Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Wartime Wednesday: The Ruptured Duck

Wartime Wednesday: The Ruptured Duck

The Wright Museum of WWII where I volunteer as a docent and archivist has an entire display devoted to the “Ruptured Duck,” the nickname given to the Honorable Service Lapel button. Designed by Italian-American Anthony de Francisci, who designed several US coins and medals, the button was issued to eligible servicemen and women upon discharge between 1925 and 1946.

A cloth patch or “lozenge” was sewn onto the right breast of the dress uniform worn when the individual was being discharged. Except for times of metal shortages, the button was made of gilt brass and was to be worn on the left lapel of civilian clothing, indicating the individual was an honorably discharged veteran returning from service. This also allowed them to continue to wear their uniform for up to thirty days after discharge, indicating they were in transit and not AWOL, a help considering the clothing shortage at the time. Railroad, bus, and other transportation companies offered free or subsidized transportation to return veterans, so the patch/button acted as an identifier.

The original design from 1919 bore the flat image of the eagle as seen on the Presidential Seal, then
was changed in May 1943 after the Washington Conference (Code name Trident Conference) depicting an eagle in flight inside a wreath (as pictured). Unfortunately, many felt the eagle seemed to be bursting through the button as though “ruptured.” It apparently didn’t take long for the term “ruptured duck” to take hold. The colloquialism would later expand to refer to servicemen and women wearing the emblem as in “that ruptured duck is flying space-available.”

Not one really knows how the Ruptured Duck received its name, but there are two commonly heard renditions:

The unknown wife of an unknown Army Air Corps airman mockingly told her husband that the spread-eagled figure looked more like a "ruptured duck" than an eagle taking flight or fanning its wings.

Hedy Lamarr, who had recently escaped from Nazi Germany, was quoted as saying that her terrible and hazardous flight originated “on a “broken bird, the German word being literally translated into "Ruptured Duck." The term was picked up immediately by the movie-star-crazed female employees of the manufacturing plant that produced the "Duck" and labeled their shipping boxes "Ruptured Ducks", partly in commemoration of Ms. Lamarr's heroic flight, but mostly because it was common practice -- if not required policy -- during WW2 to label shipments destined for the war theater differently than their true contents so as to not inform enemy agents about the actual contents. Most feel that this myth was intentionally created by Louise B. Mayer. 

Whatever the truth, it’s been lost in the shadows of history.


Francine's Foibles

She's given up hope. He never had any. Will they find it together?

World War II is finally over, and America is extra grateful as the country approaches this year’s Thanksgiving. But for Francine life hasn’t changed. Despite working at Fort Meade processing the paperwork for the thousands of men who have returned home, she’s still lonely and very single. Is she destined for spinsterhood?

Grateful that his parents anglicized the family surname after emigrating to the United States after the Great War, first-generation German-American Ray Fisher has done all he can to hide his heritage. He managed to make it through this second “war to end all wars,” but what American woman would want to marry into a German family. Must he leave the country to find wedded bliss?

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1 comment:

  1. I found this info (about cloth ones) “ THE ORIGIN OF "THE RUPTURED DUCK" INSIGNIA

    The original Ruptured Duck was a cloth insignia depicting an eagle inside a wreath. It was worn on uniforms above the right breast pocket by WWII servicemen and women.

    It was issued to service personnel who were about to leave the military with an Honorable Discharge. It also allowed them to continue to wear their uniform for up to thirty days after they were discharged since there was a clothing shortage at that time. This showed the MP's that they were in transit and not AWOL. Well, the boys thought the eagle looked more like a duck; and, because it meant they were going home, the popular saying was, "They took off like a Ruptured Duck"...hence the nickname.”