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Americans are often moved to produce homemade flags in celebration of America and the patriotism that stirs during great events.  Yet as far as I know, only in the case of World War II liberation from Nazi Germany have a broad population of non-Americans been stirred in great numbers to produce American flags as a demonstration of their heartfelt appreciation and respect for the American people.  Collectively, these flags are among the most unique and beautiful of any genre of American flags.  Their make-do attributes are nearly limitless. A lack of specific knowledge about the flag itself, a lack of time, and a lack of suitable materials in an utterly devastated region, combine to result in a collection of flags where nearly every example is unique and rare.

Below are some examples of World War II liberation flags highlighting their uniqueness, beauty and historical significance.  Many of these flags were located and originally acquired by friend and long time American flag collector Bruce Smith, for whom this important sub-collection of the Rare Flags Collection is named.  It is the finest collection of these important flags ever assembled.
 


12 Six-Pointed Stars, Neufchâteau, Vosges, France.  This beautiful liberation flag of 12 stars and 11 stripes is visually striking with many rare traits such as the use of six-pointed stars, the canton resting on the red "blood" stripe, the use of white stripes as the first and last stripes of the flag, a slight swallow-tail form, and a banner staff and cord so the flag could be hung vertically. The seller of the flag relayed this story, from the man from which they acquired the flag:  "He tells me that the flag comes from the town of Neufchâteau in the Vosges where he used to live. [It] belonged to a well off family in town and during the war in 1944-45 after the liberation of the region there was a column of German soldiers which came up the Rhone Valley and passed through the town. When the Germans saw the liberation flags hanging from the windows they stopped and rounded up everyone who had a flag and put them in the town plaza to shoot them but that since the Americans were not far they decided to run off fast instead. I asked him about the 6 stars and he told me that since the French weren't always sure how many stars the American flag had they would just use the space they had."

48 Stars, Pont Aven, Bretagne, France.  This flag of 48 six-pointed stars was found in Pont Aven, France, which is located in Bretagne, not far from Normandy, France.  The original owner of the flag indicated that the flag was inspired by the liberation of Pont-l'Abbe in Normandy.  The canton of the flag is made of silk, with small six-pointed cotton stars sewn hand sewn to the canton.  The stripes are machine sewn and appear to be made of either nylon or rayon.  A wiry metallic bullion fringe surrounds the flag, and is likely repurposed upholstery or curtain trim.  The flag has a sleeve hoist and the canton is inset into the third white stripe, nearly resting on the red "blood" stripe.  American flags with stars having other than five points are very rare.

48 Stars, Sarralbe, France.  The women who made this flag did so at the risk of their own lives.  The story of this wonderful flag is best told in the words of the Frenchman who discovered it in France in 2010:  "Hello I found the flag in the attic office in an old factory, when i've bough this. I went to see a very old lady who worked in these offices at the war. she told me that the women have sewn about 10 desktop flags when she heard spoken of the D day. Factory and offices was occupied by Nazi and had to use a lot of cunning to avoid being catch. This offenses were punishable by death. She had sewn into the attic on a sewing machine peugeot 1880's which is very rare that I possess again. They were made to Sarralbe town."  The flag is one of the few I am aware of constructed of white stripes sewn onto a red field to produce the stripes.  Allied armies liberated Sarralbe, France in the first week of December, 1944.
 

48 Stars, Saône, France.   This homemade flag of 48 stars from Saône , France, is single-sided with its white stripes sewn atop a single piece of red fabric.  The stars of the flag are painted with white paint.  The top row of stars points to 12 o'clock, but the stars of all rows below it point to the 11 o'clock position.  Allied armies liberated the Haute-Saône area of France between September 9, 1944 and November 25, 1944.

41 Stars and 9 Stripes, Saône, France.  This flag of 41 stars was located, along with the 48 star flag listed immediately above, in Saône, France. It has exceptional folk qualities, including an unusual and rare star count, single-applique stars, just nine stripes of uneven sizes, squarish proportions, hand stitching throughout and a canton that rests on the red "blood" stripe.  Click here to read more about this flag.  Allied armies liberated the Haute-Saône area of France between September 9, 1944 and November 25, 1944.


48 Stars, Calais, France.
   This small flag of 48 Stars was found near Calais, France.  It is single-sided and made from a single red and white striped piece of upholstery fabric.  The parade flag features a blue oil-based paint canton with white pressed stars.  The maker affixed the flag to a broken wooden dowel and press-painted the white stars, some of which are completely circular from an excess of paint.  Allied armies liberated Calais, France on September 28, 1944.

48 Stars, Charleroi, Belgium.  This is the first liberation flag that I've encountered that was made in Belgium.  The flag is made of cotton and is entirely machine stitched.  Its 48 stars and 13 stripes are historically accurate for the period.  The 48 stars on each side are hand cut and sewn back to back, in double appliqué construction, using a lineal stitch.  The flag is relatively small, being less than 2 feet long, demonstrating the experience of the seamstress is evident.  Allied armies liberated Charleroi, France on September 3, 1944.

12 Stars, Baccarat, Lorraine, France.  This beautiful liberation flag features just 12 stars, each having six points.  The canton of the flag rests on the red war stripe, and the columns and rows of the flag are staggered, giving it a unique twinkling effect.  The flag is made of pieced cotton fabric.


