As someone who writes on military history, I could not resist a story this week out of California. Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley has a novel campaign challenge on her hands this week after it was discovered that her mass political mailer showed a picture of female sailor in what was supposed to be a U.S. military uniform — showing Browley’s support from veterans and current military personnel. Unfortunately, the woman was actually wearing not only a fake military uniform but one displaying German Luftwaffe insignia. Of course, at least Brownley can use the connection to the Bundeswehr to call out the Katastropheneinsatz to handle disaster control relief.
Brownley’s flier shows a young woman in a white, open-collared military uniform, wearing a white cap displaying a gold insignia and blue-and-gold trim. She was apparently meant to appear as a grateful and real U.S. female sailor. However, she was presumably a model and she was dressed in a uniform supporting the symbol of the Bundeswehr Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force. Notably, neither the U.S. Navy nor the German Bundeswehr have a uniform like this so it appears to have been thrown together rather amateurishly to look like what someone thought was a soldier or sailor. (This is the modern Luftwaffe insignia obviously since the World War II insignia had a swastika under a different eagle design). Brownley’s opponent has suggested that this is a “purchased stock photo” that was simply inserted into the flyer to display military supporters.
The gaffe may be more damaging in the need to use a stock photo or model rather than a real veteran supporter. Brownley serves on the House Committee for Veteran Affairs and is ranking member on the House’s Subcommittee on Health, which oversees the VA. Such a mistake is no laughing matter to some in the military. The 26th congressional district contains a large Navy installation near Oxnard that supports 19,000 naval personnel.
Frankly, I think the gaffe is pretty funny. What I find more disturbing is that the mailer was actually sent out with public funds rather than campaign funds. It seems overtly campaign like literature, but members have been repeatedly criticized for using “franking” privileges for such mailers. I do not understand how a flier proclaiming how Brownley is “Reaching Across the Aisle For Real Results” is anything other than a campaign pitch.
Brownley is still favored in the race. Her opponent ironically is a former naval intelligence officer.