December 2013 - Captain William Boyce’s Wings and Epaulette

Epaulettes and wings are forms of shoulder decoration that can range from very simple to quite ornate (such as those seen here), and are generally used to designate the soldier’s rank or some other aspect of status. Beginning with regulations established on 2 March 1821, company grade officers (Lieutenants and Captains) were to wear wings with silver or white worsted braids as exemplified by the pair exhibited here. These wings in particular were worn by Captain William Boyce beginning as a lieutenant in the 1820s. Captain Boyce, originally from Maryland, had been a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point in 1822, and served in the Army until his resignation in 1836. When then-Lieutenant Boyce began serving as aide-de-camp to Major General Macomb in 1828, regulations allowed that he wear a single epaulette on his left shoulder as part of the general staff uniform. The single epaulette seen here is the one he wore in that capacity, which he served in until May 1829. After this he returned to his post in the 1st US Infantry and went back to wearing the wings. He was promoted to Captain in 1835, a year before resigning to join the US Coast and Geodetic Survey.

The pair of wings features a blue wool base with a silver bullion edge formed by two rows of cord. A double row of tassels hangs off the shoulders, and three pairs of silver plated chains are sewn onto the top of the wings. A single raised silver bullion dot sits in the center.

The single epaulette features gold bullion lace with a gold plated button at the neck end. Other decorations include a gold sequin and bullion arch from which hangs a double row of gold tassels. The bottom is padded and covered with yellow silk.

The box on display is the original container used to hold the single gold epaulette. Scripted on the box is the name “Lieutenant Boyce.”

  • Captain William Boyce’s Wings and Epaulette
  • Captain William Boyce’s Wings and Epaulette
  • Captain William Boyce’s Wings and Epaulette
  • Captain William Boyce’s Wings and Epaulette

November 2013 - WWI Thanksgiving Menu

Although Americans have sporadically celebrated some form of Thanksgiving as far back as the early English settlements on the continent, it was not until 1863 in the midst of the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln declared it an official national holiday. This month marks the 150th anniversary of that proclamation and the holiday that is still celebrated today. Holidays such as Thanksgiving carry a special meaning for soldiers who are often away from home during these times, especially during periods of war. The Army has tried to bring these celebrations to soldiers whenever possible, even in circumstances of war time deployment.

The artifact here is a menu from a Thanksgiving Day celebration given at Camp Travis, Texas, on November 29, 1917, during World War I for Motor Supply Company 5, 315th Supply Trains. It presents the various courses for the meal, including oyster cocktail, roast turkey, candied yams, and pumpkin pie, referring to them as “first call,” “table fatigue,” “battalion formation,” and “flankers” respectively. The next pages of the menu provide the roster of soldiers who will be in attendance. A list of toasts attributed to some of the soldiers says things such as “We owe it to France” and “Next Thanksgiving in Berlin.”

With the menu are a World War I era knife, fork, and spoon, as well as two cook’s hats—one from 1921 and one from World War II. The Quartermaster Corps was officially put in charge of subsistence duties for the Army in 1916.

  • WWI Thanksgiving Menu
  • WWI Thanksgiving Menu

October 2013 - WWII Embalming Kit

US Army Quartermasters have been in charge of caring for fallen soldiers since the Civil War, when they were tasked with what was then called “Graves Registration.” Up until this time, it was typical for soldiers to either be put into mass graves or for their bodies to be simply left on the battlefield. Recognizing the need to show them more respect, the Army decided that soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice for the country should be properly cared for until they could reach their final resting places. Today this mission is referred to as Mortuary Affairs, and is still an important function of the Quartermaster Corps.

This style of embalming kit was used in the care of deceased soldiers from World War II through the Vietnam War. It is housed in an olive drab 10” x 22” x 14” trunk style box, and contains an assortment of surgical tools, embalming fluids, and body makeup for use in the care of the deceased. A mortuary affairs specialist could use this kit in the field to prepare a soldier’s body for the trip back home.

  • WWII Embalming Kit
  • WWII Embalming Kit
  • WWII Embalming Kit

September 2013 - Model 1916 Infantry Fencing Mask

Although the primary weapon for an American Infantry soldier since the Revolutionary War has always been a firearm, swords were once an important secondary defense when hand to hand combat became necessary. Before the proliferation of automatic and semi-automatic guns, firing rates were much slower and soldiers could find themselves in close encounters with the opposition. While enlisted Infantry typically had bayonets to use in these situations, officer’s usually relied upon swords to defend themselves. As such, soldiers had to be instructed in the skillful use of these weapons. The Civil War was the last major conflict in which Infantry officers regularly engaged in hand to hand combat, but the Army continued to train them to fight with swords well into the 20th Century. Masks such as this artifact were used during the fencing training where an officer would learn these techniques. This particular mask is a Model 1916, which puts its use in the later years of sword combat training. Swords remain in the Army today for ornamental and ceremonial purposes.