15 Stars, Pacific Theater.  Of the few liberation flags that I'm aware of, this is the only I've ever encountered from the Pacific Theater.  Returned from Japan at the end of World War II in the footlocker of Mr. Martin Moder of House Springs, Missouri, the flag remained in Martin's footlocker in a barn in House Springs for more than 50 years until it was removed for safe keeping by his family in 1998.  The whimsical rectangular stars, unusual star and stripe counts, machine stitching, and the fact that the reverse side is the finished side of the flag, are all indications that this flag was made by foreign hands--a person familiar with the American flag in style but not in detail-as a liberation flag.  Most likely, Martin acquired the flag in the Philippines or another location where Americans liberated the population from the Japanese.  An extraordinarily rare flag of unique style and form.

49 Stars, Saint Samsom de Bonfosse, Normandy, France.  This large homemade flag features 49 hand embroidered stars sewn from a relatively thick string, rather than a thin thread.  The design of its embroidered stars is unique in my experience and the result is an almost floral appearance to each star.  The flag also has sewn ties along its hoist, a trait often seen on flags made for military use.  The canton of the flag sits on the red war stripe, yet another rare trait in an American flag.


48 Stars, Lorraine, France.  This liberation flag from the Lorraine region of France has 48 stars sewn with a blue thread.  The red fabric used for the stripes was not color-fast, and exposure to the elements caused the color to bleed, giving the flag a pinkish hue.


48 Stars, Flammerans, France.  This hastily made liberation flag has a canton that is barely hanging onto the body of the flag.  The stars are painted in white, and the flag itself is single-sided, with the white stripes sewn onto a single piece of red fabric. Remnants of rusted tack holes can be seen along the hoist end of the flag.  Note that the canton rests on the red war stripe.


48 Stars, Franche-Comte, France.  Single-sided and with cotton stars affixed only by stitches in the center of each star, this flag of 48 stars was made in the Franche-Comte region of France in the eastern part of the country, near the German border.  The canton of the flag rests on the red war stripe of the flag.


48 Stars, European Theater, World War II.  Though the specific history of this liberation flag has been lost, it was first acquired from the estate of a World War II veteran.  Its construction is consistent with liberation flags from the European theater of World War II, likely France.  American veterans of the war were given flags by admiring crowds as they passed through France on their way to Germany, and some of these were kept by American GI's and brought home, where they occasionally surface along with other mementos of the war in their personal belongings.


48 Stars, Mâcon /Saône-et-Loire, France.  This faded 48 star flag features whimsical hand cut flags that are glued onto the canton.  The red fabric of the flag is made of an unusual brocade patterned fabric and was likely some sort of fabric used for drapes or other home goods.  The flag is still attached by tacks to its original wooden half-dowel from which it originally hung.


48 Stars, Vicq-sur-Nahon, Indre, France.  The person who originally acquired this charming flag purchased it from the family of its original owner. "I bought this flag in a very small village called Vicq-sur-Nahon which is in the French Department called the Indre. It had been found in the house of an old lady who had died. The person I bought it from (her grandson I think) called it her Liberation flag."


 

48 Stars American Flag and British Union Jack, Orléans, France.  This 48 Star American Flag and British Union Jack are a rare matched pair of liberation flags found in Orléans, France.  Both flags are constructed of similar polished cotton fabric.  The white stars of the American flag are painted.  Both are single-sided, and both designed to be hung as banners. They are tacked with brad tacks to a wooden rail on the top and a painted piece of wood trim on the bottom. On the top rail, U tacks are hammered into the corners for hanging.  Allied forces liberated Orléans, France in August, 1944.


16 Stars and 15 Stripes, St. Aubin De Blaye, Bordeaux, France.  This single-sided liberation flag features sixteen bold stars and fifteen stripes of various widths.  The fabric used for the red stripes of the flag is floral brocade.  The use of patterned fabrics to make the stripes of American flags is extremely rare.  I am aware of only one other American flag with this unusual trait.  This particular flag also has a mate, a British Union Jack, also made with the same brocade patterned red fabric.


20 Star American Flag and British Union Jack, Paris, France.  This grouping was located by an American in an antiques shop in Paris.  Though it's unclear where the flags originated from, they may well have come from Paris or the surrounding region.  The stars on the American flag are painted, and faint tracings of the star pattern can still be seen where the creator of the flags planned out the pattern.  Both flags are machine sewn, with small tabs stitched to the corners for hanging.


25 Stars and 15 Stripes American Flag, British Union Jack and French Tricolor, Rhone-Alpes, France.  These flags were discovered in the Rhone-Alpes region of France.  All three flags are made from the same cotton materials, including a red fabric with a woven striped pattern.  The silken thread used to sew the flags is lustrous, and the maker accented the red stripes of the American Flag and Union Jack with red ink.  The French Tricolor is slightly larger than the American Flag and Union Jack, and a stitched seam running through the white of the Tricolor is evidence that the fabric used was recycled from perhaps a dress or some home goods. The 25 stars of the American Flag are simple crosshatch in the shape of an X, and the canton of the flag sits on the red "blood stripe".  Allied forces liberated Lyon, France, the capital of the Rhone-Alpes region, on September 3, 1944.


48 Star American Flag, British Union Jack, French Tricolor, and Russian Hammer and Sickle, Set of Four Liberation Flags, Autrans, France.  This is the only set of four allied liberation flags that I am aware of.  The grouping was made by the same hand, of the same fabric, and each of the flags is affixed to their own blue painted sticks.  The stars on the American flag are painted in a silver metallic paint.  The blue fabric is a velvet material.  The hammer, sickle and star on the Russian flag are made of a reflective material and they are glued to the red fabric of the flag.  The grouping, which represents the four major allies fighting against the Germans during World War II, is a reminder that the world had not yet understood or anticipated the future Cold War that was soon to begin.


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