The Top Secret Birth of Private Snafu

"Private Snafu was not the ideal soldier. In fact, his name was a reference to the rather indelicate army acronym SNAFU, which, in its tamer translation stands for “Situation Normal, All Fouled Up.” The cartoon private had the best of intentions, but he just couldn’t help screwing things up. Whether he was misinterpreting orders or acting on an inane hunch, he often ended up harming himself or the Allied cause, just like in this video, where he is the source of viral rumors that spread fear throughout the front lines.

With his comedic—often decidedly racy—antics, Private Snafu was a favorite among the troops. According to the Prescott Evening Courier in 1944, this series consistently ranked first or second when the army surveyed soldiers on their favorite wartime films.

But about that newspaper report: As the Prescott Evening Courier says, the Private Snafu films were “of, by, and for the armed forces only.” They were classified war office creations, meant to be kept top secret. But in 1944, before the end of the war and the end of Private Snafu’s story, the existence of the series had clearly been leaked to at least one local Arizona news outlet. Seems like someone wasn’t watching those Private Snafu films closely enough after all.

Uncle Sam Wants You…If You’re a Hollywood Star

The film division of the War Department—and particularly the team surrounding the Private Snafu franchise—was made up of the creme de la creme of Hollywood. Frank Capra, the famous director behind Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and, after the war, It’s a Wonderful Life, was tapped to become the head of the First Motion Picture Unit, charged with producing all domestic and overseas propaganda and educational films. Capra was the one who came up with the idea for the Private Snafu series.

But credit for their hilarious storylines lies solidly withTheodore Seuss Geisel, the man almost every American child knows as Dr. Seuss. Often working with a co-writer, Dr. Seuss was responsible for writing almost every one of the 27 Private Snafu films. Once you know the magical mind behind this rather adult franchise, the animation style begins to take on a distinctly Seussian character.

But Not All Rumors Were Bad…

Loose lips sink ships, or so the propaganda posters warned. But the Allies were counting on loose lips—or at least fake news—to help deflect some of the German bombing that was bombarding cities like London and Paris. They did so in the form of decoy cities.

The German Luftwaffe tore across the sky with their deadly payload guided by the most primitive of guidance systems: a compass, a map, and the human eye (which, in all fairness, were the only tools available at the time). The British concocted a scheme to try to fool the enemy pilots into thinking they had reached their intended targets by constructing sham sites that were designed and lit to appear as if they were cities or military installations. The idea was that the German bombers would pass over these decoy cities first, think they were the real thing, bomb them, and leave the real inhabited and valuable sites alone.

The U.S. followed suit after Pearl Harbor, but they took a different tactic. Because of the perceived danger of Japanese bombing on the West Coast, the U.S. wanted to disguise two airplane factories that were engaged in war effort production from their sites in Burbank and Seattle. In order to do so, they built fake neighborhoods on top of the factories that, from the air, would camouflage them to look like any old, harmless American suburb. It was a scheme sure to fool any Private Snafus on either side of the war."

-BY Allison McNearney

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MSG Charles Ernest "Snake" Hosking

Green Beret, 5th Special Forces Group

WWII and Vietnam

My Dad's - CSM Lee Allan Hosking (Ret) cousin

by Steve Balestrieri

"Charles Ernest Hosking Jr. was a career soldier who fought as a U.S. paratrooper in World War II and was one of the original Green Berets when the unit was created in 1952. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam.

A desire to serve

Hosking was born in May of 1924 in Ramsey, New Jersey. Before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and with World War II underway, Hosking ran away from home and hitchhiked to Canada. He enlisted in Canada’s famous “Black Watch” Regiment trying to get into the fight.

He eventually was tracked down by his U.S. congressman and others and being underage was shipped home. He then tried to join the Coast Guard with his grandfather’s permission but a heart murmur ended that venture as well. Undeterred, Hosking sought out his congressman, he received a waiver and was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1943.

But just serving wasn’t enough. Hosking volunteered for airborne duty and was assigned to Company B of the 509th Airborne Infantry Battalion. He joined them in Italy and served in the Rome-Arno, Southern France, and Ardennes-Alsace campaigns during the war in Europe. He was wounded by machine-gun fire during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes. Of the 1,500 men in the 509th, only 29 would go without being killed or wounded.

He did not manage to serve in Korea due to a training accident when a bazooka round exploded and he suffered two broken legs and severe shrapnel wounds that required many months to recover from.

When Colonel Aaron Bank created the new Special Forces unit at Ft. Bragg, Hosking volunteered and served as an Engineer as well as a Weapons Sergeant on his A-Team. He was assigned to both Smoke Bomb Hill on Ft. Bragg and to Bad Tolz in Germany.  He went to different training programs including language training. He eventually could speak Czech, German and Vietnamese.

Hosking served three different tours in Vietnam, in 1963, 1965-66 and his final tour in 1967.

On his final tour in Vietnam, Hosking was a sergeant first class in Company A of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces Regiment. He was assigned to the Mike Force. On an earlier tour, “Snake” Hosking developed such rapport with the civilian CIDG strikers, both Cambodian and Chinese Nung, that many came out of retirement to rejoin the unit with the word that “Snake” was back in-country. He was a legend with the men that Special Forces had trained and led.

