Knit Your Bit program supports veterans

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published April 17, 2016


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The American soldiers who served overseas during World War II loved receiving anything that reminded them of home.

Such items included the knitted scarves, sweaters, socks and caps that were stitched with care and shipped to foreign lands to U.S. military members.

The tradition of knitting a piece of clothing for a U.S. soldier has continued through the Knit Your Bit program. The program, which runs through the National World War II Museum, located in New Orleans, encourages knitters to make scarves to be donated to veterans centers across the country.

“While we encourage knitters to use our patterns, we will accept any appropriate scarf,” as is stated on the museum’s website at “VA centers have expressed their appreciation and are waiting for you to make a difference in veterans’ lives this winter. The campaign has generated positive feedback, goodwill and warm necks.”

On March 31, nearly 80 local knitters gathered at the Lorenzo Cultural Center for the hands-on activity Knit Your Bit with the Crafty Lady Trio, open to beginner and advanced knitters and crocheters. The event was one of the many programs of the center’s exhibit “The 1940s: Through the War and Beyond,” which continues until May 7.

“There were many different skill levels, from the very experienced to people who never held a crocheting or knitting needle before,” said Meghan Mott, program coordinator of cultural affairs at MCC. “People were pretty good about helping their neighbor.”

Mott gave a presentation about how Americans during World War II knitted clothing for military members. She studied the knitting movement of WWII and shared various poster slogans of the time, including “Remember Pearl Harbor purl harder.” Mott added that many soldiers placed the knitted caps under their helmets.

“You learn so much on how the community and the nation came together during World War II,” Mott said. “People would knit to help the soldiers and refugees. There were special patterns provided by the American Red Cross. The Red Cross put out how-to-knit information. The organization started using certain yarn and certain colors. It was a three-striped scarf and a straight, single crochet, which is a basic stitch. I read that socks were the most in-demand thing. I read men were unraveling their sweaters to darn their socks.”

And the stitches had to be even.

“Uneven stitches on the feet hurt,” Mott said. “They might cause them to blister.”

Cynthia Quinlan, of Troy, was among the knitters who attended the event at the Lorenzo Cultural Center.

“I thought it was very interesting and educational,” she said. “I loved the presentation about knitting and the history of knitting.”

While pretty much a beginner at the craft, Quinlan wanted to make something in memory of her late father, Albert Krekan, a WWII prisoner of war and survivor of the second atomic bomb.

Quinlan documented her father’s history a few years ago in a personal story she wrote about his life. Born in Aurora, Illinois, Krekan was 17 years old in 1938 and knew he wanted to see the world. According to Quinlan, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at Great Lakes Naval Air Station in Great Lakes, Illinois. He spent several years in China patrolling the Yangtze River. 

“These were turbulent times throughout the world, and while most of Europe was engaged in warding off Hitler and the Nazis, unrest was stirring in the East, and the Imperial Japanese were planning its attack on Pearl Harbor,” Quinlan wrote.

Krekan was assigned to the USS Houston in the Pacific. In February 1942, the fleet and the Japanese Navy began the Battle of the Java Sea in the Pacific. Her father survived the conflict, swam to shore and was captured with other U.S. Navy men as a POW.

Many of the POWs, including her dad, were assigned to work on the building of the railroad through the jungle of Burma, which was depicted in the movie, “The Bridge Over the River Kwai.”

Krekan was among the 266 who survived their captors. After completing the railroad, the POWs worked in coal mines outside Nagasaki and were there when the atomic bomb dropped on Aug. 9, 1945. The POWs were ordered to go deep into the coal mines, heard aircraft overhead and sensed an attack, according to Quinlan.

“What they saw in the distance toward Nagasaki, was an enormous yellowish-green mushroom cloud rising into the air raining what would be called fallout. These brave men realized that a second atomic bomb had been dropped and they would now be liberated from their captors,” Quinlan wrote.

In the bomb’s aftermath, those who survived saw the dead and dying among the ruins and offered assistance to those in need.

“Although what he and his fellow survivors of the Houston witnessed, was an indescribable horror, these brave men survived and lived to tell their story, with the hope that never again would humanity have to resort to that kind of destruction to end conflicts among nations,” Quinlan wrote.

The Lorenzo Cultural Center, 44575 Garfield Road, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays. School and group tours are available.

For a complete program series schedule, visit