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Flags/Dad's WWII 48 star flag


When my aunt recently passed, my uncle came across the 48 star WWII flag my dad was given and brought home to his mother around 1948. When grandma passed, my aunt saved it for my dad, but it was packed away for years and I'm sure he forgot about its existence. He passed several years ago and there is no one left to ask about it. He was in the Army in Japan after the main conflict ended as an MP and was a PFC.  I have done as much research as I can and want to know if there is anything you can share.  Details:  5 feet x 9 feet
48 stars in evenly spaced rows (not staggered) of 8 across and 6 down
Wool (supple, not stiff)but maybe it is wool/cotton blend?
Double-sided design
Separately stitched stripes
Individually applied machine zigzag stitched stars made from cotton (machine stitching the stars was common by the 1920s)
Not sure whether linen or cotton stitching thread
The canton (blue field) is 7 stripes deep, resting on a white stripe
2 heavy canvas header with no grommets and no sleeve (not for use on pole and not for hanging)
Great overall condition but some small moth holes in various spots
I think it is a casket flag
Just verified the above on it is a casket flag:  
Q: I have a 48-star U.S. flag that measures 5x9 . Why is this flag so long?
A: Many 48-star flags were manufactured before, during and after World War II. These flags were usually made from either cotton or a cotton-wool blend. Some of the flags are casket flags, meaning that they measure 5x9 instead of 5x8. These flags are made to be placed on a casket during a funeral.
No manufacturer name, logo or mark is found on it.  

I'd like to know why he might have been given this flag. I want to preserve it. I have a place I could display it but wonder if it's safer to have professionally cleaned and store folded in a case. Also thought about donating to a museum but don't think it's rare at all.  Your feedback is appreciated.

I can only speculate why your dad was given the flag. He may have been working with graves registration at one point and received the flag because it was surplus or as a gift. That's a guess, though.

Before you have it cleaned, you should check with a history museum about the best way to go about it. They also might give you advice on how to display it--and they may want it for their collection.  


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Marc Leepson


I can answer questions about nearly every aspect of the American flag, especially its history. I cannot answer questions about other flags, such as state flags and the flags of other nations.


I am the author of the book Flag: An American Biography, the history of the Stars and Stripes from the beginnings to today. (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2005).

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Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune. Magazines: Smithsonian, Preservation, Civil War Times, The VVA Veteran, Vietnam, World War II, Military History

BA, History, George Washington University, 1967 MA, European History, George Washington, University, 1971

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