Thursday, December 02, 2010
I have a box of props from Saving Private Ryan. I was given some by the crew, and picked up a few others when they first came on sale. The only reason I got them was as examples of reproductions - not so much a film souvenier.
So many items were stolen during the filming of SPR that when they made Band of Brothers they had to install video security on the storage rooms. That still did not stop people from taking a plain old (insert some generic webbing item) and claiming it had been used in the film. Some of the crew themselves that knew where reproductions were being sourved privatly bought extra for themselves and then flogged it off as an actual prop.
So for the Pacific they were careful and made lost of extra stuff for sale after the film. Just look at how much is now out there, and the relative low prices. My bet is they will never really climb too high as there's so much, it is too easily faked, and the show did not touch the same nerves that SPR and BOB did.
Anyway, back to this new auction show. I have a number of friends that are involved with film props, and from what they tell me this show is one of the greatest "non-reality" reality shows ever. Its almost all staged.To the point where they sometimes move a collectors props to a storage area so they can claim they "discovered them."
It also seems that anyone considering buying from this guy should do some reading on his background in terms of complaints about authenticity. I'm not saying anything, but there appear to have been some problems. Lots of them.
However, on the bright side. I don't drink, but if I did I'd have anew drinking game. Take a sip every time he uses the word ICONIC, and toss it all back when he says something will bring $100,000 grand.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Case in point. As happens all to often to me, I got a call from a "freelance writer" the other day who was doing an article for a well known military magazine on a subject I had spent years working on a book about. Now clearly this person had no clue what they were doing (as in thinking the work "ETO" was pronouned "E-Toe" and meant an actual location).
But what they wanted was for me to give them them some photos for their work. Of which they would be paid additonal for. (I checked that mags writerss guideline: between $20 and $80 per photo).
So here I am. Having spent a very long time digging up rare photos that they cannot find, and them wanting me to give them to the writer so they can get paid for them.
I told this freelancer to have the editor call me direct. And actually, the editor did not call me, but their creative director did, who pretty much bitched me out for not just given them what they wanted, and for having the gaul to think that maybe, just maybe, they might want someone that atually knows the subject to go over what they were going to print so as to get it right.
She did not exactly say "we really don't care if we get it wrong, as no one will know and we just want to fill space." but it was pretty damn close.
There was a lot more to it, including her using the age old myth that anyone that who has ever had any connection to the military instantly knows everythign there is to know about militarry patterns past, present and future (even doctors specialize you know).
So I did say, sure, you want to pay me for the photos and I will get them to you. But no, as they had money to pay the staff, and anyone they assigned for the article no matter how incompetant, but not for someone who had wrtten the book they were basing the article on! Can I have one of those jobs?
But I have decided there is a new ring in hell. For writers who do not do their own photo/illo research work. If you wonder why photos in most books are horrendously lame, it is because most authors just write text, and then leave it up to some one else to find "X" photos to put in the book. Seriously, many have no connection at all to the photos work or selection. And if they did it probably would not matter as they would not know if the photo was mis-captioned or anything.
Photo research is a skill and a developed talent. If you find photos no one has ever seen, people take notice. If then everyone else starts using those photos their value decreases.
This is why, (truie story) when one guy sent me a manuscript to look at which had all the photos be copied out of my books with my original captions included... I got a bit upset.
His excuse was "you did such a wonderful job finding the perfect photos that I figured why bother redoing that!" Seriously. And I mean they were photocpied form my book with including the original captions!
And he still doesn't understand why I got pissed.
Sad thing is, this kind of crap happens to me about every 2-3 months.
Friday, October 22, 2010
At this tells me is that the field is not growing. Probably due to lack of money. If people are not buying, they are not collecting, and if not collecting they may fall out of that habit and into another that is cheaper.
Yes, blame the economy. Only a wealthy society can afford to collect. We know the Romans (well, the rich ones) collected coins. However collecting pretty much stopped for a while, until the very rich started it up again. Small wonder that the USA pretty much led the world in collecting stuff.
