have his larger format Sunday strip. So he decided to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the soldiers of D-Day on June 6, 1993...

How Snoopy Celebrated D-Day in Peanuts (6)

A typical Sunday strip would be in color, but Schulz eschewed the bright colors to go black and white for this somber celebration of D-Day, having Snoopy re-enact the dangerous route that soldiers had to take that fateful day. It was a powerful message, and one that readers responded to in a big way. This led to Schulz deciding to go even BIGGER in the following year, the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

This time around, Schulz cleverly mixed humor in with his otherwise very respectful celebration of the anniversary. On the June 5, 1994 Sunday strip, Linus Van Pelt is reading a report on D-Day, where it is revealed that it was Snoopy who came up with the idea of what day the invasion should take place, transmitting the information to General Dwight D. Eisenhower with the code "Woof"...

How Snoopy Celebrated D-Day in Peanuts (7)

Throughout the rest of the dailies that week, beginning with Monday, June 6, 1994, Snoopy re-enacts D-Day, thus paying tribute to the harrowing events of that day, while, of course, doing so in the backyards and pools of Charlie Brown's friends, leading to a number of dismayed phone calls to Charlie Brown...

How Snoopy Celebrated D-Day in Peanuts (8)

It's a very clever approach, as it is respectful, while also funny, giving the audience a bit of both worlds.

Schulz didn't do a D-Day tribute in 1995, but he returned to it in 1996 with this haunting color daily strip (most dailies were in black and white, and presumably most newspapers printed this in black and white at the time)...

How Snoopy Celebrated D-Day in Peanuts (9)

The following year, the tribute was very similar, just not in color. Snoopy wading through the obstacles is still a striking sight, of course.

Interestingly, in 1998, Schulz celebrated D-Day on Memorial Day (May 31st that year) with a striking strip featuring Snoopy in an actual photograph with Eisenhower and the troops...

How Snoopy Celebrated D-Day in Peanuts (10)

That was the last D-Day tribute, as there was none in 1999, and that was the final year of the strip.

Schulz was named chairman of a project trying to get a D-Day memorial built, and even donated $1 million to the project. Sadly, he did not live to see it dedicated on the 57th anniversary of D-Day in 2001.

If anyone has suggestions about interesting pieces of comic book history, feel free to drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com.

How Snoopy Celebrated D-Day in Peanuts (2024)
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