World War II

World War I - Home Service Banners

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This year (2014) marks the one hundredth anniversary of the conflict that would become known as the "Great War," and, later, World War I.  Although the United States did not get drawn into the conflict until 1917, the start of the war was not ignored on these shores.  While the war had been brewing for some time, the immediate cause is widely acknowledged to be the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863-1914) of Austria in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, on June 28, 1914.  A month later, on July 28, Austria-Hungary fired the first shots in preparation for an invasion of Serbia.  Lines were quickly drawn along what would become the Western front between Germany and France, and the Eastern Front between Russia and Austria-Hungary.  Shortly after the first shots were fired in 1914, Britain declared war on Germany.  Italy and Bulgaria joined the war in 1915 and Romania in 1916.  In April 1917, the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies (Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Russia, prior to its surrender).  With the entrance of the United States, the Allies were able to surge forward and eventually win the war.  Germany agreed to an armistice on November 11, 1918.  More than nine million combatants lost their lives; Germany and Russia lost territory; the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were dismantled; the map of Europe was redrawn; and the League of Nations formed to prevent a future conflict.  Sadly, the League would fail just twenty years later when World War II began. 

Almost five million Americans served in the war, more than four million of these in the Army.  Although the front was far away from the United States, the war effort was foremost in the minds of many at home.  Families with a man serving overseas often hung a “Home Service Banner” in a window.  These banners, with a red border around a white center and a star to represent the serviceman, became a display of patriotism during World War I.  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection includes one of these banners, but unfortunately we do not know who originally owned it (at right).  It has one star, which signified one family member fighting in the conflict.  A blue star signified hope and pride; a silver star indicated that the soldier had been wounded; and a gold star represented sacrifice, indicating that the soldier died in battle.  If the family had more than one soldier overseas, the banner would show multiple stars.  The first home service flag was designed and patented in 1917 by Robert Queissner of Ohio, who had two sons on the front lines. 78_36DI1

Recently, the Museum & Library was given a similar flag, but with twenty-three stars (twenty-two blue and one cream-colored star) around a blue square and compasses symbol (see above).  This flag shows the same red border and white center as a home service flag.  The flag was found at Old Colony Lodge in Hingham, Massachusetts.  The lodge did not have any information on the flag, but it may have indicated that twenty-three members of the lodge were serving in World War I or World War II (these flags were also used during that conflict), and that one man was wounded or killed.  We hope that pursuing additional research into the lodge’s records may answer the question of when the flag was used and confirm this theory about its significance.  Does your family own a home service banner?  Let us know in a comment below!

Masonic Flag, 1910-1920, United States, gift of Old Colony Lodge, Hingham, Massachusetts, 2011.025.

Home Service Banner, 1917-1919, United States, gift of Henry S. Kuhn, 78.36.
 


A Salute to the American Military

Jacket in caseThis summer (2013), the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is pleased to be one of 1,800 museums across America to welcome military personnel and their families in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families and the Department of Defense, as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

The program runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day and identifies museums that offer free admission to active-duty military personnel and their family members. The Museum & Library is included on the Blue Star Museums website. “Blue Star Museums is something that service members and their families look forward to every year and we are thrilled with the continued growth of the program,” said Blue Star Families CEO Kathy Roth-Douquet. “Through this distinctive collaboration…service members and their families can connect with our national treasures.” The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is proud to participate in this program and to support our military families. BlueStarLogo1800

The Museum’s collection includes numerous objects and documents associated with the American military and its soldiers, dating from the Revolution to the Iraq War. The leather jacket shown here is currently on view in our exhibition, “Journeys and Discoveries: The Stories Maps Tell.” It was originally worn by Technical Sergeant Ronald W. Hirtle (1924-1986) during World War II. A radio operator and gunner, Hirtle belonged to the 491st “Ringer” Bomb Squadron of the 14th Air Force – also known as the “Flying Tigers” – and logged over 200 combat hours on almost 50 bombing missions in the China-Burma-India Theater.

Jacket2The exhibition also features an Escape and Evasion Map of Burma and Siam and the Far East and a selection of Asian currencies that the Air Force provided to Hirtle. An airman like Hirtle could be shot down in unfamiliar territory. To prepare for this possibility, the Air Force equipped its flyers with lightweight escape kits. Hirtle’s map is printed on silk making it quiet to use, more impervious to water than paper and easy to hide. The currency would allow him to buy food and water, or pay a local resident to help him return to American forces.

Air Force Type A-2 Flight Jacket, 1942-1945, Aero Leather Clothing Co., Beacon, NY; Escape and Evasion Map of Burma and Siam and the Far East, 1942-1945; Currency, 1942-1945; all gifts of the Family of Ronald W. Hirtle, 96.041.1, .2 and .3a-f.


The Massachusetts Women's Corps

2007_038a-cT1 Uniform The uniform seen here was originally worn by Anne E. Gedges (1916-2007), a member of the Massachusetts Women’s Corps (MWC) during World War II.  As Gedges explained in a letter years later, the MWC offered local women a way to assist the war effort:

Women wanted to do something to help end the war so we volunteered to serve coffee + doughnuts on the Boston Common, collected money for the U.S.O. at the Boston Garden + other theaters, worked Sundays at the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea…We marched in parades and felt we were better than the National Guard staying in step.”

The uniform includes a red patch on one shoulder that shows a gold-colored coffeepot, reflecting one of the group’s activities.  A lapel pin on the jacket includes the motto, Paratus Et Fidelis – Latin for “faithful and ready.”  The uniform was donated to the National Heritage Museum in 2007 by Gedges' niece.

Geddes Photo RESIZED The photograph at right shows Gedges with the rest of her local group.  She stands at the center of the second row of women, wearing her uniform.  The donor also gave a certificate documenting her honorable discharge from this service in 1946 to the Museum with the uniform and the photograph.  After the war, Gedges taught in the Waltham school system.  She lived in Lexington, Massachusetts, for much of her life.

Massachusetts Women’s Corps Uniform, ca. 1942, Leopold Morselo, Boston, Massachusetts. National Heritage Museum, gift of H. Thaddeus and Ellen Wolosinski, 2007.038a-c.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Photograph of Anne Gedges and Massachusetts Women’s Corps Unit, ca. 1942, Boston, Massachusetts. National Heritage Museum, gift of H. Thaddeus and Ellen Wolosinski.