War Pig
December 1, 2013 4:24 PM   Subscribe

It was 1942 and pork was one of several commodities to be rationed by the U.S. government. Navy recruiter Don C. Lingle made a deal with a farmer friend for chops. What he received instead was a piglet which would go on to become an American hero: King Neptune, a stocky red-and-white Hereford hog who served as a mascot for the Navy's war bond effort, and who raised over $19 million (more, even, than did Betty Grable).

How could one pig -- even one with his own royal robe and crown -- draw so much money?
He was taken from rally to rally in Southern Illinois where the war bonds were being sold. And I believe he traveled under the auspices of the United States Navy.

He would be auctioned off, and the highest bid was then invested in bonds. Then to the next rally he would go, often sharing the stage with high government officials and even movie stars.

When King Neptune was in town it was always a festive occasion, with MovieTone photographers jostling for space and excitable members of the local press hurrying back to the newsroom with scribbled notes for their stories.
Auction winners were permitted a minute with "their" pig before donating him back to the war effort. Then the King moved on.

He was a local favorite, and "at Carbondale, King Neptune was appointed an honorary member of the Rural Life Club of Southern Illinois Normal University," writes Ben Gelman. "At Freeport, during a swing through upstate Illinois, he was inducted into Lodge No. 617 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks." Making him the only pig to become an Elk.

For the next few years, King Neptune and Lingle traveled around Southern Illinois; in his down time, the pig stayed comfortably at the farm of the Goddard family. (A Goddard grandson occasionally accompanied the King on tour.) Upon his retirement, in 1946, King Neptune took up rural life full time and spent his remaining years on a farm near Anna, Illinois.

When he died, he was given a Navy funeral. His grave, relocated from a previous site due to highway construction and vandalism, is in Mount Pleasant, Illinois. Its inscription reads:
Buried here, King Neptune, famous Navy mascot pig, auctioned for $19 million in war bonds 1942-1946, to make a free world.
A commemorative plaque remembers him as "NAVY MASCOT PIG." His legacy endures.
posted by MonkeyToes (9 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
posted by rifflesby at 4:50 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Mister," the farmer said, "A pig like that, you don't securitize all at once."
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:51 PM on December 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

Making him the only pig to become an Elk.

Thus disproving Creationism.
posted by benzenedream at 5:36 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

The pork ration is also one of the big reasons America became a beef-eating nation. We never went back to eating as much pork as we did pre-war, and the hamburger and steak became the national icons of meat.
posted by Miko at 6:45 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd heard of King Neptune before, but I had absolutely no idea he was a Southern Illinois thing.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:34 PM on December 1, 2013

War Pigs
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:44 PM on December 1, 2013

War Pig.

I have seen that damn War Pig thousands of times and until now, I never saw the markings.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:53 PM on December 1, 2013

Cold War Pigs in Operation Plumbbob:
...a series of nuclear tests conducted between May 28 and October 7, 1957, at the Nevada Test Site, following Project 57, and preceding Project 58. It was the biggest, longest, and most controversial test series in the continental United States.
Almost 1,200 pigs were subjected to bio-medical experiments and blast-effects studies during Operation Plumbbob. On shot Priscilla (37 kt), 719 pigs were used in various experiments on Frenchman Flat. Some pigs were placed in elevated cages and provided with suits made of different materials, to test which materials provided best protection from the thermal pulse. As shown and reported in the PBS documentary Dark Circle, the pigs survived, but with third-degree burns to 80% of their bodies. Other pigs were placed in pens behind large sheets of glass at measured distances from the hypocenter to test the effects of flying debris on living targets.
Nuclear test videos are available online, but you may never look at smoked bacon the same way again.
posted by cenoxo at 10:32 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

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