Category Archives: U.S. Army

A Cut Above: Sculpting Leadership Excellence; The Draper and Goodrich Cavalry and Armor Awards


In the process of investigating, researching and collecting militaria, one will undoubtedly uncover compelling narratives and personal stories surrounding artifacts. In addition to the tangible and tactile qualities and traits that accompany each piece, for many collectors, it is the connection to historical events or personalities that transforms an otherwise ordinary object into something that is utterly priceless. The Veteran’s Collection has been a vehicle used to educate fellow collectors and military history enthusiasts (predominantly) through individual militaria artifacts that reside within our collection.

Of the many roads this author traveled in becoming a collector of militaria, one in particular was focused specifically on genealogical and ancestry research centered upon those who served in the armed forces. Besides the military-specific discoveries associated with individuals in this author’s lineage, other interesting discoveries were made within one maternal great-grandfathers’ branch of the family tree. Seeking connections to historical, famous or infamous personalities is a common practice among amateur and familial genealogists, and some folks are only able to unearth such finds eight or more generations up their tree. For my family tree, one such discovery was four generations removed from me.

Though family genealogical research has revealed a handful of noteworthy ancestors, the pertinent individual (to this article) was an artist, sometimes referred to as the “Sculptor in Buckskin,” a name which Alexander Phimister Proctor entitled his 1971 autobiography. Canadian-born Proctor’s grandfather (who is also one of my third great-grandfathers – I have 16 of them) emigrated to the greater London, Ontario, area from Scotland, having served in the area years prior in the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot, known as the Highland Black Watch. When the artist was young, his family moved to Iowa in the months following the end of the Civil War before ultimately settling in the Denver, Colorado, area where Proctor would experience life on the American Frontier. A prolific sculptor throughout his life, A. Phimister Proctor studied in New York and Paris and collaborated with Augustus Saint GaudensProctor’s body of work was influenced by the Western Frontier and pioneers, along with legendary American figures including those from the Civil War.

This artist’s rendering of the U.S. Cavalryman is a representation of Alexander Phimister Proctor’s commissioned work, used as the present-day Armor & Cavalry Leadership Award (image source: U.S. Army Armor School Pamphlet 360-4).

Rather than to elicit incessant yawns or to encourage readers to click away to more compelling content, abstaining from committing significant line-space to my personal genealogy seems to be the better course for this article.  My cousin (first cousin, three times removed) does have a more specific connection to the overarching subject at hand: militaria adding further delight to the discovery of the familial connection.

One of Proctor’s countless spectacular commissioned pieces was the result of a 1926 conversation between the (then) Chief of the Cavalry, Major General Malin Craig, and one of his officers, Major L.E. Goodrich of the Cavalry Reserve in Miami, Florida.

Major Goodrich was seeking to improve troopers’ participation in cavalry exercises by incorporating competition along with an incentive of an award for the unit that achieves the highest performance rating in the training. General Craig commissioned his friend, A. Phimister Proctor with $2,000 to sculpt a trophy (an amount that was far below Proctor’s typical fee for an individual commission) sourced from funds donated by Goodrich. Following the creation of the Goodrich Trophy in 1926, the first unit recipient was Troop G of the Second Cavalry (Fort Riley, Kansas, then the home of the U.S. Cavalry school). In the years that followed, the Goodrich Trophy would be awarded to the cavalry troop that excelled in general cavalry proficiency (mobility, fire power and shock action).

“Major Goodrich originally donated $50,000 to sponsor a mounted service ride. However, the final outcome was the bronze equestrian statue pictured. A. Phimister Proctor, one of America’s leading sculptors, was commissioned to design and sculpt the Goodrich Riding Trophy. Proctor, whose specialty was sculpting animals, especially horses, produced the masterpiece of a cavalry trooper astride a horse in full gallop, attacking with a drawn pistol. Proctor used a Sergeant Wotiski and his mount “Peggy” as models during the completion of the sculpture.” – Have You Seen Me?, Sergeant Major Timothy E. Maples, 1997

Proctor’s sculpture featured a cavalry trooper mounted atop a horse depicted in full gallop. The trooper, gripping the horse’s reins with his left hand, has his M1911 .45 caliber pistol drawn and leveled upon an unseen target.  The bronze sculpture, titled “U.S. Cavalryman,” is mounted to a white marble pedestal with “Goodrich Riding Trophy” engraved into both sides.

