Sunday, June 06, 2010

Peanuts and D-Day

Today is D-Day. I opened up the Sunday paper this morning, the comics were on top, and the first thing I saw was the Peanuts strip featuring an old photo of General Dwight D. Eisenhower talking to the troops on the eve of the D-Day invasion.

I had seen this picture before--it's famous--but not in this color-altered form. And I wondered what it had to do with Charles Schulz' Peanuts comic strip. At the bottom of the half-page photo was the image of Snoopy in Army uniform. I understand the significance of D-Day (I've been to Normandy and visited Omaha Beach), but I was unaware of any connection of Charles Schulz to D-Day and why he would have worked Snoopy into a comic strip to commemorate the day.

I have the book, Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown: Celebrating 30 Years in the Comic Strips and 15 Years on Television (Random House, 1979), by Lee Mendelson in association with Charles M. Schulz. I looked through it for some answers or clues.

Toward the end of the book, I found some pictures of Schulz when he was in France with the Army during World War II. This was a good clue. He had served in France during World War II, though the date given is 1945, a year after the D-Day invasion and also the year that the war ended.

Further research revealed on several sites that Schulz was a World War II buff and held D-Day in particular reverence, so much so that he donated $1,000,000 to the National D-Day Memorial in Virginia. The Web site provides some good background and a telling quote from Schulz about his feelings toward D-Day:
"I believe D-Day is the most significant day for mankind in modern history."
Of the troops that preceded him in the invasion of Normandy:
"Their hard-fought victory set the Nazis on their heels and eased the way for the rest of us. I am proud to help in any way I can to make the long overdue National D-Day Memorial to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of the allied forces a reality as quickly as possible."
Beginning in 1993, Schulz observed the D-Day anniversary in his comic strip each June 6 (except for 1995) until 1999. The Eisenhower photo with Snoopy ran in 1998. Schulz refers to this particular strip as drawing the most interest of all his D-Day strips:
"Of all my D-Day cartoons, this Sunday page created the most interest from readers, who remarked that it was often the only reference to that momentous day of June 6, 1944, in their newspapers. Most gratifyingly, I heard from those in the picture and still with us, family members, and friends of the men talking with General Eisenhower.

The photograph itself was taken just before these men of the 101st Airborne Division parachuted into Normandy. According to Wallace, who was the youngest lieutenant with the number 23 on his chest, he had just been asked by Ike where he was from.

"Michigan, Sir."

Ike brought up his thumb and said, "Go get 'em, Michigan."
I followed Peanuts and Charlie Brown through the 1960s and bought many of the books that came out during that decade about Charlie Brown and the gang. I gradually quit reading most comic strips and by the 1990s I had no idea Schulz was honoring the D-Day vets. I'm glad my local paper reprinted a classic for this unforgettable day in history.

For more about Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts, visit the Schulz Museum online at


  1. As I recall from a forgotten source, the parachuters were expected to have a high number of casualties, so Eisenhower, knowing he was possibly sending many of these young men to their deaths, was especially emotional in meeting with them (although he didn't show the emotion to them)--so the photo itself was an especially poignant one.

  2. I seem to recall that, too, Tom, and I can't put my hands on the source. I'm pretty sure I read it in a book I still have. As for the story behind the photo, your statement says it all. Poignant indeed.

  3. Thanks. Same paper two years later... no mention on the front page or anywhere else in Section A. Had to dig around in the next section to find a few stories related to D-Day.

  4. Once, while visiting the D Day Memorial near my home in Virginia, my tour guide gave some great insight regarding that particular picture of Eisenhower talking to the soldiers. He was trying to help in keeping their minds occupied by asking them if any of them knew how to fly fish. So, he was showing them how to fly fish. It was, indeed, a very emotional moment and showed his kindness toward these men.

  5. Great story! I would have never guessed that Eisenhower was talking about fly fishing. Thanks for sharing that! I'd love to take the tour some day.