On March 21, 1967, he was working as an advisor to a Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) battalion in Đôn Luân district, Phuoc Long Province, when his unit captured a Viet Cong sniper.

Hosking was preparing the VC prisoner for transport to the A-Team’s base camp, when the man grabbed a hand grenade from Hosking’s belt, armed it, and ran towards the 4-man command group, which consisted of two American and two South Vietnamese officers.

Hosking tackled the prisoner and held him to the ground, using the VC’s body and his own to shield others from the grenade blast. He knew what that entailed. In an attempt to save the officers’ lives he gave up his own. Both he and the Viet Cong prisoner were killed in the ensuing explosion.

Hosking was posthumously promoted to master sergeant and awarded the Medal of Honor for this action in 1969. President Nixon awarded the Medal to Hosking’s son Wesley at the White House.

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Master Sergeant Hosking (then Sergeant First Class), Detachment A-302, Company A, greatly distinguished himself while serving as company advisor in the III Corps Civilian Irregular Defense Group Reaction Battalion during combat operations in Don Luan District. A Viet Cong suspect was apprehended and subsequently identified as a Viet Cong sniper. While MSG Hosking was preparing the enemy for movement back to the base camp, the prisoner suddenly grabbed a hand grenade from MSG Hosking’s belt, armed the grenade, and started running towards the company command group which consisted of 2 Americans and 2 Vietnamese who were standing a few feet away. Instantly realizing that the enemy intended to kill the other men, MSG Hosking immediately leaped upon the Viet Cong’s back. With utter disregard for his personal safety, he grasped the Viet Cong in a “Bear Hug” forcing the grenade against the enemy soldier’s chest. He then wrestled the Viet Cong to the ground and covered the enemy’s body with his body until the grenade detonated. The blast instantly killed both MSG Hosking and the Viet Cong. By absorbing the full force of the exploding grenade with his body and that of the enemy, he saved the other members of his command group from death or serious injury. MSG Hosking’s risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest tradition of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.”

"He was buried in New Jersey. The Police Benevolent Association dedicated a monument to him in 2000 in Veteran’s Park on East Main St. in Ramsey, NJ.

Hosking’s daughter Gail who was just 17 when her father died, had had a hard time coming to terms with his death and with the war that had kept him, before that, out of the family’s life for so long. But nearly a quarter of a century later, she wrote a book, “Snake’s Daughter,” in which she finally came to realize what a hero her father was."

William Harvey Carney (February 29, 1840 – December 9, 1908) was an American soldier during the American Civil War. Born as a slave, he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1900 for his gallantry in saving the regimental colors (American flag) during the Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863. The action for which he received the Medal of Honor preceded any other African American Medal of Honor recipient; however, his medal was actually one of the very last to be awarded for Civil War service. African Americans received the Medal of Honor as early as April 1865. Biography William Harvey Carney was born as a slave in Norfolk, Virginia, on February 29, 1840. How he made his way to freedom is not certain. According to most accounts, he escaped through the Underground Railroad, and joined his father in Massachusetts. Other members of their family were freed by purchase or by the death of their master. Carney joined the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in March 1863 as a sergeant. He took part in the July 18, 1863, assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina. His actions there ultimately earned him the Medal of Honor. When the color guard was killed, Carney retrieved the U.S. flag and marched forward with it, despite multiple serious wounds. When the Union troops were forced to retreat under fire, he struggled back across the battlefield, eventually returning to his own lines and turning over the colors to another survivor of the 54th, saying, "Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!" He received an honorable discharge due to disability from his wounds in June 1864. After his discharge, Carney returned to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and took a job maintaining the city's streetlights. He then delivered mail for thirty-two years. He was a founding vice president of the New Bedford Branch 18 of the National Association of Letter Carriers in 1890. He married Susannah Williams, and they had a daughter, Clara Heronia. He spent a few years in California, then returned again in 1869. Carney received his Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900, nearly 37 years after the events at Fort Wagner (more than half such awards from the Civil War were presented 20 or more years after the fact). Twenty African American men received the medal before him, but because his battle actions happened earlier than the others, some have incorrectly cited him as the first to have received the medal. His citation reads, When the color sergeant was shot down, this soldier grasped the flag, led the way to the parapet, and planted the colors thereon. When the troops fell back he brought off the flag, under a fierce fire in which he was twice severely wounded. In 1901, shortly after his medal was finally awarded, a song was published about his daring exploits. The song was entitled, "Boys the Old Flag Never Touched the Ground." It clearly tells the story of his brave and patriotic efforts to keep Old Glory flying in the midst of a fierce battle. The text of the song can be found here. Carney died at the Boston City Hospital on December 9, 1908, of complications from an elevator accident at the Massachusetts State House where he worked for the Department of State. His body lay in repose for one day at the undertaking rooms of Walden Banks, 142 Lenox Street, at the wish of his wife and daughter. He was buried in the family plot at Oak Grove Cemetery in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Engraved on his tombstone is an image of the Medal of Honor.


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