Reproduction of Alexander Phimister Proctor’s (American, 1860-1950) “Goodrich Riding Trophy”-1926, bronze. A 1977 casting after Alexander Phimister Proctor’s (American, 1860-1950) original 1926 casting depicting a cavalryman on horseback with pistol aimed to fire, on marble plinth base, with inscription “Goodrich Riding Trophy”, signed to back “A. Phimister Proctor”. This casting was produced by the Draper Combat Leadership Trust in an edition of 46. Overall (with base) approximately 20.75″ x 26″ x 8″; (without base) 17.5″ x 20.75″ x 7.75″ This example was auctioned for $600 (image source: Ahlers and Ogletree Auctions).

According to the rules of the competition, the troop that won the competition three times was to be designated as the permanent custodian of the trophy. A 1936 revision of the rules of the competition allowed the cavalry regiment with three winning troops to retain the trophy on a permanent basis. Troop B of the Third Cavalry won the annual competition that same year, distinguishing the regiment with the required three wins that would retire the Goodrich Trophy and establish the regiment as the trophy’s permanent custodian.

Ahead of the establishment of the Goodrich Riding Trophy, Lieutenant Colonel Wickliffe P. Draper sought to institute competition in testing the leadership among small cavalry units. The resulting Cavalry Leadership Test for Small Units was established in 1924 by Draper. In 1928, LTC Draper established a trust fund of $35,000 to perpetuate the award which by then incorporated a platoon-sized competition held at multiple installations throughout the United States including Fort Clark, Texas; Fort Myer, Virginia; Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont; and Fort Knox, Kentucky, adding in mechanized cavalry units as eligible participants.

In the mid-1950s, the award was renamed as the Armor Leadership Award along with a new regulation (within AR 672-73) stipulating that tests would be held to determine the best platoon in a designated armored division.  Additional changes to the competition included providing authorization to the Commander of each armored and infantry division, armored cavalry regiment, separate armor brigade (including mechanized brigade), and armor group of the active Army, Army National Guard, and the United States Army Reserve to annually select the outstanding tank or cavalry unit, including attack helicopter and air cavalry units, under his command.

In the early 1970s, following years of diminishing interest in the Armor Leadership award, the Assistant Commandant of the Armor School distributed reminders abut the upcoming annual competition which prompted David K. Doyle (then, Colonel and Commander of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment) months later to write a letter in response to the reminder suggesting that the Goodrich Trophy Competition be revived and that the Goodrich Competition be held for cavalry units and the Draper Competition be held for tank units.

 

Following a review of Doyle’s letter, the Draper Combat Leadership Trust Fund Council responded that funds were not available for reviving the Goodrich Competition. Instead, the committee proposed that the Goodrich Trophy should be used as the award for the winner of the Draper Competition (in place of the plaque that was then in use) to incentivize the Draper Competition. The committee’s recommendation of combining the Goodrich Trophy with the Draper Competition, the original intent of the continuation of demonstrated of leadership through competent unit training, would not only be solidified, but rejuvenate competitive interest among troops.

The Goodrich Riding Trophy along with the Draper Award coin and book at Fort Benning, Georgia (Photo by John D. Helms – john.d.helms@us.army.mil).

In 1974, the Goodrich Riding Trophy became the symbol of the Draper Combat Leadership Award and 46 recasts of the original trophy were produced and the image of the U.S. Cavalryman (as depicted with the Goodrich Riding Trophy) was incorporated into an annual Armor leadership award.

Further revisions to the award program include provisions for the perpetual reproduction of the Goodrich Riding Trophy as replicas, and are now readily available for Army-wide distribution to the Commander of each armored and infantry division, armored cavalry regiment, separate armored brigade (including mechanized brigade), and armored group of the Active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve, and are funded by the Draper Leader Trust Fund.  The current trophy includes an option for a secondary base that provides for up to ten unit inscriptions (for subsequent awards).

Awarded upon completion of the Armor Pre-Command course at Fort Knox, this coin is only one element of what is given to recipients. The obverse is adorned with the image of A. Phimister Proctor’s U.S. Cavalryman sculpture and the reverse features the U.S. Armor insignia in the center flanked by the cavalry and armor collar device insignia. A place for the the serial number of the recipients’ specific award is provided (this one has been altered for security purposes) beneath the central image (image source: Todd Mayer, Col. U.S.A., Ret.).

