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VMTB-242 | Bugs Bunny design | Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 242

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Date Commissioned: 15 Sep 43
Date Deactivated: 23 Nov 45
Nickname of Unit: n/a
Name of Artist: Warner Brothers Studios
Date of Insignia: 1943
Authorization: local
Aircraft: J2F-5, TBM-3E



Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 242 (VMTB-242) was established on September 15, 1943. Upon establishment, the squadron began training at Marine Corps Air Station El Centro, California, flying the TBM Avenger. The squadron was then deployed to Espiritu Santo in the Southwest Pacific aboard the USS Kitkun Bay in February 1944. Thus began the squadron’s long combat history, starting in the Northern Solomons, later shifting to the Battle of Saipan and Battle of Tinian, and finally to Battle of Iwo Jima where the squadron landed on D+17 and flew anti-submarine patrols until the end of World War II. On November 5, 1945, the squadron left Guam for San Diego and 18 days later was deactivated on November 23, 1945.


Of the insignia, pilot Byron W. Mayo (1922-2012) wrote:


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.



Decal on leather. The patch below was previously in the Millstein Collection.





Byron Mayo and his Grumman Avenger TBF on Tinian-Oct 1944. Note unit insignia on the aircraft.






Byron Mayo (1922-2012) recorded much of his life and musings on a blog, including his experience as a pilot in VNMTB-242, here.



Squadron members wearing their insignia.






TBM-3 of VMTB-242 on Iwo Jima's newly captured Motoyama #2 airstrip, preparing to takeoff for an antisubmarine patrol.






Millstein, Jeff. U. S. Marine Corps Aviation Unit Insignia 1941-1946.

Byron Mayo's blog



Long-time collector of WWII Aviation: AAF, USN and USMC.




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Thanks for another educational thread Rick.

"Whoever stood in front of the corn field at Antietam needs no praise." . . . . . Rufus R. Dawes, 6th Wisconsin.



Seeking the unit history of Company D, 321st Machine Gun Battalion, 82nd Division.



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Hi Rick,


That particular patch actually has a lot of meaning to me. It was 40+ years ago. I was with my parents visiting my fathers childhood friend in Long Beach, CA. It was a Saturday and on the way back from lunch we stopped at a garage sale. An older lady, or at least she seemed old to me at the time, was holding the sale. Odd that I can still see her face. Dad, as he always did, asked if she had anything military related for sale. She said her husband was a Marine pilot during the war but the only thing she had left was a book. Dad asked if he could see the book and she went to the house to retrieve it. For the life of me I cannot remember what the book was. But I do remember him opening the front cover of the book and that patch falling out on the table. I think he paid $20 for the book and the patch. As dad did not collect WW2 at the time (he collected WW1 USMC) he eventually sold the patch to his good friend Jeff Millstein. You will notice that dad is mentioned in Jeff's book. 


I recently had the chance to buy a nice example (on canvas) which reminds me of that day with dad. Hard to believe that he has been gone almost a year now. 


Thought I would post it here as a base material variation (same decal)


Thanks for posting it. Loved seeing it again. 

VMTB 2420002.jpg


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Hi Eric,


What a wonderful story, and patch. Thanks for sharing them both.




Long-time collector of WWII Aviation: AAF, USN and USMC.




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