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August 5, 2023

The Sad Sack During World War II

Nobody ever had it as bad as the Sack—the Sad Sack, George Baker’s perpetually luckless anti-hero of World War II. The world was calmly to dump on him, and Baker made sure it did—creating in the process one of the most popular cartoon characters of the twentieth century.

During World War II, the United States military published a magazine called YANK, the Army Weekly. It was distributed weekly in 21 editions to 17 countries worldwide from 1942 to 1945, explicitly catering to service members stationed overseas. With a readership of over 2.6 million, YANK became the most famous military magazine worldwide. YANK, the Army Weekly, was a publication created by soldiers for soldiers during the Second World War. YANK offered a wealth of insights from ordinary American service members, making it a valuable resource. The magazine was filled with stories, cartoons, poems, and letters from soldiers on the front lines. YANK provided an important source of entertainment and connection for its readers, helping to create a sense of camaraderie and togetherness among the troops.

YANK magazine’s popularity was largely due to its humorous cartoons and comic strips, which enlisted soldiers created. One such creation was “The Sad Sack,” a clumsy and disillusioned private introduced by Sgt. George Baker. Initially drafted in 1941, Sgt. Baker was assigned to create animations for Signal Corps training films, which all changed with “Sad Sack”.

In “The Sad Sack,” we follow an anonymous, low-ranking G.I., a “hopeless underdog,” as he experiences the frustrations and typical twists of military life. The title of “The Sad Sack” cleverly incorporates the everyday military slang "sad sack" (a word that can't be used here) from World War II, referring to a person or soldier who is incompetent or prone to making mistakes.

Besides his work as a U.S. Army and Star & Stripes Cartoonist, George Baker also worked for Disney. In 1937, Walt Disney hired Baker to work on the studio’s full-length animated features, including Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi. Baker was known for his expertise in animating thunderstorms, waterfalls, and other special effects.

“The Sad Sack” was present from the debut of YANK and continued until the December 28, 1945, issue when the blundering G.I. “Sad Sack” received an honorable discharge and returned to civilian life.


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