With the Goodrich Riding Trophy being presented to and residing within each recipient unit, the Draper Armor Leadership Award is presented to individuals in the form of a serialized challenge coin and a leather-bound presentation edition of the Cavalry and Armor Heritage Series book (Volume I | Leadership). Both the challenge coin and the book’s cover feature the image of the U.S. Cavalryman as it was derived from A. Phimister Proctor’s 1926 sculpture.

In addition to the coin, the Draper award recipients are gifted with the “Cavalry and Armor: Heritage Series, Leadership | Volume I” leather-bound book. The cover features and embossed image of the U.S. Cavalryman sculpture created by A. Phimister Proctor (image source: Todd Mayer, Col. U.S.A., Ret.).

When the Draper Armor Leadership Award is presented, I wonder if the recipient troops and troopers see the U.S. Cavalryman image as anything more than a simple, symbolic representation. Upon my discovery of my cousin’s connection with the award, I instinctively reached out to one of my friends, a retired Army colonel (who served in the armored branch) to determine if he was a Draper Armor and Cavalry Leadership Award recipient.  My friend, Todd Mayer (Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired) confirmed my suspicions that, “(the award) was an automatic if you were selected to command a battalion or a squadron which was a lieutenant colonel command,” Mayer replied. “I was a Major when I received this book (part of the award) at Fort Knox. Just after that I was promoted to lieutenant colonel and commanded 2-107th Cavalry.” Todd Mayer mentioned that his Draper Award was given in conjunction with his successful completion of the Armor Pre-Command Course.

 

Though I served in the Navy, I rather enjoy this minuscule connection with the award through my cousin’s artistic achievement. An additional connection that brings me a measure of delight stems from another of my ancestors’ cavalry association (that I have previously shared on the Veterans Collection) with his service in the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry (Rush’s Lancers) during the Civil War.

Bearing a personalized plate for 1SG Jon D. Noyes, this U.S. Cavalryman statue, sculpted by A. Phimister Proctor, is now being used as part of the Draper Armor Leadership Unit Award rather than as the Goodrich Riding Trophy. This re-cast of the original trophy lacks the detail of the one cast in 1926 and the re-cast sculptures of the 1970s and appears to no longer bear the artist’s signature in the casting (image source: DVIDS/U.S. Army).

The militaria collector and genealogist in me fuels my interest in possessing any of these pieces within my collection. However, due to the controlled nature and prestigious nature surrounding the Goodrich/Draper Trophy along with the challenge coin, it is doubtful that any of them will ever legally become available on the militaria market as these pieces should remain with their rightful owners.

Sources and References:

 

 

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Remembrance of the Armistice and Giving Thanks


I have entered into a slower writing season that has me scratching and clawing for the time to write about militaria, military history or something in between. November of 2018 is nearly half completed and Thanksgiving is upon us. I let a few very significant dates pass by without a single mention on this site or on our Facebook page. I find it rather disturbing to give the appearance of ignoring the centennial of the Armistice of the Great War – a war in which several of my relatives served.

On display at the local event was this Imperial German Army tunic and helmet (with matching unit markings). Though over a century old, these pieces looked new.

How many of my fellow countrymen, even after last week, have an understanding of the correlation between “…the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month…” and what is now recognized as “Veteran’s Day?” The United States is the only participating nation to have stripped away the significance of what is known by other Allied Expeditionary Forces (AEF) as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day. Our neighbors to the North along with other British Commonwealth countries, France, Belgium and even the principle aggressors, Germany take the time as entire countries to recognize the importance of the War’s end and the horrific losses suffered by all of the nations’ armed forces along with thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire and aboard ships at sea.

I am fully award of the significance of this year’s recognition and the need to preserve the legacy of those who went “Over There” and stood up to the tyrannical, empirical rulers of Western Europe and also stood by our allies (albeit more than three years, and hundreds of thousands of lost-lives too-late) in putting down the aggression.  In terms of personal connection to the War to End All Wars, I had the benefit of growing up with one of my family members (a great uncle) who served (and was wounded) in France which gave me a measure of perspective.

Besides my paternal grandfather’s older brother who enlisted into the Army soon after Congress declared war on Germany in 1917, his twin brother followed suit and enlisted into the Navy (he passed away at an early age in 1936), nearly 30 years before I was born).  Both of these men, born in Newfoundland had emigrated to the United States with their parents a few years after the turn of the 20th Century, served in their adopted country without being naturalized citizens. On my mother’s side, two more men also enlisted to serve during the Great War My maternal grandmother’s father and maternal grandfather served in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF).

I have authored a handful of articles regarding the artifacts pertaining to these four men in my lineage and their service during World War I (so named in a June 12, 1939 Time Magazine article) that are in my collection. I had considered a public display of these pieces in conjunction with local commemorations that I knew were scheduled for this time of the year but I never followed through with reaching out to the organizations who were arranging these efforts. One step that I did take was to display parts of my Great War collection for a month at the state’s largest fair in September (see: Knowledge Versus Ignorance: Criticizing Displays of Historical Artifacts). Considering my efforts, I can take solace that I have honored the service of those in my family who took part in the Great War.

This past weekend, my son and I attended one of the WWI events that had been on my calendar, hosted at the museum at the nearby joint U.S. Army and Air Force base.  The base itself, came into existence just prior to the Great War and was rapidly built out as the need to induct and train troops heading over as the fighting raged on the European battlefields. Featured at the event were collectors (like myself) who displayed their artifacts and were donning uniforms (reproduction) to properly share their knowledge and talk about the artifacts.

Three variations of the Pickelhaub and a German shako helmet all date from the Great War.

One of the aspects of the displays that I truly appreciated seeing at the event was that the perspective was not singular, representing only the United States forces. Along with the American militaria on display were collections that included British (with some French pieces) and Canadian. Even artifacts from the enemy were displayed (along with young men dressed in German re-enactment uniforms).  Seeing a well-rounded representation of personal equipment made the entire event far more interesting and left me with the understanding that my own collection would not have offered much more than what was already well-covered in remembrance.

While most Americans are busy celebrating the day of giving thanks by enjoying time with family and friends over a delicious meal, I will be doing the same and taking time to reflect on what my relatives were doing 11 days following the Armistice taking effect.  I am thankful that there are still young Americans who volunteer to serve with the understanding that they could find themselves in harm’s way in a far-off land much like their predecessors did more than a century ago.

 

See Also – Great War Publications on The Veteran’s Collection:

Knowledge Versus Ignorance: Criticizing Displays of Historical Artifacts


I have a steadily growing respect for those who take the time to research, organize and arrange, transport and display their collections to share with an audience. Depending on the artifacts and the means of displaying, it takes an incredible amount of time to prepare for a public showing, ensuring that each piece or groupings of items are carefully organized and placed to convey the display’s central message or theme. Regardless of the measure of attention to detail one can employ in assembling a gathering of artifacts to display, mistakes can and often do get made.

Invariably, one can find historical inaccuracies with any re-telling or portrayal of an event, placement and descriptions of artifacts, despite the research and effort for meticulous representations. I have visited some of the finest museums that employ staff and volunteers with more than a hundred years of combined education and experience in researching and curating artifacts and yet they still can assemble displays with pieces that are incorrect. There have been times where I engaged with museum personnel in order to correct the issue, providing sources in an effort to back my assertions. In those instances, I have been thanked for the information and corrections were subsequently made while some times, I have been met with valid contradictory facts (though they have agreed with the information I provided) that support their reasons for decisions to keep the displays as established.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

The above saying has many unfounded attributions (Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, etc.) and I chose not to provide a source as doing so is folly. However, the lack of a verifiable originator is as irrelevant as the sentiment is poignant. I take this saying to heart, especially when providing any measure of correction an expert in their field or vocation. To approach a museum curator, historian, educator or serious artifact collector with contrary facts that fly in the face of their efforts requires assured knowledge, facts and a tactfully respectful approach. Before I open my mouth, I want to be certain that my suspicions and thoughts are indeed correct.

The WWI Army uniform belonged to my great uncle who served as an artilleryman in France during the war.

Helmets from three of the combatant nations in the war are (left to right): French, U.S., German. The bayonet in the foreground is a French Lebel.

