Sunday, January 10, 2010

WWII Civil Defense Scout Messenger Armband

An item donated to the Unadilla Boy Scout Museum recently, a Civil Defense Scout Messenger Armband, got us thinking about how much Scouts were involved in war work during WWII. Scouts were called upon to distribute more than 1.6 million defense bonds and stamp posters; they began the collection of aluminum and waste paper. They conducted defense housing surveys, planted victory gardens, distributed air-raid posters, cooperated with the American Red Cross, and by an agreement with the Office of Civil Defense Mobilization, formed an Emergency Service Corps composed of older Scouts who served in three capacities: messengers, emergency medical unit assistants, and fire watchers.

Boy Scouts distributed thousands of posters to local merchants and civic buildings calling for scrap metals and other strategic materials collection, defense bond campaigns, air-raid awareness. They also served the war effort as auxiliary messengers, airplane spotters and volunteer firemen. (Boy Scouts of America photo)

To qualify as a messenger, one had to be 15 years or older, have parental permission and a good reference from their Scoutmaster, own a bicycle in good condition and possession a thorough knowledge of their community's streets. They had to be able to write in the dark. One of the perks for a Scout messenger was being excused from classes if an alert sounded during school hours. Scout messengers wore a Civil Defense armband like the one pictured here.

Messengers reported immediately to their sector headquarters to await orders. Periodically, a simulated raid would "destroy" the radio and phone communications systems that mandated the messengers pedaling their bikes all around town.

Supplementing the messengers was another division of volunteers, known as plane spotters who operated from the bell tower of a church or high school rooftop. It was their only function, identify and report any and all aircraft approaching the area. The only equipment they possessed to accomplish their mission was a pair of binoculars, a plane spotter's silhouette chart, and access to a telephone.

The Civil Defense Scout Messenger armband was donated to the Unadilla Scout Museum by Fred Schoen, Hobart, NY.

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