by Jen Nason
Museum Textile Services had the honor of working on a large WWII flag with a magnificent history. Hanging in our studio for several months was the first Nazi flag ever captured by US forces. It was captured in Axis-occupied Casablanca, Morocco, on November 11th, 1942, and given to American General George Patton for his birthday on the same date.
Apart from the movie Casablanca we had never before heard reference to the Nazi presence in North Africa, so we decided to take a history lesson. On November 8th, 1942, an attack, named Operation Torch, was initiated in French northern Africa. It was the first time that American and British forces jointly planned an invasion together.
There were three proposed points of attack: Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers. Each location was allocated its own task force. Casablanca was under the Western Task Force, commanded by General George Patton; Oran was under the Central Task Force, and Algiers was under the Eastern Task Force. Each task force was met by Axis resistance, however, all succeeded in capturing the important cities of French northern Africa within a few days time. The Allies claimed victory on November 18th, 1942.
The Allied victory gave them the strength and confidence to stage other invasions in Axis Sicily and Italy in 1943. It was through these campaigns that gained the Allies even more confidence and strength. With their new and improved assets, the Allies went in on to defeat the Axis powers in 1945.
It has been amazing to have such an important and daunting piece of history here at Museum Textile Services. Numerous clients, and even our UPS delivery man, received the verbal warning before entering the studio that we were working on a potentially disturbing artifact. Some were conflicted and others downright awed, but all gained a new appreciation for the complicated role a conservator plays in protecting history.
Stay tuned for the next blog about the conservation techniques we developed especially for this flag.