Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Obscurity of the Day: Stars in Service

During World War II our government issued a lot of patriotic material to newspapers, quite a bit of which was in cartoon form. From the U.S. Treasury Department came a number of features whose message was for newspaper readers to buy war bonds.

One of those features was Stars in Service, a panel series highlighting famous people who were serving in the armed forces. The root message was that if these famous folks can put their lives on the line, surely you, Mister and Mrs. America, can at least buy some bonds to support the war effort.

The series was drawn by veteran sports cartoonist Alan Maver, who drew for King Features for close to half a century. Naturally given Maver's specialty, the lion's share of the Stars in Service subjects ended up being sports figures.

As with most features issued by the government, Stars in Service would have been issued in batches to newspapers. Editors were free to run them when and as often as they wished. They were great items to fill holes, and for smaller papers they were welcome free substitutes for the comic strips and panels they could barely afford.

As best I can tell, the Stars in Service series was first issued to newspapers around April 1943. It's tough to determine just how many were issued, or if there were multiple batches issued over time, but I've not seen a tremendous number of different panels, so perhaps just 30 or so in all?

The samples that are shown above are sort of interesting. They come from the Waukesha County Tribune, which was evidently so short on material to run in their paper that they scratched out the word "WAR" on these panels and ran them after the end of World War II. I wonder how many of the stars profiled were casualties by then? (I checked on the two fellows above -- they came through unscathed.)


In reading Laura Hillenbrand's acclaimed book Unbroken, I noted on page 190 the "Stars in the Service" sports cartoon by Alan Maver's of track star Louis Zamperini, with caption, "This clipping was in Louieā€™s wallet throughout his raft journey, and was stained purple by the wallet dye. Its discovery by the Japanese resulted in Louie and Phil being beaten.
Courtesy of Louis Zamperini."
I found these "Stars in the Service" panels in the Wilmington, Delaware, "The Sunday Morning Star" on Google News Archives starting around Mar 14 through Nov 28 1943.
Louis Zamperini's panel was in the April 18 1943 issue...a month before his plane crashed in the Pacific on May 27th and his epic survival story began. I have saved both the "wallet" panel image from a search online and the Star's panel from the GNA link on page 13 of 19 at:
I would be glad to send them to you to add to your blog here. Please email if you want me to send...if not, thanks for remembering Alan Maver - I featured many of his sports panels to honor West Point football players at the Army Lore blog...under Army Greats Sports Cartoons..including two "Stars in the Service" panels of Ike Eisenhower (Prescott Evening Courier Nov 20, 1944 - note the late date) and Harvey Jablonsky (Sunday Morning Star, Nov 7, 1943).
Regards, RG

I was off - Ted Williams is in The Sunday Morning Star, Feb 14, 1943 p. 15 of 17
and again! - Joe Louis - The Sunday Morning Star, Jan 31, 1943 p. 14 of 17
yep-again Bob Feller - The Sunday Morning Star, Jan 24, 1943 p. 13 of 17..ok thats enough if I find something earlier!
I found another source of Stars in the Service beginning its seems with
Louis Zamperini - San Jose Evening News - Apr 22, 1943 p. 5 of 9
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