For nearly the entire month of September, my collection of World War I artifacts was publicly displayed at my state’s largest fair. I chose to select every piece that is related to the Great War and organize, arrange and display them to honor the centennial of the United States’ participation (along with U.S. military artifacts, I included the Canadian Forestry Corps pieces to honor my maternal great grandfather’s WWI service). Included in my display were many artifacts that I inherited from family members who served in that war along with pieces that I collected due to my specific interest in this very troubling era of modern U.S. history. Included within the exhibit were three original WWI uniforms; one, worn by my great uncle when he served in a US Army artillery regiment and the other two were U.S. Navy enlisted jumper tops, complete with rating badges. At the conclusion of the fair, I went to breakdown the display and retrieve my collection at which time, the coordinator handed personal notes from spectators and folks with questions or are in need of assistance with their own artifacts. Among the notes were two criticisms: one that didn’t agree with the placement of the placard that described the entire collection (he thought it should have been adjacent to my uncle’s uniform) while the other person took the time to point out the inaccuracies with the rating badges on the two WWI navy uniforms.

The two WWI uniforms that raised questions from an unknown critic. This display was called out for having the incorrect rating badges on the incorrect sleeves regardless of them being original and untouched from the veterans who wore them during the Great War.

“Your rates are on the wrong arm,” the expert began his note. “Crows face forward, ” he continued, “there are right arm ‘rates’ and left arm (ratings),” the unnamed critic stated. When I first read through his note, I stopped and looked over at the display (I hadn’t’ yet removed the arrangement of uniforms on their mannequins nor the arrangement of period-correct rating badges on the bottom of the case) and stared for a moment and re-read the note again. “What is he referring to?
I thought to myself. “Does he think that I sewed these badges on rather than the sailors who originally wore the uniforms?”

I have authored several articles regarding U.S. Navy rating badges (see below) and have been collecting them since I obtained my first one through advancement during my own service in the Navy when I was promoted to petty officer third class. A few years later, I inherited my maternal grandfather’s World War II uniforms that were complete and had his Ship’s Cook first class rating badges affixed to the left sleeves. In my collection are rating badges dating to 1905, post-1913, post-1922 and on up to the 1960s. I own several hundred badges including some of the rarest ratings that existed during these eras. In my collection are several uniforms from this same era (I don’t have anything dating from pre-1900…yet) and all of it has been thoroughly researched. Though some of my collecting colleagues would infer that I possess expert knowledge in this area, there are many who have far greater knowledge and experience researching the history of enlisted marks and whose published works I often reference. I concede that there is always someone with more knowledge in any given field of research and study. For this reason, I continued to ponder the unknown sender’s critical note.

As I started to dissect the message in an effort to lend a measure of credence or perhaps to give him some benefit of doubt, I analyzed his usage of terminology along with his stated “facts” as I attempted to understand his perspective. One term that he repeatedly misused was “rates.” Though the critic understood certain facts surrounding rating badges, he didn’t understand that there is a distinct difference between two very important terms: rate and rating (see: U.S. Navy Officer Ranks and Enlisted Rates – navy.mil). Sailors (and U.S. Navy collectors) don’t refer to the insignia worn on uniforms as “rates” but rather, rating badge.

The unknown critic pointed out that on my two WWI navy uniform tops, the rating badges were affixed to the left sleeve and that the eagle (universally referred to as a crow) was facing the the rear, vice forward as is seen on present-day uniforms. The inference being made is that the eagles on both badges, each affixed to their respective uniform’s left sleeves, are facing to the rear (the beak of the eagle is pointing towards”his” left wing).

In concert with the eagle’s directional facing, the critic suggested that there are rating badges (“rates”) for either the left or right arms. In the uniform regulations of 1886, specifications were made that established the eagle left-facing with its wings pointed horizontally to the sides. Also, the regulations specified that petty officers of the starboard watch were to wear rating badges on their right sleeves while the left sleeve was to be used for those assigned to the port watch. This arrangement of the rating badges remained in place until the publication of the U.S. Navy uniform regulations of January 25, 1913 called for a change in the location of rating badges so that the were no longer worn on the sleeves corresponding to assigned watches. Right arm badges were to signify men of the Seamen Branch; left arm rating badges were to be used by personnel of the Artificer Branch, Engine Room Force, and all other petty officers. The eagle continued to face left on all rating badges.

The last statement on the critic’s note, “1941 is when it all changed” is only partially correct as it disregards both the 1886 and 1913 regulations and focuses on the changes made just prior to World War II. Within the May 13, 1941 regulations it was specified that the eagle was to face to the left in the rates comprising the Seaman Branch: Boatswain Mate, Turret Captain, Signalman, Gunner’s Mate, Fire Controlman, Quartermaster, Mineman and Torpedoman’s Mate. All other rating badges (worn on the left sleeve) were to have an eagle facing to the right – or towards the front of the uniform. With the release of the navy uniform regulations of April 2,1949, the right arm rates were disestablished, moving all enlisted ratings to the left sleeve and the eagle’s beak pointed to the right wing.

