VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – “In the nick of time, a hero arose… A funny-looking dog with a big black nose!”
Snoopy and the Red Baron, a traveling exhibition on view at the Military Aviation Museum that will run from July 21 to October 14, celebrates one of the beloved Peanuts pooch’s most recognized personas.
Visitors can learn about this favorite storyline in Peanuts through high-quality reproductions of original comic strips and discover the rich World War I history Schulz used in nearly every strip – and can also step into character as the Flying Ace by donning flying caps and goggles for a photo-op next to Snoopy’s doghouse.
When asked about the origins of Snoopy’s aviator role, Charles Schulz credited his son Monte’s interest in making plastic airplane models as his chief inspiration. Schulz described drawing a little helmet on Snoopy after seeing Monte’s World War I aircraft models, and “suddenly got the idea for it.”
He also cited 1960s events that commemorated the start of World War I, and movies such as The Dawn Patrol. He immediately recognized the potential of the Flying Ace, acknowledging, “I knew I had one of the best things I had thought of in a long time.”
Throughout the decades, Snoopy comically embraced his fighter pilot role for delighted Peanuts readers. As Snoopy envisioned himself soaring through the clouds in pursuit of his nemesis, the infamous Red Baron, he sat atop his doghouse, which he imagined to be a real British biplane known as a Sopwith Camel (Schulz once said, “Can you think of a funnier name for an airplane?”). He wandered through parts of Europe that World War I aviators genuinely traversed, stopping in cafés to quaff root beers and flirt with French mademoiselles.
Beyond the comic strip, Snoopy as the Flying Ace prompted the manufacture of countless memorabilia items, including toys, games, music boxes and puppets. Fans dressed up their dogs in flying caps and goggles, and Air Force squadrons adopted Snoopy as a symbol of their patriotism. This most famous of all Snoopy’s personas continues to bring humor and nostalgic joy toPeanuts fans all over the world.
“I don’t think there has been an animal character in a long time that has done the different things that Snoopy has done,” Schulz once reflected. “He’s an attorney. He’s a surgeon. He’s the World War I Flying Ace.”
On July 21, in celebration of the exhibit opening, the museum will be giving a flight demonstration of the Fokker DR1, the iconic aircraft of the Red Baron.
The Military Aviation Museum is home to nearly 30 flight-worthy WWI-era aircraft, making it one of the largest collections of its type in the nation. This exhibit is included with general admission and is free for museum members.
The Military Aviation Museum is open every day 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas.