|48 STARS ON AN AMERICAN FLAG MADE BY FRENCH RESISTANCE DURING WWII, PRESENTED TO THE 3RD SQUAD OF THE 8TH INFANTRY REGIMENT (MOTORIZED, 4TH INFANTRY DIVISION) FOLLOWING THEIR PARTICIPATION IN THE BATTLE OF NORMANDY, IN GRATITUDE OF THE NATION'S FORTHCOMING LIBERATION IN 1944, A WONDERFUL EXAMPLE WITH STRONG FOLK QUALITIES
|Frame Size (H x L):||Approx. 39" x 72"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||26" x 59.25"|
|48 star American national flag with wonderful folk qualities and great specific history. The flag was made by members of the French Resistance and given to American troops as they passed through following the initial siege of Normandy, which began on June 6th and ended on June 25th, 1944. It was specifically given to the 3rd Squad of the 8th Infantry Regiment (Motorized), which served under the 4th Infantry Division during the June 6th attack. On the following day, the unit relived the famous 82nd Airborne Division at Ste. Mere/Eglise, battling German tanks and Panzer Regiments. Members of the French resistance movement presented this flag to the 3rd squadron while passing through French territory and the squad proceeded to carry it throughout the balance of the war. A two-and-a-half by three-and-a-half inch photo of a group of soldiers, taken on the French countryside, accompanies the flag. A notation on the back reads “3rd Squad, German film”. The unit must have captured German film during its involvement and put it to use ceremoniously, no doubt hopeful that it wasn’t damaged and could later be developed.
Like other European-made Stars & Stripes I have encountered from the 1st and 2nd World Wars, this one was produced in make-do fashion, using whatever materials were at hand during the scarcity of war. The white stripes of the flag are cotton and are reported to have been salvaged from a bed sheet. The red stripes are made of coarse wool, not entirely unlike the wool bunting used in commercially manufactured flags, but a bit more stiff and dense than what is usually seen in the U.S. and Britain. This was probably salvaged from clothing, bedding, or draperies, but it could also have been taken from a disassembled Nazi flag. If the latter is true, that part of the story was lost or purposefully omitted in the telling.
The canton is made of light blue dress silk. The cotton stars are double-appliquéd, meaning that they were applied to both sides of the flag. Their edges were not folded under and they were sewn by someone who either lacked skill in appliqué work or was simply pressed for time. The piecing of the stripes demonstrates a similar lack of sewing prowess, as the red were applied over top of the white, instead of being joined consecutively and evenly with flat-fell seams.
The entire flag was sewn by machine, probably of a treadle-operated variety, given the probability of the lack of electricity during wartime. Instead of having an applied sleeve along the hoist end, the flag was wrapped around a staff a stitched to itself. Because ample fabric was not left to perform this task, a full column of the stars on the obverse was folded around to the reverse and sewn over top of the corresponding column behind it. The result was a flag that had only 42 stars. We removed the relevant stitches and mounted the flag full open to show the full count of 48.
The homemade, primitive nature of the construction results in several whimsical features that lend a great deal to the visual impact of the flag. First among these are the stripes. The fact that the red were applied on top of the white resulted in the former being noticeably larger. This is especially true in the case of the top stripe, which probably filled the leftover space after the initial strips of fabric were cut too narrow to accommodate the folding of seams. Next is the exaggerated length of the flag, which is much longer and narrower than typical. Also notable are the vibrant red color, the abundance of red in proportion to the white, the unusual shade of blue, and the interesting texture of the fabrics. The fact that the stars are not perfectly aligned on their vertical axis also adds an element of visual interest, and the combination of all the above, along with the photo and such a wonderful story, make for one of the more interesting flags of this period that I have ever been privileged enough to own.
Provenance: I acquired the flag through the late Bruce Smith, my friend and flag collector, who had a source picking for him throughout France and Belgium. About once a year he might get lucky and acquire something of interest. The town of acquisition would often be the only known fact. If he was especially lucky there might be a bit of specific history, as was the case with this example and its accompanying photo. Although the information beyond the image and its notation is only verbal, my long experience with Bruce led me to trust his source and I strongly suspect the story to be an accurate one. How the flag ended up staying in Europe is a mystery, but close ties often developed between the oppressed French populous and the American and British soldiers who liberated them from horrible circumstances.
Mounting: The flag was hand-stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field for support. It was then hand-stitched to 100% cotton, black in color, which was washed to remove excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. The mount was then placed in a hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.
Condition: There are some splits and losses in the blue silk, accompanied by some very minor mothing in the red stripes and minor foxing and staining throughout. A length of blue fabric was placed behind the canton to mask areas with loss and additional stitches were added to support the damaged areas.
|Collector Level:||Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything|
|Flag Type:||Sewn flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1944|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1944|
|War Association:||WW 2|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|