So what I wonder is: if someone is not collecting now due to money problems, will they start collecting when money returns? Or will they have developed a "depression" outlook and stock away that money for a rainy day (as those who lived through the depression did).
Actually, in some respects ebay is a little bit more like it was in the early days when you could find real bargains. I've seen some very good buys tucked in around the items from E/5906th. Of course, now that everything costs $10 to ship, those inexpensive items need to be worth a lot more to make it worthwhile.
Friday, October 08, 2010
I did invent a kind of neat device though. I have a number of footlockers and boxes that contain wool items. I was worried that a moth might get in their and lay eggs.
So what I did was tale one of the no pest strips, and cut it into little 1" chunks. You can't just toss these in as if they touch cloth they can discolor it. So I took two plastic cups from some desert, poked a bunch of holes in the bottom of one, put the chunk in the solid one and slid the holed one into it.
This gives me a device which the gas will slowly bleed off, but nothing can come in touch with it due to the shape of the cups. The small chunk is enough to fill the footlocker with gas, and nuke ANY insect in it. Should work for 3-4 months.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Army Sgt. Edward T. Jones, of West Pawlet, Vt., will be buried on Sept. 25 in Saratoga, N.Y. In November 1944, the 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division was traveling east through the Hürtgen Forest in an attempt to capture the German towns of Vossenack and Schmidt. On Nov. 6, Jones and five other members of A Company, 112th Infantry Regiment, were killed in the town of Kommerscheidt when a German tank fired point-blank on their position.
In 2008, a German explosive ordnance disposal team, working at a construction site in the town of Kommerscheidt, found fragments of a World War II-era U.S. military boot. The team notified the German War Graves Commission who recovered remains of two individuals at the site and military equipment including two identification tags. The items were turned over to a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team in the area for further analysis.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the JPAC used dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Sunday, September 05, 2010
I am now thinking what I could do with all the garage space the jeep and all its many associated items are taking up.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
So, I suspect a new genration was hatched after the gas. I then fumigated those rooms and sealed the doors. Now I have to keep watching the pheremone traops to see if a new batch hatches. In theory I should not have to wait more than 10 days for an all clear, but all it takes is one egg laying moth and I have to start all over again.
This is why it is really great to be able to seal off rooms and check them seperatly.
Monday, August 09, 2010
However I just noticed that there are a lot more on the market that seem to be cheaper. Go to Amazon and search "clothes moth trap" and there are a few. I have no idea if these are as good or the same as the IL brand.
I'll have to ask a preservation expert I know. BUt it means not having to buy in amounts of 10.
Just as I finally find a copy of the 950 page WW1 Signal Corps photography caption book, It gets scanned and placed online.
While maybe not of great import to many, this is a major deal to those working with AEF photos. Its now free and avaiable to donload from the internet archives.
I can now keep it on my computer for rapid access, although it is a tad hard to work with as a pdf. However, this was almost the tipping point for my buying a kindle DX to be able to read pdf's on.
Permethrin is toxic to cats, but not dogs and humans. The permethrin vapor coming off the yellow strips settles to the ground, where most moths live, and acts as a neuro-agent. Its safe to use as long as people, or dogs, don't spedn a lot of time (like sleeping) in the area. Within a day after starting that I picked up no more moths in my basement traps.
I then nuked the house using aresol permethrin spayers. These are cmmonly found in hardware stores, and you seal the house, turn them on, and leave for 2 hours, then come back and ventilate. Now this is going to kill all the living moths, but probably not touch the eggs, which can hatch in a few to ten days. So I am going to have to do it again in 10 days.
One thing I had just never connected with, is that if you have a dog (or cat), they make you more suspectable to clothes moths. They shed and leave hair on the floor. Moths eat wool as it is an animal hair- just like pet fur. So if you have pet fur sitting around under the sofa or whatever, a moth flitting in has a greater chance of finding food for the babies.
And as moths are crappy flyers and like to stay low on the ground, it makes the best preventative measure against them is to vacuum.
Now I feel like I am fighting a guerilla war aginst them.