Neither of the two WWI navy uniforms within my Great War display had rating badges from the Seaman Branch – one, an Electrician’s Mate 2/c (with a radio technician distinguishing mark) from the Artificer Branch and the other a Ship’s Cook 2/c was part of the Special Branch.

If the critic had left his contact information, I might have considered a gentle discussion to provide a better understanding of enlisted Navy rate and rating badge history along with authoritative references. Rather than to take offense at the man’s note, I can surmise that he cares about accuracy in displayed naval artifacts enough to correct me. However, his omission of his name, email or phone number might be more indicative of the equivalent of a blind grenade-toss at something he has great disdain for. Unfortunately, I will never know.

I feel compelled to offer my gratitude to this unknown person for giving me a reason to pause for a self-assessment as I strive for accuracy with my collecting, research, writing and displaying these treasure. His note also serves as a reminder for me to maintain humility when I observe historical inaccuracies and to always measure myself before opening my mouth or firing off an ill-informed message.

Related Veteran’s Collection Articles:

Reference:

Dream of Me When You Sleep: Homefront Military Pillow Covers


While reading a discussion on a militaria forum regarding a World War I veteran’s medal group (that at that time had recently been listed for sale by Bay State Militaria), I was reminded that so much in military collecting is out of reach for my budget. This particular collection of artifacts contained the Army officer’s decorations and medals which included the Distinguished Service Cross, Belgian Order of the Crown, Knights level, Belgian Croix de Guerre, three awards of the French Croix de Guerre, United States Silver Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Legion of Honor, Knights class and many other decorations. Not only was this group considerably out of my reach but I couldn’t even afford to purchase this soldier’s WWI Victory medal (which included ten clasps, documenting the battles he participated in) if it had been parted out. The group was listed for just under $6,800 and based upon the amount of history the buyer acquired (yes, it sold very shortly after it was listed), it was worth every penny.

From a painting by noted artist, Arthur Cummings Chase, to the array of medals, decorations and ephemera, this WWI Army officer’s grouping is nothing short of spectacular (image source: Bay State Militaria).

The career of the veteran was not only significant during his time in uniform but in his work after he served. In reading his history-making accomplishments as noted, one could see why this grouping commanded such a high listing price:

  • This Officer was decorated while attached to the British during advanced Chemical Training in 1918. He then personally led the first American Chemical Weapons Attack in History as Company Commander of B Company, 1ST Gas and Flame Regiment.
  • A very historic grouping with a famous painting of this Officer by Joseph Cummings Chase which is in itself a treasure. This portrait was one of 125 painted in France in 1918-19 by Joseph Cummings Chase. approximately 75 ended up in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. This is one of just a few known to be in Private Hands.

This WWI Army officer’s (his name was not disclosed) group is purely museum quality as this officer also played a significant engineering role (during the interwar period) on New York’s George Washington Bridge and Holland Tunnel construction projects.

Meanwhile, back in the realm where I live (known to me simply as reality), my World War I collection consists of a few items that were affordable and have visual appeal. With my family serving in every American conflict dating back to the War for Independence, I try to locate objects that will display well and have some sort of connection to my family’s military heritage.  

Two pieces that fit my criteria (as stated above) and met my budgetary constraints are these WWI-specific wool flannel pillow covers. As it turns out, their similar designs complement each other quite well and will look fantastic on my office wall.

Pillow covers were quite popular during World War II with most designs being simple silk-screened patterns or pictorials on silk material. Typically, these were gifts purchased by the service members and sent to family and sweethearts as reminders of the loved one away at war. During the war, these were mass-produced and can be acquired without severely crippling your collecting budget.

Commemorating a wide variety of subjects such as military branches of service, forts or military bases, ships or aircraft, pillow covers have been dated to the first few years of the twentieth century. The early examples tend to be constructed from a wool flannel with lettering and designs stitched to the face.

While the common designs of WWII (such as the more generic “Army” and “Navy” versions) will be plentiful and therefore inexpensive, the more ornate or specific they are, the price will be higher. With Navy ships of significance (such as the USS Arizona or Enterprise) expect to pay a premium.

