A Disney lunch in the Penthouse restaurant, circa 1971. Dale Oliver at the left front; Ollie Johnston on the right.
A commenter writes:
I went to a funeral for a dear friend today at Forest Lawn. His name was Jack Scroggins, a bomber pilot for the Air Force in the early 60s.
While standing graveside during the service I noticed he had a "neighbor" named "Dale Oliver." I couldn't help but notice that Dale's marker said simply "Animator" and "WWII Glider Pilot."
It is great for my friend Jack to be next to Dale. Jack loved Disney animation and collected them in every format known - from cards to magazines to VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD, Jack had it all. Mickey sat on his desk at all times.
I haven't thought of Dale in a while, but I used to think of him often. He taught classes at TAG's animation school for years, and came into the office all the time to chit chat ...
Dale was a longtime Disney assistant animator (he joined the company in 1947), and worked closely with Frank Thomas for decades. Dale was promoted to full animator in the early eighties, but his career ended a short time later when he and his fiancee were involved in a horrific car accident that left the fiancee dead and Dale so badly injured that he never worked in the animation industry again.
Even with all the adversity, I knew Dale as a buoyant, upbeat guy. It wasn't until after his accident that I learned Dale had been a glider pilot during World War II, participating in the D-day airborne landings, the allied push into Holland, and the Rhine River crossing. I once asked him about his long night in Normandy; he told me:
We landed in the dark. I brought the glider down, everybody got out, and then I stood around for three days until they shipped me back to England ...
Dale understated just a little. He joined the Army in 1942, volunteered for glider service that summer, and participated in three major campaigns. The casualties for glider pilots during the invasion of Europe were incredibly high; if a pilot hit a post or barrier when landing (and hundreds did), the glider broke into small pieces, and occupants along with it.
Mr. Oliver's version of his corner of the war -- June 6, 1944 (click on it to enlarge.)
Dale was always self-effacing about his military career; the only reason he brought up his D-day experiences with me at all was because I asked him. He was one of the unsung heroes of World War II, in the same way he was one of the many unsung artists who turned out Disney animated features year in and year out.
Dale passed away six years ago at the age of 84, but he deserves to be remembered not only for his time at Disney, but for the service he rendered the country behind the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.