Posts Tagged 'World War II'

From the Collection: Military Currency: It’s a Small World After All

by Ashely Houston, Museum Coordinator

As the months pass by and we get closer to the opening of the new museum, the collections staff has been hard at work behind-the-scenes making preparations for the big move. It has been an exciting opportunity for the collections department because we have been able to take the time to do a thorough examination of the objects in our collection. These objects, stored carefully on shelves and in cabinets, have so much history behind them. Each and every one of them is getting their chance to jump out at us and demand our attention. Most recently, some paper currency caught our eyes.

The museum has a small collection of bills from around the world. What struck me as I was going through these was the blending of cultures represented on different bills. Take this one for example: “The Japanese Government- One Peso.”

If it’s a Japanese bill, why is it written in English? And why is it a Peso instead of Yen or another form of Japanese currency?

Other bills led to similar questions. “Italy 1 Lira?” Why isn’t it in Italian?

A little research revealed that the answer has to do with war. During World War II, an occupying military force would often print and circulate their own money in the area they were controlling. This money could be used alongside the occupied-country’s existing currency. Doing this allowed the military to pay their troops in currency they could use locally, pay the occupied territory for supplies and other services, and ultimately  manipulate the economy. In the case of the Japanese Government Pesos, this money was issued by Japan and used in the Philippines. Due to hyperinflation in the Philippines, though, the money was nearly worthless and was deemed “Mickey Mouse” money.

It might seem a little strange to have money that was issued by one country and used in another to end up in our locally-focused museum. However, the great thing about this currency is that it represents how war reaches people around the world, including those who lived right here in Fort Collins and brought it back after serving oversees.

One Veteran Remembered

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education

The Museum published a booklet, The Excavation of Lindenmeier, earlier this year. I researched the section on the “camp life” of the young men that worked on the Smithsonian-led excavations in the 1930s. Most of those young men, in their twenties when they worked on the site, also served in World War II: Jim Greenacre, John Cotter, Charles “Chili” Scoggin, and C.T.R. Bohannon, to name just a few.

Bohannon had an intriguing military career. Remember by Cotter (who received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the landing at Normandy) as a “real long rifle” and “Western toughie,” Bohannon was an officer who survived the Bataan Death March in the Philippines.

Prior to World War II, the Philippines were American-controlled. The Japanese invaded the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just 10 hours after the attacking Pearl Harbor, and occupied the country from 1942–1945.

The Japanese aerial bombardment had damaged the American Asiatic Fleet, forcing General MacArthur to retreat. Reinforcements and resupply were impossible given the condition of the fleet there and in Pearl Harbor, leaving the American and Filipino defenders vulnerable and without needed supplies.

After the three-month Battle of Bataan, the remaining American and Filipino defenders surrendered on April 9, 1942. The Japanese forced 76,000 prisoners of war on a 61-mile march to relocate them. Many of these defenders were sick and starving.

The Bataan Death March is recognized as a crime of war. It lasted a week, with the captives forced to march continuously in the tropical heat. An estimated 7,000-10,000 people died on the March, and many thousands more died from the effects of the march while held in prisoner of war camps in San Fernando. Survivors of the March recount horrors that are stomach turning. I often wonder about the fortitude and courage required of “Bo,” as he was known, to survive that torture. I also am awed that he managed to escape the Japanese and join forces with native Filipinos to fight behind the lines against the Japanese.

After his experiences in the Philippines, Bohannon went on to become an expert in guerilla and counter-guerilla warfare for the U.S. Military. He co-wrote a book with Napoleon D. Valeriano in 1962 entitled Counter-Guerrilla Operations: The Philippine Experience. That book was reprinted in 2006 and is still used in military training.

Today, please remember to thank a vet. It’s difficult sometimes to imagine what they have been through to protect freedom.


August 2022
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