The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 8, February 24, 2008, Article 37


Tom Kays writes: Are any E-Sylum readers familiar with
'Torpedo Club' bills?  Margaret Bourke-White, a photographer
and survivor of a torpedo attack during World War II was
rescued near the coast of Africa after fourteen days in a
life boat.  As she first walks the deck of a destroyer
after rescue she recounts:

 Then everyone began fishing in his pockets...I found I
 still had my Short-Snorter bill.  Anyone who has flown
 across an ocean is entitled to carry a signed dollar bill
 indicating membership in the Short-Snorters.

 When a Short-Snorter can catch another member without his
 bill he is entitled to collect a dollar fine.  In the six
 months since my initiation, my bill has been signed by
 Generals Spaatz, Clark and Doolittle, Prince Bernhard and
 Eddie Rickenbacker.  I looked up to see WAAC Ruth Briggs
 from Westerly, R.I., one of the first five WAACS sent on
 overseas service.  I knew these five WAACs were members,
 having been sent over by Clipper.  "Do you have your
 Short-Snorter bill?" I shouted.  "Bet your sweet life,"
 said Lieutenant [now Captain] Briggs.  So on the deck of
 the destroyer we signed each other's bills.  Most of us
 carried the special currency issued on board the troopship
 by the British military authorities, to be used in North
 Africa where regular British and American currency is kept
 out of circulation so it can't find its way into enemy hands.

 We decided that a new organization, even more exclusive
 than the Short-Snorters, should be formed - the Torpedo Club.
 Membership bills would consist of ten-shilling notes of
 the military currency.  Only people who had been torpedoed
 would be permitted to join.  One of the WAACs started my
 bill by lettering on the top, "Property of Torpedo Peggy,"
 meaning me, and we went around exchanging signatures."

- from The 100 Best True Stories of World War II, New York,
Wm. H. Wise & Co, Inc., 1945, Acknowledgements: Women in
Lifeboats by Margaret Bourke-White, (LIFE, Copyright by
TIME, Inc.)

[Bourke-White was an amazing person, as shown by the below
excerpts from her Wikipedia biography.  -Editor]

Bourke-White was the first female war correspondent and
the first woman to be allowed to work in combat zones
during World War II. In 1941, she traveled to the Soviet
Union just as Germany broke its pact of non-aggression.
She was the only foreign photographer in Moscow when German
forces invaded. Taking refuge in the U.S. Embassy, she
then captured the ensuing firestorms on camera.

As the war progressed, she was attached to the U.S. army
air force in North Africa, then to the U.S. Army in Italy
and later Germany. She repeatedly came under fire in Italy
in areas of fierce fighting.

"The woman who had been torpedoed in the Mediterranean,
strafed by the Luftwaffe, stranded on an Arctic island,
bombarded in Moscow, and pulled out of the Chesapeake
when her chopper crashed, was known to the Life staff as
'Maggie the Indestructible.'"[6]

In the spring of 1945, she traveled through a collapsing
Germany with General George S. Patton. In this period,
she arrived at Buchenwald, the notorious concentration
camp. She is quoted as saying, "Using a camera was almost
a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between myself
and the horror in front of me." After the war, she produced
a book entitled Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly, a project
that helped her come to grips with the brutality she had
witnessed during and after the war.

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

[Her papers are archived at Syracuse University. I submitted
an information request to see if her Torpedo Club note
resides in their archive.  Their reply is below. -Editor]

"Thank you for contacting the Special Collections Research
Center at Syracuse University Library regarding your inquiry.
We have Margaret Bourke-White's Short Snorter dollar bill,
but not the Torpedo Club bill. If you wish to come to Syracuse
to see this item, you are welcome to do so."

[The library will make photocopies or digital scans for
researchers and authors.  -Editor]

For an inventory of the Bourke-White Papers at Syracuse University, see:
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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