Flight Suit Jacket – Lady Be Good

This Army Air Service flight jacket was worn by 1st Lieutenant William J. Hatton, the pilot of the B-24 bomber known as the “Lady Be Good” during World War II. This bomber and its crew were made famous by the unfortunate circumstances surrounding their tragic demise. Tasked with a bombing run targeting Naples, Italy, in April, 1943, the crew set off from an Allied base in Libya, North Africa. As the crew attempted to return back to the base following the raid, a combination of navigation error and bad weather made finding their way very challenging. Unable to locate their base, the plane ultimately ran out of fuel, and the crew was forced to bail out. Of the nine Soldiers aboard, one was killed during the bail out, but eight survived. Unbeknownst to the rest of the Allied Forces, these Soldiers would wander through the desert for eight days searching for their base before losing their lives, only to have them and any traces of the event lost for the next 16 years. It was not until 1959 that a British oil expedition, followed by a formal US Army and Air Force search mission a year later, would discover this jacket, a diary, and the other artifacts that would ultimately reveal the story of the Lady Be Good crew.

The jacket featured here is a World War II-era flight jacket made of sheepskin. A bomber flown at altitude could subject its crew to cold temperatures, so flight jackets needed to provide significant insulation. As the jacket is obviously in very poor condition, it is not on display at the Museum. However, many other artifacts recovered from the wreckage of the Lady Be Good can be viewed in an exhibit detailing the events surrounding this fascinating story.

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WWI Victory Medal

The 11th of November marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that brought an end to the combat of World War I. Accordingly, this month’s highlighted artifact is a victory medal awarded to a Soldier who participated in the Great War (as it was then known). The World War I Victory Medal is comprised of a rainbow colored ribbon and a bronze medallion. The front of the medallion depicts an image of winged Victory holding a sword and shield. The back features the words “The Great War for Civilization” across the top, a staff and shield with the letters “US” in the middle, and the names of the Allied countries who also took part along both sides. Six stars line the bottom of the medallion’s front.

This particular example boasts a bronze service clasp across the ribbon with the word “France.” Service clasps indicated non-combat duty in the named region by the awarded Soldier. The other regions for which Soldiers in non-combat positions would be given these were England, Italy, Russia, and Siberia. Soldiers who participated in combat would receive battle clasps specifying in which of thirteen major ground conflicts they had participated. Soldiers who had been cited for gallantry in action could also receive a small silver star, referred to as a Citation Star, to be affixed to the ribbon. The Citation Star would evolve into the Silver Star later given for the same purpose.

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Civil War Field Desk

This month’s featured artifact is a Civil War-era field desk. Even in the field during times of war, Soldiers needed the ability to complete the various forms of paperwork required to requisition supplies, give and receive orders, pen letters home, and otherwise engage in written correspondence. A portable desk such as this would have served as a suitable workstation in the absence of a traditional office.

When closed, this field desk resembles a wooden suitcase, featuring a largely wooden (pine) exterior, with brass corner protectors, hinges, handle, and key. Opened, it has a writing surface covered with black felt that can be lifted to reveal compartments underneath. There is a slot along the upper edge for items such as pens and pencils, and a square glass inkwell at each end. While some field desks contained an array of square slots convenient for filing paperwork, this simpler design was mostly useful as a writing surface.

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M1912 Bandoleer

This month’s artifact is a World War I-era M1912 Cavalry Bandoleer. A bandoleer, a piece of equipment often associated with revolutionary guerrillas and co-piloting wookies, is similar to a cartridge belt in that it is lined with pockets intended to house ammunition. However, a bandoleer is generally worn diagonally across one shoulder down to the opposing hip (like as sash). Worn this way, it tends to be less constrictive to motion than cartridge belts worn across the waist and hips, particularly for a cavalry soldier on a horse.

The bandoleer features twelve pockets designed to hold five .30-06 rifle cartridges each (generally as clips), with three small pockets on the center intended to contain five rounds of .45 caliber pistol cartridges. This particular version of the M1912 has “lift the dot” snaps on each pocket, although earlier productions used snaps bearing the US eagle. It is made of an olive drab canvas woven material, and attaches to the wearer using a strap and buckle. An M1914 bandoleer, which was also produced and used during the World War I period, was very similar to the M1912, but was made from a heavier cotton webbing and featured bunched pouches.

