Date of this Version
Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
“Dad always said that ‘It’s made out of Australian wool,’ and I thought that was just a joke because you couldn’t see how the Japanese would get hold of Australian wool during the war…. But it is a fine material…. They weren’t scrapping for something to wear.” —Wally Lanagan
In December 1942, the Yokosuka Military Department manufactured, surely among hundreds of others, a flying suit, which may or may not have ever been worn by a Japanese pilot. It did, however, end up on display at the Pioneer Park Museum in Dalby, a small town in rural Queensland, Australia. It was lent to the museum in the early 2000s by the nephew of the Australian soldier who brought it home as a souvenir at the end of World War II.
There it rested, until the authors noticed it in May 2019. Through the dusty glass of the display the suit had an odd sheen—was it wool? cotton? A blend? An inquiry to the caretaker led to unlocking the case, and the discovery that the fabric was indeed a blend—but of rayon and wool. Another inquiry led to the lender, and the intriguing story of its arrival in Dalby and its place in a complex family history.
And to the quotation at the top of this page…. And thence to the National Archives of Australia, to search the records of the textile trade between Australia and Japan in the years between the two world wars.
This paper highlights a digital media interactive that melds a 3-D scan of the suit with relevant documents, images, and text. It explores how this one garment embodies both decades of international bickering over resources, natural and man-made, and a transitional moment in the fabrics of war.