Monday, July 26, 2010
At this point if it were possible I would bomb the house, but for various reasons I don't really have a place to relocate for a few days and with a small dog you have to be very careful.
So, more pheremone traps everywhere. Try and vacuum as much as possible (this really does help) and I may have to get some DDVP (no pest strips). These slowly give off a toxic gas that sinks to the ground (where moths love to be) and kilsl them The downside is that there is a potential of them causing cancer. Which is why they should only be used in places people don't hang around a lot. Like a sealed basement collection room.
I use them in a large sealed container to fumigate all the wool that enters my collection (is some weird old NASA airtight container I found years ago). But I think now I need to be a bit proactive.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Luckily nothing has shown up on the traps ine the basement where most fo the old wool is. And only one on teh 1st floor (right by the stairway), but 7 male moths on the 2nd floor.
So I am now moving the traps between all the 2nd floor rooms with the doors shut to see if one seems to have a greater number than the rest.
Then I have to figure out the life cycle of the clothing moth so as to make sure I try and nail all the next batch of males before they fertilize the females.
There is somethign to be said for collecting modern stuff- moths do not eat cotton or nylon.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
July 19, 2010
SEOUL, South Korea -- Trapped by two Chinese divisions, troops of the 8th U.S. Cavalry Regiment were left to die in far northern Korea, abandoned by the U.S. command in a Korean War episode viewed as one of the most troubling in American military history.
Sixty years later, those fallen Soldiers, the lost battalion of Unsan, are stranded anew.
North Korea is offering fresh clues to their remains. American teams are ready to re-enter the north to dig for them. But for five years, the U.S. government has refused to work with North Korea to recover the men of Unsan and others among more than 8,000 U.S. missing in action from the 1950-53 war.
Now, under pressure from MIA family groups, the Obama administration is said to be moving slowly to reverse the Bush administration's suspension of the joint recovery program, a step taken in 2005 as the North Korean nuclear crisis dragged on.
"If I had a direct line in to the president, I would say, `Please reinstitute this program. There are families that need closure,' " said Ruth Davis, 61, of Palestine, Texas, whose uncle, Sgt. 1st Class Benny Don Rogers, has been listed as MIA since Chinese attackers overran his company -- I Company, 8th Cavalry -- at Unsan in late 1950.
It was one of Rogers' I Company comrades, Pfc. Philip W. Ackley of Hillsboro, N.H., whose identifying dog tag appeared in a photo the North Koreans handed over at Korea's Panmunjom truce village in January of this 60th year since the war started. The North Koreans also delivered photos of remains, a stark reminder that Unsan's dead still wait to come home.
The U.S. "has developed the humanitarian issue into a political problem," complained a North Korean statement urging resumption of the MIA search project, which earned hard currency for the Pyongyang government.
The devastating losses at Unsan, in early November 1950, came as China intervened to fend off a final North Korean defeat. In a last letter home, dated Oct. 30, Rogers told his parents, "It is a lot better over here, but it's not over yet."
The U.S. command had ignored intelligence reports that China's army was moving south, and Rogers and the 8th Cavalry had been sent too far north, just 80 kilometers (50 miles) from China, where they stumbled into a closing enemy vise.
Higher headquarters rejected requests for a pullback, then refused to send artillery forward to support a rescue effort. Finally, it ordered the rescue force withdrawn.
Two of the 8th Cavalry's three battalions managed to escape, with heavy losses. But only small bands from the five companies of the doomed 3rd Battalion made it out as waves of Chinese infantry attacked their 200-meter-wide (200-yard-wide) defense perimeter.
The 8th Cavalry's abandonment at Unsan became an infamous chapter in Army annals -- "one of the most shameful and little-known incidents in U.S. military history," wrote Korean War historian Jack J. Gifford.
Some 600 of the 3rd Battalion's 800 men were lost, about half believed killed and half captured, many of whom died in Chinese-run prison camps.
