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Tools of the Trade

DAYTON, Ohio - Evasion purses: 1) original French francs and carrying purse (marked "F" for use in France) issued by M.I.9 to American flyers through MIS-X. The money could be used by downed flyers to reward assistance or provide bribes. 2)The “FBD” on this map case indicates it covered France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. 3) The “N” on this evasion purse indicates it covered Norway and Sweden. 4) Aircrews did not open evasion kits unless they were to be used.  This one carried a map, a compass and a saw. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Evasion purses: 1) original French francs and carrying purse (marked "F" for use in France) issued by M.I.9 to American flyers through MIS-X. The money could be used by downed flyers to reward assistance or provide bribes. 2)The “FBD” on this map case indicates it covered France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. 3) The “N” on this evasion purse indicates it covered Norway and Sweden. 4) Aircrews did not open evasion kits unless they were to be used. This one carried a map, a compass and a saw. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - While flying missions over Europe, USAAF airmen carried photographs of themselves in civilian clothes, like this packet of seven carried by John Creamer.  If downed, they could be used by the Resistance to make false identity cards. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - While flying missions over Europe, USAAF airmen carried photographs of themselves in civilian clothes, like this packet of seven carried by John Creamer. If downed, they could be used by the Resistance to make false identity cards. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - This camera is one of 12 purchased by MIS-X to be sent covertly to German POWs to take photographs for false identification cards. Capt. John Bennett, a POW at Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Poland, received this particular camera in early 1944. This item is on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - This camera is one of 12 purchased by MIS-X to be sent covertly to German POWs to take photographs for false identification cards. Capt. John Bennett, a POW at Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Poland, received this particular camera in early 1944. This item is on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Flying boots were a telltale sign of an airman. Equipped with a knife in the bootstrap, these British-made boots appeared to be common walking shoes after the upper portion was cut off. This item is on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Flying boots were a telltale sign of an airman. Equipped with a knife in the bootstrap, these British-made boots appeared to be common walking shoes after the upper portion was cut off. This item is on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - William Lillie, a pilot in the 74th Fighter Squadron in the China-Burma-India Theater, carried this pointie talkie with nine languages: English, Chinese, Burmese, French, Annamese (Vietnamese), Thai, Shan, Lolo and Laotian. On Sept. 14, 1944, Homer Soden, a crewman on a B-17, carried these phrase cards on a long-range supply drop to Polish resistance fighters in Warsaw. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - William Lillie, a pilot in the 74th Fighter Squadron in the China-Burma-India Theater, carried this pointie talkie with nine languages: English, Chinese, Burmese, French, Annamese (Vietnamese), Thai, Shan, Lolo and Laotian. On Sept. 14, 1944, Homer Soden, a crewman on a B-17, carried these phrase cards on a long-range supply drop to Polish resistance fighters in Warsaw. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Fake guns, like these fake guns made by former USAAF POWs after the war, would look very convincing during a night escape. This crude wire cutter would help an escapee to get through the barbed wire that surrounded POW camps. These POW-made implements were not only useful as escape tools, but also as potential weapons. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Fake guns, like these fake guns made by former USAAF POWs after the war, would look very convincing during a night escape. This crude wire cutter would help an escapee to get through the barbed wire that surrounded POW camps. These POW-made implements were not only useful as escape tools, but also as potential weapons. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - British-made buttons carried by some USAAF airmen. One button was magnetized, and it pointed north when balanced on the pin of the other button. This pen clip compass pointed north when balanced on a pin or hung from a string. This compass, usually hidden in clothing, pointed north when balanced on a pin. This uniform button concealed a compass. To help prevent discovery by prison guards, the lid unscrewed in a clockwise direction. Some POWs made their own maps to be used after they escaped. Following a request from MIS-X, the U.S. Playing Card Company concealed sections of a complete map within individual cards, like the reproductions displayed here. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - British-made buttons carried by some USAAF airmen. One button was magnetized, and it pointed north when balanced on the pin of the other button. This pen clip compass pointed north when balanced on a pin or hung from a string. This compass, usually hidden in clothing, pointed north when balanced on a pin. This uniform button concealed a compass. To help prevent discovery by prison guards, the lid unscrewed in a clockwise direction. Some POWs made their own maps to be used after they escaped. Following a request from MIS-X, the U.S. Playing Card Company concealed sections of a complete map within individual cards, like the reproductions displayed here. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Early World War II escape map made of tissue. Ernest Tyndall, a P-47 pilot in the 19th Fighter Squadron, carried this silk escape map while flying missions from Saipan and Ie Shima in 1944-45. Kenneth Schmidt, an A-26 Invader gunner, carried this silk map of Holland, Belgium, France and Germany. This British manufactured escape map depicts the French road network. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Early World War II escape map made of tissue. Ernest Tyndall, a P-47 pilot in the 19th Fighter Squadron, carried this silk escape map while flying missions from Saipan and Ie Shima in 1944-45. Kenneth Schmidt, an A-26 Invader gunner, carried this silk map of Holland, Belgium, France and Germany. This British manufactured escape map depicts the French road network. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Early cloth blood chit from the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater. Although this hand-painted chit did not offer a reward, it carried the flag of Nationalist China for recognition and asked for help and protection. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Early cloth blood chit from the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater. Although this hand-painted chit did not offer a reward, it carried the flag of Nationalist China for recognition and asked for help and protection. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - This cotton-backed silk flag has Chinese characters that request help and protection. Ernest Tyndall, a P-47 pilot in the 19th Fighter Squadron, carried this rayon blood chit while flying missions from Saipan and Ie Shima in 1944-45. It states: "The American Air Force has come to China to help us in the war effort. Hope that our soldiers and civilians one and all will rescue, protect, and provide them with medical care."  S.C. Galbreath, a member of the 82nd Bomb Squadron in Thailand, carried this British-made paper and linen "Goolie chit," the British term for blood chit. Copy of British “Goolie Chit” carried by some USAAF airmen in the Middle East and North Africa. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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DAYTON, Ohio - This cotton-backed silk flag has Chinese characters that request help and protection. Ernest Tyndall, a P-47 pilot in the 19th Fighter Squadron, carried this rayon blood chit while flying missions from Saipan and Ie Shima in 1944-45. It states: "The American Air Force has come to China to help us in the war effort. Hope that our soldiers and civilians one and all will rescue, protect, and provide them with medical care." S.C. Galbreath, a member of the 82nd Bomb Squadron in Thailand, carried this British-made paper and linen "Goolie chit," the British term for blood chit. Copy of British “Goolie Chit” carried by some USAAF airmen in the Middle East and North Africa. These items are on display in the "Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II" exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

