VMTB 242 Bugs Bunny Squadron Patch

I forget who came up with the idea.  One night over a few drinks at the Officers’ Club, a few of us decided that Bugs Bunny had the makings of a gutsy and appropriate squadron insignia for VMTB-242.

Tex Avery and Chuck Jones, the legendary Warner Bros. cartoonists and anarchist-animators, had created Bugs Bunny in 1940. He was sort of a cartoon Cagney—street-smart, crafty, pugnacious—the blasé hare who won every battle without ever mussing his aplomb.  One raised eyebrow was all it took to illustrate his superiority to the carnage around him.

One of the pilots around the table that night in El Centro, Frank Moses, bragged that he knew somebody at Warner Bros.  That’s all it took.  Frank became our appointed delegate.  On an early liberty in L.A., Frank visited the studio.  And we were all properly impressed when he returned with a promise from “Looney Tunes” producer Leon Schlesinger that the studio would get Jones and Avery to create a VMTB 242 Bugs Bunny insignia, compliments of Warner Bros.

The result was a full-color drawing of a cocky Bugs Bunny, carrot firmly in hand, astride a live torpedo on its way to its target.

The pilots and crewmen took to the design, immediately.  Our pompous skipper did not.  He reluctantly agreed to go along, however, in the face of the squadron’s enthusiastic reaction.

What happened next is murky.  According to the squadron intelligence officer’s official report, the Bureau of the Navy sent a letter to Major Bill Dean in which the bureau refused to authorize the Bugs Bunny design as the VMTB-242 insignia “because it was not original enough.”

That differed from the word around the squadron.  Insiders said that Dean didn’t like the design and never did send the insignia in to Washington for approval.  So it was never officially registered.

Meanwhile, all hands began sporting patches of the Bugs Bunny insignia on field jackets.  Decals were carefully applied to the fuselage of the planes.  And that’s the way things stood until the end of the war.

Today, cartoonist connoisseurs consider Bugs Bunny one of the greatest animated characters ever created.  And the outlawed VMTB-242 insignia is a valuable collector’s item.