Welcome back to “Karl’s Korner”!
While we are a few days from National Donut Day – June 7th – we are preparing aboard the USS Midway Museum with a fun Donut Day event in partnership with the Salvation Army.
For today’s post, I would like to share the origins of this fun day!
National Donut Day
On June 7, the 15th anniversary of our opening, the USS Midway Museum will partner with the Salvation Army to commemorate “National Donut Day,” a confectionary tradition that officially started in 1938, but actually dates to the First World War in 1917.
As in all other major U. S. conflicts, women contributed to the war effort a century ago, including a special role performed by Salvation Army members behind the front lines in France. The American Expeditionary Force (AEF) began arriving in France in 1917. Trench duty was naturally dangerous, and about as far removed from the comforts of home as any of the young AEF men experienced.
The Salvation Army received permission from the War Department to station its members close to the lines to provide morale-boosting assistance. This led to attempts to supplement military rations with more down-home treats.
Attached to the U. S. First Infantry Division, Salvation Army Ensigns Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon improvised a way to produce pastries from any ingredients and implements at hand. They used a wood-fired pot-bellied stove to heat lard in a shallow frypan. Pastry dough clumps concocted from rations and other foodstuffs were fried, seven at a time, and then coated with confectioner’s sugar.
Before long, the smell of freshly-fried donuts wafted from their shack at the rest area behind the trenches, drawing a crowd of more than 150 soldiers. The little confections were a hit to the men just back from the mud and muck of the trench line, and demand for the tasty treats soared.
Purviance and Sheldon got better at making the dough, and began using steel helmets to fry even more donuts. Before long, other improvisations like employing wine bottles and 75mm shell casings as rolling pins were adopted.
After a while, a mounting request for donuts with holes in the center led to ingenious adaptations of condensed milk tins and a local blacksmith’s contrivances to function as the requisite dough cutters. Fully equipped, teams of the famed “Donut Lassies” could turn out thousands of little sugary donuts a day.
Even the fury of German artillery bombardment did not deter the Lassies from turning out their little donuts, despite close calls from flying shell fragments. To this day, the Salvation Army Red Shield Clubs and the USO provide hospitable assistance to the armed services, including the ever-popular donut. Even on the Midway’s flight deck on June 7!
Launch em’… until next time,