The U.S. and North Korea established the MIA search in 1996 after lengthy negotiations. Over nine years, working across North Korea, the joint teams recovered 229 sets of remains believed to be those of Americans, including 14 subsequently identified as 3rd Battalion men.
But an estimated 260 U.S. dead are still unaccounted for at Unsan, among almost 4,600 U.S. MIAs in North Korea, the Pentagon's Defense POW/MIA Office says. When then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld suspended the program in 2005, officials cited what they said were concerns about the security of American personnel working on the territory of a longtime U.S. adversary.
Richard Lawless, the former Pentagon official who recommended the move, defends it today, telling The Associated Press it was a "prudent decision" because the U.S. field teams "were potential high-value hostages as the North Korean nuclear crisis deepened."
The MIA support groups rejected that rationale, saying they suspected President George W. Bush's administration instead wanted to break the lone working link with North Korea and pressure Pyongyang in the nuclear showdown.
"This safety aspect from the Pentagon sounds like so much hogwash," said former 3rd Battalion sergeant Robert J. Earl, 82, of Federal Way, Wash. Earl was not at Unsan, having been wounded earlier, and for years he has sought information on his 8th Cavalry mortar platoon, all of whom may have perished.
Stepping up their lobbying in Washington last year, the MIA families appear to have made headway with the new administration.
"I'm in touch with everyone there, and they all support restoring the program," said Frank Metersky, 77, a Marine veteran of the war and longtime MIA campaigner.
Larry Greer, spokesman for the Defense POW/MIA Office, said officials are "evaluating" a possible resumption. Other administration officials have pointedly referred to the recovery program as a humanitarian mission unrelated to political considerations. But the recent furor over North Korea's alleged torpedoing of a South Korean warship "has stopped everything in its tracks for now," Metersky said.
Nevertheless, U.S. specialists sound ready.
"We are prepared to resume operations in [North Korea] and will request access to the Unsan area," the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii, home to the field teams, said in its latest annual report.
Its forensic experts, meanwhile, continue the laborious work of DNA identification of remains returned years ago, like those of Master Sgt. Roy Earl Head of the 7th Infantry Division, finally identified, brought home and buried June 5 in a family cemetery in Grit Hill, Va.
"It's remarkable, after 59 years," said brother David Head, 71, of Kingsport, Tenn.
All his life, he thought daily about Roy, he said. His mind turned sympathetically to others.
"There are still a lot more families out there who might not ever find out, or get the closure we will get," Head said.
Friday, July 23, 2010
I have been lax on my anti-insect prevention for a while. But as I just received a WW1 uniform for a friend in France and re mailed it, I started to get nervous. It was supposed to be mint, but there were two small moth holes on it. It spent its time in the freezer while it was at my house, but it kicked me to replace my moth pheromone traps.
These are expensive (about $10@), but they lure the male clothes moth onto their sticky goodness. Now it is possible the moth was just a random type of non-wool eating pest that stumbled onto the sticky pad, but the probability of that is pretty low.
So within 12 hours I got a moth. Crap.
I have set some more traps on other floors to see if any have gone up. Now in theory the male moths will all get stuck and die in these, so there is no one to mate with the females. Although technically they should serve only as an early warning device that there is an infestation.
You can buy the traps from Insects Unlimited- but sadly only in packs of ten.
Thursday, July 08, 2010
It covers the investigation of on of the US Army Art people trackig down the missing relics of the Holy Roman Emperor that vanished from a Nuremburg vault just before the town was captured. It dies a good portrayal of what the immediate post war period was like, and brings up some reaqlly intereting possibilities for some of the things Hitler had in mind to confirm his grasp on Europe- like have himself corronated the Holy Roman Emperor, and also convnce people that Jessu was actually born in a different Bethlehem where the population was of aryan (not jewish) stock.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Sunday, July 04, 2010
But 66 years. That is what a lifetime used to be. Time keeps munching on, and slowly the past fades. What was to him a memory, is now history. Things that to me are memories are now history to college kids.
