In the Service of Our Country: The History of the United States Service Flag, by Jerry E. Dutscheck (ISBN: 978-1943492787, Elm Grove Publishing, available through Amazon or militarycollectorshq.com. Hard cover, 2020, 348 pages, illustrated throughout, $79.95)
In March 1917, Captain Robert Quiessier of the Machine Gun Company, 5th Ohio Infantry had recently returned from duty along the U.S./Mexico border only to wind up in a hospital bed recovering from an automobile accident during training near Fort Wayne, Indiana. Capt. Quiessier’s injuries were such that he was forced to muster out of service.
His two sons, however, were still serving as officers in the National Guard. And, as most could see, the United States was about to become embroiled in a European war that had raged for the last two and a half years.
Unable to partake in the hostilities but still wanting to show pride in his sons serving overseas — and anticipating that other families would too — the retired and recuperating officer designed a white flag with a thick red border and affixed a blue star for each son serving in the military.
After the US declared war on Germany and her allies on April 6, 1917, Quiessier patented his design (something that would cause great controversy later in 1917). He suggested the City of East Cleveland use and distribute the flag to the families of service members. The idea then spread to Cleveland, the entire State of Ohio, and eventually across the country.
In the Service of Our Country is the first text to focus exclusively on service flags made during World War I and World War II. Intended as Volume One of a two-volume set, this book focuses on the flags used on the home front during the two world wars. In addition, it briefly discusses usage during the Korean War, the non-usage during Vietnam and the slow re-emergence beginning in the 1990s into present day. Volume two (yet to be published) will focus on other home front flags such as “Ship Building, Factory Production Liberty Loan, War Bond, Army/Navy E award flags and more.”
Author Jerry Dutscheck spent a lifetime collecting and researching these items and created a truly remarkable book about the subject. Dutscheck walks the reader through the initial development and then broadens to include variations of the Quiessier design, variations in symbols used on the flags (more than just the blue and gold stars that we commonly think of), flags designed by other enterprising companies and individuals, those designating branch of service, corps (artillery, machine gun, infantry, tank, chemical, air) and much, much more.
Published by Elm Grove Publishing in 2020, In the Service of Our Country is a nearly 350-page hard cover book of the quality one would expect from a solid reference book. The book is largely photographic in nature with only the rarest of home front flags not illustrated in crisp, clear color photographs.
The book is organized to include a brief introduction or description of the flags found in each section and then provides a short description in the caption near the photo. The author scoured historical sources to find many examples of proud service men and women in uniform standing next to their stars in windows and on doors, and parents fretfully awaiting the return of their loved ones from “Over There.” Most gut-wrenching, though, are the photographs of parents who have covered a child’s blue star with gold.
Dutscheck has done for future service flag collectors what M.H. Cole did for knife and bayonet collectors 50 years ago. He has provided accurate, reliable information in a published source that future collectors and researchers can use and expand upon. In the Service of Our Country provides a wealth of knowledge to the serious collectors of the subject as well as to those of us who use (or wish to use) home front service flags to add flavor to our home museums. — Ryan Roth.
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