f the World War II-era military uniforms on display at the Freeman Army Airfield Museum in Seymour, Pat Brod is especially proud of one.

The pristine, olive green, wool jacket with shiny brass buttons and matching pants adorn a blond, curly haired mannequin. The lapel insignia pins designate the uniform as that of a U.S. Army lieutenant flight nurse. On the mannequin’s head sits the traditional matching, wedge-shaped cap.

It is the type of uniform worn by Rosemary Clooney in the popular movie “White Christmas.”

A well-known poster featuring Rosie the Riveter, curling her bicep and declaring “We can do it!” hangs on the wall behind the display. It makes a fitting backdrop for the uniform, which once was worn by a woman who served her country tending to the medical needs of soldiers training for and fighting in the war.

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The authentic and rare nurse officer’s uniform is the latest addition to the museum’s WACs, WASPs and WAFs: Women Who Served exhibit, which includes memorabilia from local residents and women who served as pilots, nurses, instructors and in other capacities during the war.

In newly organized displays, the museum now showcases several examples of authentic World War II uniforms, including styles worn in the Pacific, cadet uniforms worn at Freeman Field and even a uniform that belonged to Capt. Richard Freeman, for whom the airfield is named.

Most of the uniforms are displayed on mannequins purchased with grant money from the Community Foundation of Jackson County.

The fact the nurse’s uniform may not have been worn by anyone at Freeman Field doesn’t diminish its importance and value to the museum, said Brod, who donated it and the mannequin on which it is displayed.

Bonnye Good, president of the museum board, said the donation is significant to the museum’s mission and purpose of educating the public on the airfield’s importance during the war and the role women played in it.

“The nurses were so important, and the groups of women that were here were so integral to the operations here at the field,” Good said. “But so many times, they were overlooked. So this is a huge benefit to the museum, and we’re very grateful for the donation.”

Brod, a former president of the museum board and current board member, bought the uniform in December on eBay.

She said finding a World War II nurse’s uniform in such great condition isn’t easy, and finding one that is affordable is nearly impossible.

Museum founder Ted Jordan, who recently died, and his brother, Mike Jordan, talked for years about getting such a uniform to display, Brod said.

“I think they had an aunt that was a nurse during the war, so they had wanted one for the museum for a long time,” she said.

Brod decided to go on eBay and look.

“There were some with papers and pictures that were authenticated, but they wanted $2,000 or more for them,” she said. “There were some that wanted $1,000, and then there was one that wanted just a couple of hundred dollars.”

So Brod placed her bid on the least-expensive one and waited for more than an hour, watching to see if anyone outbid her.

“It was the first time I had ever bought something on eBay. I was amazed that I got it,” she said. “But I really wanted it because they are so hard to find.”

The uniform also is unique in that instead of having a skirt, like most of the nurses wore, it has pants. Brod said she did find one for sale with a skirt, but it was in such poor condition that she didn’t think it was worth bidding on.

Brod said she has always been a little disappointed in the museum’s women’s exhibit because there just wasn’t much to it. That’s because memorabilia from women during that time isn’t easy to come by.

“Our exhibit is small because it’s hard to find memorabilia from these women because they got married, they changed their names, and they moved away,” she said. “There was one woman that I know of who came back, and I interviewed her and gave her a tour. But very few of them have.”

Just because the exhibit isn’t large doesn’t mean women weren’t important to the war effort, she added.

“We want them to get the recognition that they deserve,” she said. “World War II changed the world. Before that, very few married women rarely worked outside their home. They kept the country going while the men went off to war.”

Also included in the women’s display are items that belonged to Brod’s mother. She didn’t serve in the war, but Brod said it’s hard to find any items dating from that period.

Good said the community is lucky to have such a resource as the airfield museum and invites anyone doing research to come visit. Exhibits are continually added to, she said.

“We would love if someone was working on a thesis or dissertation or even a high school research paper and wanted to come out here and look through our files,” she said. “There are some ideal things here to research.”

Museum curator Larry Bothe said much work has taken place at the museum over the years, including redoing the restrooms and making both the museum and the annex building handicapped accessible. He, Good and other board members also have worked tirelessly to reorganize the museum and make it more user-friendly.

“We’ve made signs for everything explaining what each item is to help people know what they are looking at,” he said.

The museum features several exhibits and many artifacts focusing on different aspects of Freeman Army Airfield, from personal belongings to a collection of photos and papers about the Tuskegee Airmen, whose brief time at the base led to the desegregation of the U.S. military.

During the war, the airfield served as a training facility for multiengine pilots; and afterward, it became an evaluation center for foreign aircraft. Both times are represented at the museum. Civilians who contributed to the war effort also are represented and honored at the museum.

The museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays and is available for tours by appointment.

Bothe said the board is now concentrating on community outreach and increasing the number of tours and visitors the museum receives.

“We want to get the community to come,” he said. “We are flexible when it comes to field trips for schools, home-school groups, nursing homes or other groups.”

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What: Freeman Army Airfield Museum

Location: 1035 A Ave., Freeman Field, Seymour

Hours: 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays and by appointment for guided tours

Information: To schedule a tour of the museum, to volunteer or to make a donation, contact Bonnye Good at 812-522-2031 or [email protected] or Larry Bothe at 812-521-7400 or [email protected]. All donations of money or items are tax-deductible as the museum is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

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“The nurses were so important, and the groups of women that were here were so integral to the operations here at the field. But so many times, they were overlooked.”

Bonnye Good, president of the Freeman Army Airfield Museum board


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