When my dad was a kid he used to sit and listen to civil war vets tell stories as they sat on their front steps. That used to seem amazing to me, but now my dad's exploits are as far removed. Someday (I hope) some kids will ask some old guy what it was like fighting in Iraq, and he'll remember the time he talked with some old guy who fought in France.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
This led to searching the web, reading about the marches, (making a small bid on ebay on one and getting it). It just never ceases to amaze me just how many areas of military related collected are out there.
military money, military beer cans, military sports items... the crossover to other collectible areas is pretty amazing. There is just no limit, and it just goes to show you that the old collector's adage about specialization holds true.
I bet you could amass a world class military volksmarche collection without spending too much money.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Anyone that read my old book reviews in the GI Journal knows I don't take kindly to crap. I get irritated when people publish books that are rehashes of something else, tell us nothing new, or show the author clearly does not have a good grasp on the subject.
Thus I bring up Victory was Beyond Their Grasp, by Doug Nash.
So this book makes me angry. Not because it's bad- heavens no. It's good. Van Johnson good! It makes me angry that something like this which breaks such new ground, on a topic no one else has done any real work on gets pretty much ignored.
While someone like Rick Atkinson who doesn't know a WW2 battalion from a regiment, gets massive royalties and $100,000 awards from the Pritzker Military Library. Life is just not fair.
So to be brief, this is an important book. It's the only one in English I am aware of that deals with the company history of a Volks-Grenadier Company in the Hurtgen Forest and on. It belong in every military history library, and the author deserves a major award for doing something new, interesting, important, and good.
Another fine book from the Aberjona Press - which if you don't know their stuff you need to!
This means most of my collection is stored and not displayed. Yeah, lucky me.
So in my Nth reorganization I find that I have stuff I totally forgot I had. Which is kind of scary since I have been going through the Alzheimer's thing with my mom.
What this means is that some things have been packed away for a long time. In fact I have been in the house for almost 20 years now. There are boxes that I know I have not opened since the move (OK, those are pretty much the stuff I thought was junky surplus at the time - now some of it actually worth something).
But a lot of things have just been packed up over the years and stored away. Which got me to thinking about the old adage of pack as if it's going to be there for a while.
This means don't just toss it in a box, but give it some thought: like don't pad with acidic newspaper. Now in theory you are supposed to store clothing out flat. Few of us can afford to do this. So in some cases rolling the uniforms up may be a better way that folding them (as the time and pressure may make those folds permanent).
Don't store the stuff where there's a chance it will get wet (like near a washing machine), and not where it will hit extremes of temperature (like a garage or attic).
Keep stuff together. You may think you will remember that the cables for those radios is in the second small box from the right, but one day you won't. I have a jeep part that had all the nuts and bolts safely put into a jar so they would not get lost. And now, they are. In the jar (I hope) somewhere. Lost in the depths of the garage of doom or the basement of diet-Pepsi.
Somewhere there is a guy who has a list of everything he owns, and it tells him what box it is in. I'm not that guy. I used to know in my mind where everything was, where I got it, and what it was worth. But now I find time has let some of that slip.
So take it from me - start good collecting habits now.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Lt Alonzo Cushing is going to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his battery's stand at Pickett's Charge. A noble deed. His first sergeant had already been given the award, so now they have decided (after much lobbying) to approve it for Cushing.
I have a problem with this. I in no way have anything against the guy, but it opens the door to political meddling in such awards.
There was a rule that after X years you just could not qualify for a medal. Then they went back and retroactively awarded them to folks who were possibly denied medals for racial reasons. This opens the door to other retroactive awards. Like the recent move to get a MOH for Captain Winters of 506th fame just as he had been portrayed in a movie.
I guess if I had enough money I could start up a big campaign to get my dad one- drop tons of money on congressmen, make a movie about what he did, have books written, and so on.
A while back I had a conversation with one of the guys who did the basic work on the racially awarded MOH's. He had piles of names of guys who were deserving- some being turned down for being Jewish (seriously), or having drinking problems out of combat.
The most interesting one was a guy who was at first on the list as he was thought to have been Hispanic, then when the committee found out he was half Indian, they bumped him as their mandate was to only find Hispanics to award the medal to.
