While this may not be a historical saga, it is a modern one of historical proportions. Many of you, fair readers, may know that we venture out into the unknown often to put on displays on many eras. WWII happens to be one of our largest and most requested displays.
This story, however, is not a short one. It is indeed, one that may continue and venture forth into the future. It is the story of laundry gone wrong.
This past weekend, May 21st and 22nd, 2022 were what would seem to be uneventful, besides the disgustingly high temperatures that fell upon us like a pile of bricks. We had an event to go to, a timeline of military impressions at the Massachusetts Military Expo (http://history-expo.com/). I, Chelsey, the Executive Director of our nonprofit, was left alone to run the exhibit on Saturday.
Our exhibit was our WWII Signal Corps Message Center, centering around the WAC Detachment of the 12th Army Group. Picture of our display is located below.
What unfolded below (pun intended) happened between our educational talks and immersive tours of our display. Nothing you see described here interrupted or detracted from both group’s highly professional and educational display.
Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the fact that there was no one watching this unit of men…but I had looked up to see a clothesline run between that of the Chaplain’s tent, and the 82nd Airborne across the field from our display. Not only was this a clothesline, but it had hanging on it 4 pairs of men’s Army issued WWII boxers. They hung, wafting gently in the wind, letting the warm summer breeze run through them, blowing right towards me.
My eyes narrowed, my nose scrunched. How dare they, I thought. How dare they have fun without me! I pulled out my typewriter and got to work.
Now, keep in mind none of this is meant to be accurate. It is meant to be a way to distract myself from the awful heat, so therefore it may not reflect the proper ways that letters should be written according to the TM 12-252. I typed up my letter, signed it proper with an accurate dip pen and reproduction ink. I then stomped my little legs as fast as I could across the field to deliver said message.
It may have caused pain to the poor gents in the 82nd, unknowingly making a singular bored woman have a purpose. They looked upon me with fear in their eyes as I whipped the letter out and over to them.
I then stomped back to my tent, putting my feet up and feeling like I had won.
I was wrong.
Suddenly my comfort was interrupted by a messenger throwing this scrap of paper at me, like discarded trash at a dumpster. They weren’t taking me seriously! This meant war!
Once again, I loaded my weapon, my typewriter. This time I pulled out the fancy ivory paper, hoping that the higher quality paper may get the point across. This time I decided to play with some of our other equipment, throwing a random number stamp on it, for no other purpose than getting to use my stamp. I also realized afterwards I put the wrong year, not that it matters much in relation to this saga. I folded it up crisply, and waltzed back over to the tent. This letter was more serious, it was DIRE. They had to listen, right?
Once again, I walked back to my tent and sat down. I could see them reading their letter, laughing and passing it around. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught one of them equally armed as I was. They had a typewriter too.
I sat up, alarmed. No fair! How dare they come prepared to a battle of letters and wits! I could hear their stenographer (their Chaplin) typing. I was nervous. What letter bomb was about to be delivered to our message center? They were smart and sent over a younger member who seemed terrified. I glared him down as I pulled the letter from his hands. He said something about not shooting the messenger, but I couldn’t hear him over my desire to shoot the messenger.
It seems that some of my message went through, however nothing was going to be done about these undergarments flopping about as some sort of trophy. I decided to resort to new methods. However at this time, it was lights for our first day. I plotted and planned for the next.
At 0800 the next morning, I called in the construction battalion. (in this case, known as my husband, John). He came up with 2 lance poles, rope, and a pile of ammo. We placed up the poles and gently clipped 2 WAC undershirts, 1 WAC knit, khaki knickers and 1 torpedo bra, starch white, to the rope. Lance poles happen to be high enough that the entire event could now see my laundry.
One side note, before we continue, is that these items were reproduction display items that I have used in multiple exhibits in museums about women’s fashions and undergarments. These items were quite used to being on display. The items were also hung high enough to not be obvious as to what they were, and to not offend any families or anyone who may be offended by such items, as you can tell from the photo.
Moments later, I delivered a letter.
Unfortunately, the Laundry Wars found itself with more participants from before, where the British regiment wandered over and commented on the sudden “battle of the britches” happening on the US soil. They requested that we, for the good of the nations, centered on the war at hand instead and to sit down and have a good cup of tea, as that solves everything.
I had not intended to allow our Laundry War to somehow spread to not only the other end of the event, but to another nation’s impressions. I decided to explain myself in writing.
The British seemed content enough, or at least as much so to keep calm and carry on, and turned their attention instead to a cup of tea and talk of their gardens and football.
However, while trying to appease one nation, my own nation continued to send friendly fire.
I am very happy to announce that all reenactors at such events are very mature academics. 🙂
I rolled up my sleeves and got to work on one last letter before the end of the event. The boys across the field heard me typing away, as I am quite proficient on a typewriter. They said I “sounded like an MG 42” shooting from a distance. My typing echoed across the event, hitting each key with a calculated rage. They admitted that when I had stopped, they started to breathe again, only to hear me start typing away once more.
I finished my letter and handed it over. At this point, the poor boys across the way knew it was coming and braced for impact.
After this last letter was handed over, the boys declared some continuing war that may or may not stretch across other events in multiple regions. War has been declared, and therefore the Great Laundry Wars did not draw to a close that day, only to a cease fire.
If you are at an event in the future, and you see such odd things as laundry hanging out to dry in an Army camp, you will know why.
You too, can fight in The Great Laundry Wars, and help save our nation, nay, our world and civilization from the horrors of dirty undergarments.
Thank you, and we hope you enjoyed our assumed first engagement of The Great Laundry Wars.