The Allied Airman's "Escape Purse"
Before setting out on a mission during the Combined Allied
Air Offensive against Festung Europa,
Allied airmen were regularly issued an “escape kit,: which included standard
“escape and evasion” items, such as a pistol, a compass, a map printed on silk,
and a phrase book appropriate to the areas over which airman was to be
flying. It also included an “escape
For airmen operating in northwestern Europe,
that is, out of Britain
on missions over the occupied territories of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and
on into Germany,
two different escape purses were issued, designated by color.
|Red ||2,000 French francs|
|Yellow || 1,000 French and 350 Belgian francs, plus 20 Dutch guilders|
In terms of purchasing power, the Red purse was worth about
400 Reischsmarks at the official
exchange rate, roughly $160, and the Yellow about RM 375, or some $150, substantial sums by the standards of
1943-1944, easily equal to $1,800-$3,500 today .
The Papal-Perugian Salt War, 1540-1541
For centuries after the collapse of Byzantine power in Italy in the
eighth century, the Umbrian city of Perugia
was legally a dependency of the papacy.
But papal authority waxed and waned, and at times the city was virtually
Like many Italian cities, Perugia had a pretty homicidal domestic
political life, with the great families indulging in frequent assassination,
murder, and massacre. By the onset of
the sixteenth century this struggle culminated in the primacy of the Baglioni,
a family so blood-thirsty
that when not slaughtering their enemies they did away with each other,
culminating in the “Wedding of Blood” in
July of 1500, when one faction of the family took advantage of the marriage of
the head of a rival faction to massacre him and virtually all his close
kin. By 1532 the place was under the
control of Rodolfo Baglioni (1512-1554).
A typical representative of his family, Rodolfo had been a condottiero with his own command since
he was about 17, and gained power in the city through a coup in 1533 that had the blessings of Pope Clement VII.
Clement died in 1534, the new pope, Paul III (r. 1534-1549),
found Rodolfo a recalcitrant vassal, and after the man had a papal legate
murdered, ousted him from Perugia at the end of the following year, restoring
to the city its ancient liberties, within the framework of papal
Now this was the era of the Franco-Spanish "Italian
Wars," of which there were eight in all covering about 35 of the years
between 1494 and 1559. While
generally prevailed, the French proved slow learners. Naturally these wars put quite a strain on
Italian states and rulers. When Paul
came to the papacy, the church's finances were in dire straits, so in 1538 he
imposed a tax on salt in the papal dominions.
Most of the papal dependencies protested, citing legal precedents
reaching back into the dimmest ages; Perugia,
for example, claimed exemption under agreements made in 1379 and 1424. In March of 1539 Paul put Perugia and several other uncooperative
cities under the interdict, that is, he barred the clergy from celebrating mass
or administering the sacraments. This
brought most of the states to heel. But
The Perugians restored Rodolfo to power and continued to
defy the pope. So in March of 1540, Pope
Paul levied an excommunication on Rodolfo and the city itself. Meanwhile, he had mobilized an army under the
command of his son Pier Luigi Farnese (1503-1547), the "Captain General of
the Church," who had been soldiering since first taking up arms at the age
Early in April Farnese invaded Perugian territory with some
8,000-10,000 Italian troops, some 3,000 Spaniards, and about 400 German
mercenaries. The army advanced quickly
against slight resistance. Rodolfo had
hardly 2,000 troops, mostly infantry, both poorly equipped and short of
ammunition. After some limited
skirmishing, Rodolfo fell back on the defenses of Perugia.
Farnese invested the city in May.
A desultory siege followed, while various notables attempted to effect a
peace agreement. Finally, the Perugians
folded, and on March 26,
1541 surrendered to the pope, while Rodolfo once more went into
This ended any pretense the Perugians had to
independence. And just to emphasize his
victory, Pope Paul razed the Baglioni palace and some others to raise the Rocca
Paolina, a great fortress on the site.
In vengeance, the Perugians essentially began to boycott
salt. Even today, bread there is traditionally
made without salt, with dire consequences to its taste.
As for Rodolfo Baglioni, he returned his trade as a
mercenary, serving mostly the Duke of Florence, until he was killed in an
ambush in 1554, reportedly going down still swinging a halberd.