There is soft leather-lined padding along the top and cheeks, and a quilted upper chest and throat protector extending six inches below the chin. Leather straps with metal buckles are used to fasten the device to the wearer’s head along with a spring-loaded pad that secures it in the back.

This mask covers the wearer’s head from the crown forward, including the ears on the sides. It features a covering made of fine mesh steel wire, the spacing of which is much greater in front so as not to obstruct vision.

  • Model 1916 Infantry Fencing Mask
  • Model 1916 Infantry Fencing Mask
  • Model 1916 Infantry Fencing Mask

August 2013 - Bell Crown Cap

In 1821, the army first adopted the “bell crown” cap as standard head gear for rifle and artillery soldiers. Like its predecessor, the “yeoman cap,” this features a top which is wider than its base, but with the addition of distinctly concave sides. This style of head wear had become popular in European armies--first with the Russians, then spreading throughout most of the continent. The 1821 Uniform Regulations stated that these were to be worn by company officers and enlisted soldiers. Soldiers were issued only one of these for a five year enlistment period, and as they were considered government property, were expected to return them upon completion of service.

This cap is made of black painted leather and features a crown which flares outward at the top. The rear is pointed above the nape of the neck, while the front boasts a visor. A leather chin strap covered with brass scales (not original to this piece) buckles across the front. At each end of the strap is a large button embossed with a star. Looping from side to side on both the front and back is a gilt band.

A brass eagle plate adorns the front. Above is a leather cockade that is missing a button in its center. Also missing from the cap is a tassel which would hang from the side. A hole is pierced in the front edge of the top into which a pompon was to be inserted. The color of the pompon would vary with the soldier’s branch of service. Although brass metal adornments, such as those on this example, were called for in the original 1821 regulations, the army quickly switched the standard to white metal.

  • Bell Crown Cap
  • Bell Crown Cap
  • Bell Crown Cap

July 2013 - Revolutionary War Ice Creeper

This ice creeper, which dates back to the American Revolution, was designed to be worn over a soldier’s shoe or boot with the metal prongs positioned under the instep. With one worn on each foot, these provided the wearer with traction in ice and snow. These were a valuable asset to soldiers of the Continental Army during the winters of the Revolution, some of which were very harsh. When frozen lakes and streams prevented travel by boat, soldiers were often left with no other option but to march across.

The creeper is made of a strip of iron with four metal prongs bent downward which act as cleats for digging into ice or snow. The ends of the iron strip are turned upward, each of which has a leather strap riveted to it. These straps are connected by another leather piece to form a loop which allows the creeper to be worn over a soldier’s shoe or boot.


July 2013 - British “Brown Bess” Bayonet

In the early 18th century, the British put into use the Land Pattern “Brown Bess” musket, which the empire would use versions of for over a hundred years. These muskets were an attempt by the British Army to introduce uniformity into the design and manufacture of weapons. Through this they hoped to solve the difficulties of supplying ammunition and repair parts that arose from the traditionally non-standardized firearms of its soldiers. This bayonet, designed for use with these muskets, features a 14 ¼” long triangular blade with shallow ground back flutes and no face flute. It has a 3 5/16” socket, which when slid over the muzzle of the weapon affixes the bayonet to the musket. This is a relatively crudely made version, with a pronounced weld line visible inside the socket.

The Brown Bess (and accompanying bayonet) was the primary British weapon used against the Colonists during the American Revolution. However, they saw service among the American forces as well, with some already in the hands of militiamen at the war’s outset, and others being captured in battle. Since the speed at which muskets of this era could be fired was limited, as was their accuracy, firing volleys were often followed by bayonet charges. Having a bayonet on the end of a musket allowed a soldier to use it like a pike or spear.

  • Revolutionary War Ice Creeper
  • Revolutionary War Ice Creeper
  • Revolutionary War British Bayonet
  • Revolutionary War British Bayonet

June 2013 - D-Day Assault Jacket

Going into World War II, the Model 1928 Haversack was the standard infantry pack. In 1942, British soldiers began wearing an assault jerkin which tests had shown was superior in comfort, cost, and ease of use. Seeing these, the American forces began developing their own version in the following year. By the time of D-Day, the Army had procured enough of these to equip many of the soldiers involved in the invasion. Unfortunately, these did not turn out to be the improvement the Army had envisioned. Soldiers forced into the water during the landing phase of the operation had to quickly remove the vests in order to avoid drowning under the weight of their own equipment.

