Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Miniature Donkey Serves as Mascot at Barksdale

Throughout history, military units around the world have often adopted animals as mascots. The custom of adopting mascots originated from troops bringing a pet to war, adopting one at the place they are stationed at or being presented a pet as a gift. These mascots, whether official or unofficial, are often used for ceremonial purposes or as an emblem of that unit.

In the mid-1950s, the 376th Air Refueling Squadron from Barksdale Air Force Base, headquarters of the United States Eighth Air Force, returned from a “Reflex” deployment at the Ben Guerir Air Base in French Morocco with a miniature donkey, Fatima. According to the memory of former Lt. Col. Raymond Burgess, Fatima was bought by engineer John Yancey who also took care of the miniature donkey after their return to Barksdale.

Fatima with Officers; image courtesy of the Barksdale Global Power Museum

When the 376th Air Refueling Squadron arrived at Barksdale with Fatima on their KC-97 Stratotanker, there were some raised eyebrows among the top brass. None the less, Fatima became the official mascot for the 376th Air Refueling Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base and the inspiration for the official squadron emblem.

Emblem of the 376th Air Refueling Squadron (SAC) (1950s)/ scan of USAF patch/ United States Air Force/ Wikimedia commons/ USGOV-PD [Public Domain]

The Barksdale Lady Auxiliary adopted Fatima for their events, making her official blanket and cap, and featuring her in parades. One of the women also made a toy replica of Fatima. She became popular among the Barksdale Air Force Base dependents, was an honored guest at the Officers' Club, and even became known among the civilian population as she was welcomed at some of the clubs in the entertainment district of that time known as the “Bossier Strip.”

Military mascots typically are not used in warfare as a weapon or transport. And not only do they serve as an emblem of the unit and for ceremonial purposes, but also help to boost the morale of the men and women serving in the unit. With the dangerous in-air fueling maneuvers performed by the men of the 376th Air Refueling Squadron, Fatima certainly lightened the mood and boosted morale among the airmen.

Upon Fatima’s retirement, she was reportedly sold to a local farm and spared any more plane rides.

Visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center to see images of Fatima or to learn more about Bossier Parish History.

While mascots generally do not serve in warfare, that is not the case with Americas most decorated war dog of World War I. This Saturday, March 9, 2019, at 1:30 pm, the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center will have a special movie event, Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero; a family film of the true World War I story of America’s most decorated dog. There will be activities, giveaways, and of course, snacks. This event is free, and no registration is required.
Sgt. Stubby (CA 1916-1926)
Nationaal Archief/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Sgt. Stubby Movie Poster

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