Last night they showed It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown on tv. I've watched the special most years since I was a kid (sometimes I have no idea when it's on and I miss it.) There's a weird interlude in the middle where Snoopy, as a WWI flying ace, has a dogfight and goes down behind enemy lines. He creeps through ruined farmhouses and down the trenches, and it's a five minute tour of some very basic World War I imagery.
It's a strange historic artifact preserved in an evergreen children's cartoon special. Charles Schulz was born in 1922 and grew up in the shadow of the Great War; a goodly amount of the adult men he knew would have fought in the war, and everyone would have known all about it. Forty four years after Schulz was born, when the Great Pumpkin was being made, he put those memories and stories into the special, and now they're probably the only way most people ever interact with the War to End All Wars.
It's been almost fifty years now that the Great Pumpkin has been failing to appear for Linus, that Charlie Brown has been getting only rocks in his sack, that Violet has been throwing a Halloween party for all the kids. And still Snoopy is fighting that war that was over long before the Peanuts strip was created, and still kids see it and must wonder what exactly it's all about. I suppose they wondered the same thing even back in 1966, and maybe their grandparents would explain to them. Such a strange thing to be transmitted through history in such a strange venue.
By the by, it's my choice for favorite Peanuts special; although I like A Charlie Brown Christmas, it's not as good as the Great Pumpkin.