About 14,000 of these were made, a large percentage of which likely ended up in the ocean or left on the beach. The Army would not use these assault jackets again after the D-Day invasion. This particular jacket was manufactured by the Harian Stitching Co and is made primarily of olive drab cotton duck fabric.

This is a Model 1926 inflatable life preserver belt designed to provide flotation when worn around the waist. These belts were a Navy issue item, but were used by Army personnel engaged in amphibious operations such as D-Day. During such missions, soldiers were frequently forced into the water by the need to get from ship to shore or by enemy assault. While these were useful for providing flotation for both soldiers and equipment in these circumstances, they were limited in how much weight they could support. Soldiers who were top-heavy with gear had a tendency to flip over, leading to many drowning casualties. Thus, possession of one of these life belts could be a mixed blessing.

The belt is made with rubberized fabric with two inflatable rubber tubes running along the inside. It can be inflated quickly by using the two CO2 cartridges found near the front buckle, or manually by blowing into the metal valves on the two protruding black rubber tubes. The belt is made with rubberized fabric with two inflatable rubber tubes running along the inside. It can be inflated quickly by using the two CO2 cartridges found near the front buckle, or manually by blowing into the metal valves on the two protruding black rubber tubes.

  • D-Day Assault Jacket
  • D-Day Assault Jacket
  • D-Day Assault Jacket
  • D-Day Assault Jacket

May 2013 - Pigeon Vest

This is a World War II-era PG-106/CB pigeon vest. Made of a porous fabric with adjustable laces to fit any size pigeon, this vest has a forty inch cotton strap which allows the bird to be attached to the chest of a soldier. The history of pigeons in military service goes back for centuries, with the peak of their use in the American army coming during World War I as part of the Signal Corps.

This is a World War II PG-67 capsule made to contain messages for delivery by pigeon. It features a small plastic tube, 1 ½ inches long and ½ inch in diameter, which unscrews in the middle for enclosing a small document. To this is connected a dark cloth band with a snap fastener for attaching it to the leg of a pigeon. The army later used capsules the size of cigar tubes which, when strapped to the backs of these birds, allowed them to transport larger documents such as maps.

The army brought pigeons back for service during World War II for missions such as communications and surveillance. These PG-106/CB vests were used by paratroopers and scouting patrols to carry a single pigeon per soldier. The birds provided a way for paratroopers to send word back to base of their landing safely.

The pigeon’s head, neck, wing tips, tail and feet are able to protrude from the vest, a mark on which reads, “DO NOT RETAIN PIGEON IN VEST IN EXCESS OF SIX HOURS.” This vest was made for the army by Maidenform Co.

  • Pigeon Vest
  • Pigeon Vest
  • Pigeon Vest
  • Pigeon Vest

April 2013 - Dog Harness

This collar and harness was used on the Fiala-Ziegler expedition (1903-1905) to the North Pole. The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps provided gear for this expedition such as this harness seen here.

This 1905 panoramic view by Anthony Fiala, who led the expedition, shows the tough wintry conditions both man and dog had to endure. Though the explorers failed to reach the North Pole, their efforts did result in improved maps and charts of the region.

This tag attached to the harness identifies that it was used during the expedition. While the Quartermaster Corps was supplying dog-related equipment in the early 20th century it wasn't until 1941 that they would be working directly with dogs.

For more information about war dogs visit the QM Found Website: http://www.qmfound.com/War_Dogs.htm — and the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum.

  • Dog Harness
  • Dog Harness
  • Dog Harness

March 2013 - WWI Army Nurse's Blue Norfolk Hat

The Quartermaster Corps has been involved in designing and procuring military uniforms for women for nearly a century. These hats are but a few of the many clothing examples in the Quartermaster Museum that help define the role of the Quartermaster Corps in the development, procurement, manufacturing, and supplying of uniforms for the Army from 1842 until 1963.

Women have served the US Army as nurses all the way back to the Revolutionary War. The Nurse Corps became a permanent part of the Medical Department in 1901, and was re-designated the Army Nurse Corps in July of 1918. During World War I, the army first recognized the need for nurses to have a distinct outdoor uniform. In 1917 the army first adopted the blue uniform known as the “Norfolk” style for this purpose.