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Full Dress Cavalry Officer’s Coat

This months’ artifact is a full dress officer’s coat dating to circa 1907. Full dress was the designation for uniforms used for the most formal occasions. Made from dark blue wool kersey, the coat is double-breasted with a stand up collar. The skirt of the coat is intended to extend to a point halfway between the knee and the top of the hip. It has loops to which shoulder knots can be attached, and a row of nine buttons on each side of the chest (during this period nine buttons was standard for field grade officers while seven was used for those of company grade). The collar is ornamented with a yellow (denoting Cavalry) silk band in the center with a gold wire lace band on each side. The sleeves feature gold wire lace bands and loops that designate the rank of Major. Each sleeve also has brass insignia depicting crossed sabers with the number “3” indicating that the wearer was a member of the 3rd Cavalry. Although the Army had begun moving away from blue for many of its field uniforms at this time, it was still the standard color for formal dress.

This particular coat belonged to a Soldier named James A. Reeves, who, at the time of wearing it, held the rank of Major. Reeves would eventually rise as high as Brigadier General during his service with the Army.

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Women’s PT Bathing Suit – Mid-20th Century

For many Americans, July conjures images of hot days, barbecues, and trips to the swimming pool (or beach). For this month’s artifact, we are highlighting a piece of attire many associate with summer heat—the bathing suit. During its history as the Army’s clothing supplier, the Quartermaster Corps was responsible for providing apparel for all aspects of a Soldier’s life, going beyond simply field and dress uniforms. Physical Training (PT) is an essential aspect of Soldier readiness, and like all endeavors requires appropriate attire. One form of exercise utilized at times within the Army has been swimming, and thus Soldiers were provided with functional swimwear.

This particular artifact is an Army women’s bathing suit from the 1950s (bathing suits were provided for male Soldiers as well). The suit is a one-piece style composed of medium blue cotton material with a knitted texture.

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Army Gauntlets

Gauntlets are a type of glove that have been used for military purposes going back to medieval times. Traditionally, these were made from some form of metal or hardened leather and served as armor to protect the hands and lower forearms. Gauntlets used in the US Army, primarily in the 19th Century through World War II, were generally leather gloves with cuffs that extended part way up the forearm, although there were variations on the form. Gauntlets could provide some protection from physical attack (though not like the armor of old), offer defense against cold weather, or simply add decorative appeal to a Soldier’s uniform. Examples of variations in design and purpose are highlighted here as this month’s featured artifacts.

The first pair is a traditional style gauntlet from the end of World War I, made from gray leather with a wool interior. This pair is a standard sample, with a tag from the Office of the Quartermaster General showing they are an example conforming to standards adopted on 14 December 1918.

The second pair, also dating to the First World War, is designed for use while riding an Army motorcycle. These feature tan leather in the area covering the hand, with a thicker dark brown leather on the extended cuffs which could provide protection in case of a motorcycle accident.

The last (and most unusual) pair of gauntlets were made for Coastal Artillery Soldiers and date to the early 1910s. They feature thick brown leather cuffs that flare out from the forearm to where they would cover the wearer’s hands. They have a small padded tuft at the center of the opening that would have been sewn onto standard Army leather gloves of the era. The wide thick leather would have protected the Artillery Soldier’s hands and forearms from the heat and embers to which they were exposed when loading artillery weapons.

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Spanish-American War Haversack

Seen here is a Spanish-American War-Era haversack dating to circa 1898. Haversacks first became a component of a Soldier’s equipment around the time of the Civil War, with variations being used until after World War I. They serve as multi-purpose carrying bags, in which Soldiers could carry items such as food rations, mess kits, extra clothing, bedding, and personal items. This particular model is a white canvas bag, roughly square in shape. A flap covering folds over the opening and is secured with a grommeted canvas strap and buckle. Inside the bag are multiple pockets of varying size.