USAAF airmen were supplied with many tools to help them evade the enemy if they were downed or to escape from POW camps if they were captured. In addition to these, ingenious POWs made their own from material at hand.

Evasion Purses
Evasion purses were issued to aircrews before they flew over enemy territory. Custom-made for specific areas, they contained escape maps, compasses, local currency and escape saws.

Photographs for False IDs
While flying missions over Europe, USAAF airmen carried photographs of themselves in civilian clothes.

Pointie Talkies and Phrase Cards
These aids helped downed airmen communicate with local inhabitants. Airmen pointed to the words and phrases and followed instructions on pronunciation contained in a "pointie talkie" or on a phrase card.

Handmade POW Escape Tools
Some POWs fashioned ingenious escape tools from everyday items found in the camps.

Escape and Evasion Maps
Officially made escape maps have changed several times over the years, and the earliest maps were made of paper or tissue. During World War II, the most common types were silk or rayon.

Blood Chits
"I am an American...misfortune forces me to seek your assistance..."

Blood chits are documents that offer rewards to anyone who provides assistance to a downed flier. They also identify a flier's nationality and carry messages in several languages that request aid. Each blood chit is individually numbered to identify specific pilots. 

The first blood chits were used by British pilots in colonial police actions as early as 1917. The first Americans to carry blood chits served in the 14th Volunteer Bombardment Squadron in China during 1937-1938, while the best known blood chits were those used by the American Volunteer Group (or "Flying Tigers") in China during 1941-1942. 

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