The most common head gear worn with the uniform was this wide brimmed hat, which could be dark blue or black. This particular hat is made of dark blue velour and features a 2 ¾ inch wide brim and a 1 ¾ inch wide oiled silk band terminating in a bow. The silk band here is a reproduction as the original is missing.

March 2013 - WAC Summer Cap from WWII

Prior to World War II, women had primarily served in the army as nurses. However, the Second World War brought about the greatest demands on the military to date, and Congress approved the creation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in May of 1942. The following year, legislation passed which allowed the enlistment and commissioning of women into the Army, and the name of the corps was changed to the Women’s Army Corps (WAC).

This cap is an example of the type worn as part of the WAC summer uniform. These caps were sometimes referred to as “Hobby Hats,” a reference to the WAC’s first director Oveta Culp Hobby. It is made of tropical worsted khaki and has a 3 ½ inch high flat crown and 2 ½ inch long oval visor. A two-piece chin strap which crosses the front is fastened to each side with regulation-type brass buttons. These hats were not popular, as they were considered difficult to block, transport, and store. They would be dropped altogether by the end of the war in favor of the garrison or “overseas” cap.

Woman’s Company Grade Officer’s Service Hat

This is a regulation Army Green shade 44 (AG-44) woman’s service hat manufactured circa 1983. Head gear of this color had been approved for women as far back as 1959. This hat would have been worn by a company grade officer (someone holding the rank of Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, or Captain).

By the time this hat was issued, the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) no longer existed, and women were serving in nearly every type of position in the army.

  • WWI Army Nurse's Blue Norfolk Hat
  • WWI Army Nurse's Blue Norfolk Hat
  • WWII WAC Summer Cap
  • WWII WAC Summer Cap
  • Woman's Company Grade Officer's Service Hat
  • Woman's Company Grade Officer's Service Hat

February 2013 - Civil War Quartermaster Employee Badge

On August 11 1863, Assistant Quartermaster Alexander J. Perry stated that employees of the Quartermaster Department should wear a badge to show that they were in military service of the government. After some confusion as to who would actually wear these badges, on 1 October 1863 the Secretary of War directed that they were to be sent to Washington, DC to be “issued free of charge to the colored employees of the Quartermaster’s Department.” The Quartermaster Department was the first Federal agency to hire African-Americans, employing them for a variety of jobs in a civilian capacity. The only other badge of this type known to still exist resides in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

This insignia is the type once worn by members of the famed WWII transportation unit known as the “Red Ball Express. Of the soldiers serving in this extended supply operation, 75 percent were African-American. At the time, the army was still segregated and African-American soldiers were mostly assigned to support units such as truck and service companies. This type of patch is known as a shoulder sleeve insignia, and depicts a yellow shield with a red ball in the center. It is approximately 2 inches wide by 2 1/8 inches high. Above the red ball are the letters “TC,” for Transportation Corps, and below are the letters “MTS,” for Motor Transport Service. Transportation had historically been a Quartermaster duty, but in 1942 the Transportation Corps was established as a separate entity.

The Red Ball Express ran continuously day and night from 25 August to 16 November of 1944. It delivered an average of 8,200 tons of supplies a day, mostly consisting of fuel, food, and ammunition. The average round trip covered 714 miles and took 71 hours.

  • Civil War Quartermaster Employee Badge
  • Civil War Quartermaster Employee Badge

January 2013 - WWI Officer's Riding Boots (Standard Sample)

The US Army first adopted these officer's service boots in 1918 in the midst of World War I. Though designed for cavalry officers, these boots were also popular with infantry officers. Boots such as these which came high up the calf eliminated the need for leggings. Many officers purchased them from private manufacturers, but they had to conform to the specifications as exemplified by this standard sample.

An attached tag from the War Department, Office of the Quartermaster General, shows that these are a rare "standard sample." This means that they were to serve as an example of the design specifications to which all boots produced of this type should conform. According to this tag, this sample was adopted on October 4 1918, conforming to Specifications No. 1378.

The boots are made of brown leather, and designed to rise to a point just below the knee. They fasten with cloth laces through metal eyelets from the instep to a point above the ankle, as well as on the outside top of both legs.

Inside each boot is a pair of straps by which the wearer could pull the boots on using a hook, such as the one attached to this pair.

  • WWI Officer's Riding Boots (Standard Sample)
  • WWI Officer's Riding Boots (Standard Sample)
  • WWI Officer's Riding Boots (Standard Sample)
  • WWI Officer's Riding Boots (Standard Sample)