Did you know that Smokey Bear was born due to World War II?

A 1989 version of Smokey, in a posture that evokes the famous Uncle Sam recruiting poster from World War I, which in turn was inspired by a similar British poster
(Photo: National Agricultural Library)
You surely know that Only You Can Prevent Wildfires, but did you know that Smokey Bear (often called “Smokey the Bear,” but his official name doesn’t have the definite article) was created due to wartime needs?
In early 1942, Japanese submarines shelled an American oil field just next to Los Padres National Forest, near Santa Barbara, California. The event made U.S. leadership realize that the vast forests of the West Coast might be vulnerable to extremely damaging incendiary attacks by Japan. To make things worse, firefighters and able-bodied men who could replace them were signing up to fight in the war, leaving the U.S. Forest Service shorthanded and unable to prevent possibly catastrophic fires. The Forest Service launched a cooperation with the War Advertising Council and the Association of State Foresters to educate the public and thus reduce the number of wildfires. The importance of such precautions was also underlined in the late years of the war, when Japan attacked the West Coast with unmanned fire balloons that could travel across the Pacific.
Bambi’s appearance as the temporary face of the fight against forest fires
(Photo: National Agricultural Library)
Walt Disney lent Bambi, the titular character of their newest motion picture, to the program for one year in 1942. The resulting success prompted the program to see their own, permanent animal character to replace Bambi once the loan was up. Smokey Bear was authorized on August 9, 1944, and the first poster delivered in October, introducing the public to the majestic, muscular and lovable bear in his campaign hat.
Smokey’s first public appearance
(Photo: public domain)

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A paratrooper landing at Mont Saint-Michel, France to honor paratroopers who descended on D-Day
(Photo: U.S. Army, Army Sgt. Hannah Hawkins)

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