 

Militaria Issued: Giving and Receiving


Over the span of the last seven years, I’ve worked diligently in learning the ins and outs of collecting militaria and yet have only begun to scratch the surface. Delving into the details, for me, has produced an incredible wealth of knowledge surrounding many aspects of military pieces, such as when or where an item was worn or used. But that hasn’t been the most substantial reward in my passion for military collecting.

Being a student (not to be glib, as I am always learning) of American history has occupied my attention for decades. My wife and children could tell you stories about my side excursions to see some obscure item or location of historic note during our family vacations, in my passion to align book knowledge with the visual reality. Experiencing history helps to bring the stories to life and while facts are solidified in this process, actually seeing an item or location opens my mind to new questions with this acquired perspective. This process of learning is fun for me, but in regards to militaria, it still isn’t the pinnacle of satisfaction in collecting.

My military artifact collecting was sparked when a few boxes of Third Reich items were dropped into my lap nearly twenty years ago as my family dealt with our aging grandparents and the need to relocate them from their home of fifty years to an assisted living care facility. Having moved only once over the course of eighty-five years, my grandfather had accumulated quite a “treasure-trove” of artifacts including his older brother’s World War II trunks that were untouched from the time they arrived from Germany in 1945. I was suddenly thrust into the task of researching the pieces that my uncle had “acquired” during his participation in the elimination of the Nazi menace.

Though I didn’t get into collecting German militaria, my interest was piqued with the idea of owning pieces of history. The thought of possessing a tangible artifact that was connected to history as well as the connection to my family member’s participation in those events, was compelling and dovetailed nicely into the incessant genealogy project I was, and still am, working on.

I have dabbled in collecting in several areas in my lifetime and I have met a lot of nice and passionate people who shared similar interests as me. Those relationships always tended to be more proprietor-patron rather than collaborative and sharing. However, from the moment I started to seek answers to questions regarding personal military artifacts that I had inherited from a few relatives, I began recognizing different traits in the people who collect militaria. Aside from a passion for the objects and the rich history, these collectors were quick with thoughtful responses to my inquiries as they provided detailed descriptions and guided me to research resources in an effort to enable me to be self-reliant. Among all the quirks and odd interests, I noticed an authentic sense of community with militaria collectors.

One trait that really blindsided me as I was increasingly immersed into militaria collecting was the trusting and giving nature of these people. As I participated in the discourse and discussion surrounding these wonderful objects, I began to build relationships with other collectors. Out of the blue, one collector asked me for my address as he had “something” for me. This fellow collector observed and gleaned, from my posts on a militaria forum, what my interests were and subsequently sent me a vintage 1920s rating badge – something that one of my uncles would have worn on his navy uniform. I was humbled by the gesture and that this collector would accept no offer of payment for his trouble. This example was merely a foretaste of what I would experience on a somewhat regular basis and my collection has grown because of the kind hearts of others. The charitable nature of others is infectious which prompted me to do the same with other collectors.

This fine example of the M1 carbine shows a magazine pouch attached to the rifle’s stock.

Awhile ago, I was invited to tag along with two other guys that are as passionate about military history and collecting as me to visit a local dealer of antique books and manuscripts. This dealer, a highly regarded authority in many circles, showed several fantastic pieces from his personal collection that prompted three jaws to repeatedly drop. Toward the end of our visit, the gentleman retrieved a WWII-vintage M1 carbine rifle in immaculate condition that was a distinct departure from the paper artifacts and, knowing that we were all interested in militaria, offered it for sale with a low-ball price tag. Unfortunately for me, financial constraints precluded me from purchasing the vintage weapon. However, one of my companions did “pull the trigger” and came away with the rifle.

I recently acquired these M1 carbine pouches to give to a friend and fellow collector who recently purchased a late-WWI M1 carbine rifle. The nice, used condition will be great accompanying his rifle.

Not long after the M1 offering, I stumbled across a set of three WWII-vintage M1 carbine magazine pouches that were in good condition and were listed at a very affordable price. Thinking about my friend’s recent purchase, I snagged the pouches to give to the new carbine owner.

Over the last few years, I have gifted several pieces from my collection in the hope that it helps a fellow collector fill in the gaps or simply provides enjoyment in receiving a new piece they had not seen before or never knew existed.