Ask the Expert

World War II: When we ALL did our part

Given today’s political climate, it’s hard to believe there was a time in this country’s history when everybody seemed to be united and working toward one common goal. That time was World War II and that goal was Win the War. Ford, GM and Chrysler curtailed manufacturing of civilian automobiles for the duration, with 100% of production going toward the […]
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Handy can opener a cherished memento

Anybody who served in the U.S. military between 1942 and 1980, especially in the Army or Marine Corps, will have “fond” memories of the “Ration, Combat, Individual,” or the “new and improved” “Meal, Combat, Individual,” as they were dubbed from 1958 onward. To the troops, they were simply known as C-Rations or by their more commonly used term of endearment, […]
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The lost art of military photos in print

One consequence of today’s technology is the disappearance of traditional print photographs and photo albums. This is especially true when it comes to commemorating one’s military service. From the dawn of photography, cameras have accompanied soldiers wherever their paths led, whether they’re palling around during boot camp or grappling with the horrors of the battlefield. Dating back to Mathew Brady […]
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A different sort of July 4 safety warning

Every year, local papers carry sad post-Fourth of July stories about folks injuring themselves with fireworks, despite the pervasive warnings and instructions that circulate in the days and weeks before. Far less common but far more devastating are the occasional tragedies that occur when vintage explosive ordnance is mishandled. A few years ago, a California school teacher found a 40MM […]
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When soldiers, sailors ‘drew outside the lines’

Ask anybody who has ever been in the military, and they will tell you wearing a uniform is serious business. Everything must be exact to regulations and that uniformity must be across the board. There is no individuality when it comes to wearing the uniform of one’s branch of service. Woe be it to the Marine who does not have […]
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Check out these flyboys with a nose for art

The practice is as old as aviation itself: the personalization of aircraft by painting a name or unique design on an aircraft’s fuselage. Since these depictions often appeared on the front of the aircraft, they became known as “nose art,” and to a certain extent, the practice continues to this day. The origin seems to center around WW l. America’s […]
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When Air Force pilots were “crushing it”

With some 15 million Americans in service during WW II, wearing a military uniform became the fashion plate for an entire generation. It seemed you needed a scorecard to tell them apart. In addition to each service having their own distinctive uniform, there were subsets of uniforms, depending on the job, climate, or occasion in which the uniform was being […]
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Ancient weapon, modern war

The Vietnam War saw the advent of some of the 20th Century’s most deadly and sophisticated weapons. These included the latest Soviet surface-to-air missiles that protected North Vietnamese cities and the USS Long Beach (CGN 9), the world’s first nuclear powered guided missile cruiser, which the U.S. Navy deployed in the Tonkin Gulf. For all its modern technology, the Vietnam […]
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Japanese blades of glory

During the Second World War, the most popular of all war souvenirs in the islands of the Pacific and occupied Japan was the “Samurai” sword. Deeply imbedded in the psyche of the Japanese, the sword took on almost a sacred role. It was identified with the legendary Samurai warrior code of bushido. Not only did it hold a place of […]
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Worn with pride: A brief history of military patches

The Italian American Veterans Museum and Library has one of the most extensive patch collections on display in the Chicago area. Frequently, I’m asked by visitors, “My father has this patch on his Army uniform. What does it mean?” While other branches of the U.S. military use patches to establish esprit de corps and identify different units, ships and organizations, […]
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