The cover flap is stamped with crossed rifles with the letter “A” above and the number “13” below, indicating this was used by a member of the 13th Infantry, “A” Company. Under this it bears the letters “U.S.” and the number “27”—which was a number assigned to a Soldier out of 100 that would have been in the company. This haversack was manufactured at the Rock Island Arsenal.

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M1937 Officers’ Field Mess Outfit

The M1937 Officers’ Field Mess Outfit highlighted here provided a portable collection of dining implements for use by officers away from the mess hall. The outfit contains plates, dishes, platters, cups, a coffee pot, salt and pepper shakers, a sugar bowl, a can opener, and assorted flatware—all housed within an iron bound fiber chest. The chest, which is olive drab and has two latches on the front for closure, is divided into various sections on the inside to organize the various components. This outfit was designed to serve the dining needs of up to eight officers, as it contained eight each of the plates, forks, spoons, knives, and cups.

As the model name suggests, this outfit first went into use in the 1930s. During World War II, this outfit was replaced in service by the M1941, but would become standard again after the war. This particular example was manufactured by the Miller Manufacturing Co. in 1952, as attested to by the mark on the case lid.

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Banner for Excellence

This month’s featured artifact is an Army-Navy “Banner for Excellence” flag dating to World War II. This piece of heraldry was given as an award to private companies for excellence in production for the war effort. Although any company producing goods for the war effort was eligible, only about five percent actually received the award. The Navy had had an “E” award going back to the administration of Teddy Roosevelt, and the Army began giving out an “A” award for similar purposes during World War I. These, along with an Army-Navy munitions “Star” award, were merged by the War Department in July 1942 into the single award flag seen here. In addition to the flag being presented for qualifying industries to fly, they could also be given pins bearing the same design for individual employees to wear. This award is an example of the ways in which the military has often sought to recognize the contributions of civilians to its operations.

This flag, made of cotton bunting, has a swallow tail shape and has a background divided vertically with red on the hoist side and blue on the fly side. The red field carries the word “Army” in white, while the blue field has “Navy.” In the center of the flag is a white “E” surrounded by a gold wreath.

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Sibley Camp Stove

This month’s featured artifact is a Sibley camp stove dating to the Civil War. These cone-shaped stoves, which the Federal Army employed about 16,000 of during the war, were designed to be used with the Sibley tent. The iron stove features a cone with a base diameter of 18 inches topped by pipe sections that taper from five inches on the bottom to four at the top. The conical section has a hinged door that could be used for adding fuel, and a small semi-circular draft hole cut out from the bottom front.

These stoves, which were used for both warmth and cooking, would have been placed under the tripod that supported the Sibley tent, from which would have hung a chain and hook that could hold a kettle. The pipe atop the stove ventilated out the top of the tent through a hole. The Sibley tent had been invented in the 1850s by US Army officer Henry H. Sibley, and was used through the early stages of the Civil War. These conical tents generally provided shelter for 12 Soldiers, who slept in a spoke pattern around the base with their feet pointed towards the center. The Federal Army phased these tents out of service during the Civil War in favor of smaller, less expensive models.

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M1912 Arctic Parka

As the US Army began operating in the extreme cold of Alaska and other arctic locations, the Quartermasters began to develop new lines of clothing to protect Soldiers from these harsh conditions. All manner of cold weather gear, including coats, hats, gloves, and boots, went into production in the early years of the 20th Century. One such piece of clothing is this month’s highlighted artifact—an M1912 Arctic Duck Parka. This coat was one of the first duck material parkas created for the Army, with this particular example being a standard sample conforming to specifications established Nov. 7, 1912 per the attached tag. It features a poncho-style duck outer covering with an attached hood, complete with a drawstring to tighten it around the wearer’s head. Likewise, the sleeves have drawstrings for tightening around the wrists, and the front features apron-style pockets. Along with this model, the Army was also producing various fur overcoats, fur-lined parkas, and pea-jackets at this time. The M1912 parka, sometimes with modifications such as fur added to the cuffs and hood, would be in service when the US entered World War I.

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