A lesser-known Charlie Brown animation made the rounds today on the 72nd anniversary of D-Day, when Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy to fight a relentless Nazi army during World War II. While not as part of the classic canon of Charles M. Schulz's, works like A Charlie Brown Christmas or the It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, this cartoon tribute to D-Day is a testimony to Schulz's ability to make watching cartoons an emotional as well as a learning experience.
Made in 1983, What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? is a must-watch, not only for its tribute to a historically significant event, but for the way it honors the veterans of WWII and those that died. Not to mention the fact that a moving tribute like this will never be in another popular children's cartoon ever again.
Snoopy and the gang are on a trip to France when they get a bit turned around in the big country and stop for a camp next to the beach. But once Linus awakens and surveys his surroundings, he realizes he's on Omaha Beach and begins to explain WWII to his friends and take them to other notable locations.
It's amazing how much emotion gets packed into Schulz's simple cartoons and this one is no exception. He certainly drew from his own experience as a veteran of the war:
Arriving in battle-ravaged France in 1945, the last year of World War II in Europe, Schulz served in Company B of the 8th Armored Infantry Battalion, in the 20th Armored Division. Assigned to the Seventh Army, the 20th moved into Germany to help complete the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. Schulz rode in a halftrack with “Sparky”—his lifelong nickname—painted on the door, as pictured in the America In WWII article.
There was little outright combat in Schulz’s career as a WWII GI. But he did see the horrors of war, and he had some close calls and even some embarrassing moments (as when he accidentally nearly killed a fellow soldier with a German pistol he had claimed as a prize).
Schulz came home a different person… [and it] took the melancholy young would-be cartoonist from Minnesota on a journey through depression and loneliness to self-discovery, confidence, and a sense of accomplishment and capability.
Part one of the Charlie Brown special is above, with part two below: