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Handwritten notes on the front of a white air sickness bag
Undated notes on an air sickness bag. Box 105, Bernard A. Schriever Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Of Note: Another Use for an Air Sickness Bag

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This part of an occasional series in which we share items that have caught our eye.

In the course of my work as a processing archivist, I have seen ample evidence that when the need arises, people grab all sorts of things to serve as writing paper – napkins, placemats, envelopes, and even barf bags.  When I was organizing the papers of Air Force General Bernard A. Schriever (1910-2005), I discovered not just one, but two air sickness bags covered with his handwriting. This particular annotated air sickness bag stood out to me because of the juxtaposition of the bag with what was written on it. While the medium might make us chuckle, the notes discuss the extremely somber, some might say stomach-churning, issues pertaining to nuclear weapons and the national security strategy of mutual assured destruction (MAD).

General Schriever directed the development of the intercontinental ballistic missile program and early military space programs for the Unites States Air Force. In the course of his duties, Schriever was a frequent flier, and these notes are proof that he continued working while in flight. When he needed something to write on, the blank paper exterior of the barf bag, within arm’s reach and waiting to be of use, was called into service as writing paper. A former test pilot and World War II bomber pilot, Schriever was likely quite confident that he wouldn’t need it for its intended purpose.

Learn more about the Bernard A. Schriever Papers

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  1. This is great!
    Long ago, when I was young and thought I was so funny – I would take the bags and use for gift bag (note, I’m old enough that this was a time when gift bags were not very common in stores). Not nearly as interesting as Gen. Schriever’s use.

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