Shull, Michael S. and David E. Wilt. Doing Their Bit: Wartime American Animated Short Films 1939-1945. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2004.
Chapter 8 of Shull and Wilt's book describes the history of Private Snafu and his role as an educational tool. GIs could relate to Snafu, yet did not want to be him. Private Snafu was goofy-looking, physically unimposing, ignorant, and disgruntled young soldier: "a diametrical opposite of the handsome soldier portrayed in Hollywood films." Private Snafu proved to be the transition between the sanitized training videos and the harsh realities of war.
Wartime US military videos often downplayed the gory traumatic injuries and death of war. The Private Snafu series, being an animation, could portray GI death and ease soldiers into reality that disobedience and noncompliance would lead to death. After all, animations lived in the borders of fantasy and reality, so death, capture, or pain were unreal, even comical to the viewer. Such has to be the outlet for the anxieties the soldiers felt. It had to allow soldiers to desensitize them from the senseless destruction around them. In many ways, the transformation of Private Snafu mirrors the transformation of every GI. In the beginning (the first few episodes), Private Snafu is the complete idiot who disregards authority, but by the end, becomes a quirky member of the unit that gets the job done.