Two months ago I picked up a copy of the comic book All-Flash #15 (Summer 1944), published during the thick of World War II. In the bottom margin of each page is a slogan, in rhymed couplet form, on how children could help with the war effort:
- Bottom Lines on Following Pages Tell What to Do While Battle Rages
- Tin Cans in the Garbage Pile Are Just a Way of Saying “Heil!”
- Waste Fats in Good Condition Help to Make Fine Ammunition
- Boys and Girls, Every Day, Can Give War Aid in Many a Way—
- Every Time You Buy a Stamp, You Feed the Flame in Freedom’s Lamp
- If You Have an Extra Quarter, Buy a Stamp to Make War Shorter
- However far soldiers roam, the want to have some mail from home
- Collect Old Paper, Turn It In—Help Your Uncle Sam to Win
- You Can Walk to School and Store! Saving Gas Helps Win the War!
- Boys Are Smart, Girls Are Wise, Black Markets Not to Patronize
- IF YOU STILL HAVE METAL SCRAP, TURN IT IN TO BEAT THE JAP
- Turn Out Lights Not in Use —War Production Needs the “Juice”
Case and punctuation are preserved as closely as possible. Continue reading
I caught a story on The World (PRI) today about Los Angeles band Ollin’s song tribute to Saint Patrick’s Battalion (in Spanish, El Batallón de Los San Patricios)—a group of several hundred primarily Irish Americans who, during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), left the US Army to fight alongside the Mexicans. They fought fiercely for a year, but came to a bad end: most were captured by the US and executed as traitors.
It reminded me of a story Sergio Aragonés told last year in his issue of Solo (#11). In “Heroes,” he talks about growing up in Mexico, where the San Patricios are national heroes. They have statues, memorials, and a commemorative ceremony every year on the spot where they were executed. After telling the story of how he learned about the battalion, he jumps forward a few decades. Living in the US, with his daughter going to American schools, he wanted to see how she would learn about the heroes of his youth. So he looked through her textbook to the section on the Mexican-American war, and found only a fleeting remark about how a bunch of drunk Irishmen deserted the US Army, surrendered, and were executed.
It was a surprisingly serious story from an artist known for his comedy (some of the other stories in the issue are drop-dead funny), and an interesting commentary on how nationalism shapes our views of history, with one side elevating the battallion, and the other trivializing them.