Reply To: WWII Cloth Map

Virginia Whelan

Good points Ron. I have come across several of these textiles in my conservation practice. As you point out, they were intended for use by pilots and airmen in case of emergency bail-outs and crashes. Some of the textiles are one-sided and sewn into the lining of the pilot’s jacket with, “I am an American. Take me to your Headquarters.” printed in several languages. Others are two-sided handkerchiefs with maps of territories where the airmen were flying their missions. I have seen them both in the folded condition in which they were probably issued to the airmen, as well as used as a scarf around the pilot’s neck. (I guess you can’t lose the map during an emergency bail out if it is tied to your body!) The textiles appear to be printed on a cotton ground and treated with a coating for waterproofing, perhaps a flame retardant? Before any wet-cleaning or treatment is performed, testing of the textiles dyes and finishes should be performed.