The Iconic Helmet
World War I Museum Now Home to Helmet Worn By Doughnut Lassies
April marked the one hundredth anniversary of the United States’ entrance into World War I. Proclaimed as the “war to end all wars,” the American soldier embarked around the world to secure liberty for our allies. In the 19 months soldiers from the United States fought to secure liberty for its allies, our troops suffered over 320,000 casualties. The troops found reprieve from the nightmare of war in Salvation Army tents.
Salvation Army lassies brought comfort to the front line by frying up doughnuts for the troops. The lassies ended up frying millions of doughnuts for the “doughboys.”
The lassies served at their own peril. The tents were often close to the front lines. Gunfire would fly overhead as they rolled out doughnuts. That’s why they wore the helmet.
In 1919 the people of Kansas City raised $2.5 million to create the National World War I Museum and Memorial. It housed many artifacts, but not a lassie helmet.
In April The Salvation Army and the museum hosted veterans and a group of donors known as the Light Brigade to salute the doughboys and the doughnut lassies. The Light Brigade announced its intent to make a planned gift for The Salvation Army’s benefit.
Mr. David Thomas, whose title is veteran navigator for The Salvation Army, addressed the group about his military experience and how he is a mentor for veterans to “get them the services they need and off the streets.” The Salvation Army initiative is made possible by a grant through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program, which assists low-income veteran families as they transition to permanent housing.
“Many soldiers don’t come home okay. There are problems and soldiers are proud,” he said. “Problems mount and many times the result is homelessness.”
In presenting an authentic helmet to the museum, Commissioner David Jeffrey, National Commander, shared with the group how then National Commander Evangeline Booth initiated the “Old Linen Campaign” to aid those affected by the war in Europe and started the war service league that fundraised and visited U.S. military camps. Because of her leadership doughboys received “camp kits” with toiletries not provided through standard issue.
“Evangeline placed at the President’s disposal the services of her disciplined army of 30,000 Salvationists.” Jeffrey described. “We operated 41 huts and hostels in the United States (for) U.S. servicemen in domestic camps and bases and 18 naval and military clubs in cities across the U.S. Evangeline Booth… borrowed $25,000… the equivalent of $463,000 today, and later another $100,000 to finance the Army’s work in France.” The National Commander explained how a call came to Evangeline Booth from the front lines for more women to “mother” the soldiers.
Museum curator Doran Cart related how Ensign Margaret Sheldon, arriving at the Western front with three other women of The Salvation Army, suggested that they bake something American. They didn’t have ovens, but they did have some grease, flour and sugar.
From that moment came the legacy of The Salvation Army’s contribution to World War I and the recognition of the doughnut lassie as a national treasure.
Chris DiMaso is campaign manager for the Kansas and Western Missouri Division.