|PERCY L. CROSBY
His Life and Times (1891-1964)
"Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison - 1788
PERCY CROSBY'S MILITARY CAREER
Percy Crosby did not complete high school because his father became crippled with arthritis and Percy had to become the family breadwinner, working at newspapers for less than $10 a week, walking 15 miles to work since he could not afford trolley car fare. It was during this time that he became familiar with life in the New York slums, the plight of poor children and the corrupting influence of the Tammany Hall political machine. He saw first hand the rampant bribery and fixing of cases while he was a court room artist, which had a profound effect on his political beliefs. He enlisted in the Army during World War I, after contracting with a syndicate to do military cartoons on the battlefront in France, (Between Shots and That Rookie of the Thirteenth Squad, his first publications). He served as a First Lieutenant of the 305th Infantry of the 77th division in action on the Vesle, and in the Baccarat sector. Percy was wounded in battle and awarded the Purple Heart, and Victory medal.
Cartoon by Percy Crosby
|He was promoted to Captain and after the war he studied art at the Pratt Institute and Art Students League, while working as a free lance artist and cartoonist. In 1933, Crosby became a Major in the U.S. Marine Corps Fleet Reserve. He was honored for his political cartoons about America's lack of defense, and his predictions 10 years before Pearl Harbor that Japan would launch a surprise attack on America. Skippy was made an honorary corporal in 1933, and became a mascot of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Many of his namesakes fought in World War II and wrote fan letters to Crosby, including General MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, and Charles Lindbergh.
In the November, 1933 issue of The Leatherneck, an article notes that "Major Percy Crosby Scores Another Hit With Always Belittlin'".
...."To the average Service man the major is the creator of the inimitable "Skippy" but that is only one side of Crosby. Our readers will recall some months ago this great artist launched a paid newspaper campaign for a square deal for the Services. His powerful Knife in the Back cartoon is again reproduced in this volume. The Marine Corps, the Navy, and the Coast Guard are now to be built up. Ships are being laid down and men must be obtained to man these ships, but at the time Percy Crosby launched his attack the policy was to cut the Services. We mean to make the point that it was [men] such as Crosby that saved the day...Percy Crosby is not just a cartoonist...he is one of our nation's leading patriots, militantly so and unafraid to speak his mind."
The above cartoon referenced, showing Uncle Sam lying in the foreground with a knife in his back, with sinking ships in the background, silhouetted against Japan's rising sun on the horizon, was a haunting reminder to the Roosevelt administration when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Years after the artist's death, World War II veterans told Crosby's daughter, Joan Tibbetts, that Skippy was their lucky mascot, painted on the sides of fighter planes with his helmet and sword. At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a popular Crosby cartoon from Life was on the wall. It depicted two small friends of Skippy admiring the U.S. Fleet at anchor in the Hudson River, and planes flying overhead. One kid says in awe, "Gawd help anybody that spits on the flag today!"