"We have some nice surprises," says Fannie Welsh, who is putting the exhibit together. "We're fortunate: Lou Emmick, who served in World War II will be here Friday night. And he's contributed various special things, including a World War II flight suit that Emmick brought home from the Philippines. It is leather, lined with sheep skin to provide warmth in the unheated war planes. Welsh says she hopes to display a World War II Navy uniform and some pictures of World War II WACs (Women's Army Corp)."
All American wars through 1945 are covered, including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil Way, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II.
"There was a little skirmish in 1914 in Vera Cruz, and I found an article about that," Welsh says. "A fellow named Charles Jacobs, from Ludlowville, was there. He told how they just ravaged the place. The Americans really made a mess of Mexico in the Mexican-American War. They were not very pleasant."
A thirteen-star American flag will be on display as well as a unique Japanese flag signed by friends of a Kamikaze pilot. The flag was brought home by Lansing serviceman John Smith after he found it folded inside the helment of a Japanese soldier. It is similar to a flag signed by well-wishers at a farewell party for Kamikaze Hachiro Sasaki, whose memoir Bement quotes from. In his final diary entry he wrote, "I throw myself on the eternal flow of history. I shall prove my quintessence." The collection also includes a Nazi flag, but it will not be on display.
"It isn't the German flag," Lansing Town Historian Louise Bement explains. "It's something that I can't touch. I couldn't go near it. But the Japanese flag is a national flag, and it's a whole different concept."
Welsh says a lot of Lansing women worked in defense plants during World War II, including the Ithaca Gun Company and the Smith Corona plant in Groton.
"My mom worked at Smith Corona in Groton ten hours a night in the planing room," Welsh says. "I remember going there when my brother was killed in World War II. The taxi driver came with a telegram, and my Dad said 'We've got to go get your mother.' it was all fenced in with barbed wire at the top. The guard let us in. I have never forgotten that."
Welch, Bement, Kathy Lalonde, Jeanne Bishop and Phillis Howell have waded through a wealth of materials, including thousands of pictures, newspaper articles and artifacts.
"I found things I didn't know we had," Welsh says. "I opened an old canvas box that says 'newspapers' on it. I opened it and on the top was an Ithaca Journal from November 11th, 1918, in great shape. We have newspapers from 1945. We have a newspaper from Armistice Day, and one from the Spanish American War when they blew up the USS Maine."
Welsh used Lansing's Norm Wheeler's book of soldiers from all the wars who are buried in Lansing, as well as Ancestry.com to learn more about where Lansing soldiers served, what battalions they were part of, and other tidbits.
"It has been a lot of fun going through things," she says. "I opened one drawer and saw a rolled-up paper. It was a front page about the Spanish American War."
"I've been Town historian since 1981 and I've been collecting," Bement says. "But our former town historians and Lansing historians have left us such wonderful archives. We've been going through things that I haven't had time to look at before. We've found such marvelous things."
'Defenders of our Freedom, 1775 to 1945' will be on display in the Town Historical Records building starting with the ESFOTA opening May 12 from 6pm to 9pm, and will be opened Wednesdays from 8-8 pm and Saturdays from 10am to noon through May and June. It will feature pictures, clothing, artifacts, newspapers, a Civil War letter, telegrams, V-Mail, ration coupons, and draft cards.