I encouraged him to write a book on it (and I suggested the title "close but no cigar".
No, I think it is just too dangerous to allow these after the fact awards, with the one exception being if a guy was going to have been awarded it at the time, but the paperwork really did get lost or mis-laid or something.
Friday, May 14, 2010
So a few weeks ago I went a tad nuts, deciding to extend my US Army combat uniform and equipment collection to the current day. In hindsight it was probably a defense mechanism to blot out the issues I was having dealing with moving my mom to an Alzheimer's unit. I had a stash of collection money in my paypal account, and I was ready to buy. I went spending my dough as if I was developing a museum collection of 'type' objects- looking for unused stuff of different patterns and versions- not ID'd groups.
But I will say I learned a lot about modern gear I had been ignoring, and acquired a fair amount of cubic square feet of 'stuff' that is somewhat cool.
And as I said I ignored the golden rule of studying first before buying. In my defense, aside from a few regulations manuals, there is really nothing much written about this stuff (post 1990 Army gear) except for helmets. So I learned by looking, asking, and digging. I'll admit the first week I made some dumb purchases. Not really bad ones, but bought extras of stuff I now know I will never really need, or be able to sell for much. I also paid a bit too much for some things. Not a lot, but I could have gotten it cheaper.
After the first week or two of almost random shotgun buying I had figured out the rough areas I needed to fill in, and what was easily available. This is when I realized that I could have done better when I started. By week two or three I had a reasonable handle on what I was looking for and began to be much more selective. And by a month I knew what were going to be the hard bits to find – which things were dogs, and which I should snap up right away if they came on the market. These were mainly items linked to the Special Operations people. Although I refuse to pay much for a Spec Ops badged uniform as I can make one up myself that cannot be told apart from a real one. I prefer generic grunt stuff myself. And for some reason it is actually harder to find.
Of course, now I tell myself that I could have taken the same money and spent it on one or two really nice things from WW1 or WW2. At times I regret that, although I honestly do not know what I would have bought that I don't already have.
Will I regret it? I'm not sure. I learned a lot and I got a few rare items that I know will just get tougher to find in the future, but I added so many more boxes to my collection that it makes it harder to move in the basement of doom.
Monday, May 10, 2010
One of the things I often tell people who want to write on military history is to not re-invent the wheel. There is nothing I hate more than someone doing the same old book someone else has already done. This goes double for anything related to the101st AB. There are so many interesting units out there that cry out for documentation, and we are about at the last minute for getting memories for veterans.
So I give a tip of my cap … I mean… beret… to the Office of History of the Corps of Engineers. They have recently published a book called "Nothing but Praise: a History of the 1321st Engineer General Service Regiment. It is based upon the donated papers and photographs of the commanding officer. The family should be congratulated in finding such a place to give them to, as the result is a pretty good tribute to the officers and men of this little known unit.
The 3121st was a black unit with white officers in the ETO. It was one of many such generic engineer units that probably would have gone without notice had this book not been written. Spike Lee. Here's a story you could have done that would have not been such an embarrassment.
One of the things that really struck me was that unlike WW1, the WW2 general service units were pretty well equipped. In WW1 they were little more than labor battalions with pick and shovel. In the 1940's the US Army did not do anything by hand that could be done faster in a mechanized way. These guys used bulldozers, steam shovels, trucks, pneumatic hammers, rock crushers, and so on. The thing you might not get at first is this meant these guys (often poor black men from the south that had little chance for education) were suddenly given training on how to operate and maintain these things. They learned valuable skills that would transfer directly into civilian like (note Mauldin's "You're lucky, you're learning a trade").
I don't think anyone has really looked at what kind of impact this training, which probably would have never been within the grasp of many of these men, had after the war. At the very least I would like to see a survey of the jobs and skills listed for these men upon induction, and then when they were discharged. Perhaps there is a way to see how many of them went into a similar field in civilian life (Maybe check obituaries?). Here's a readymade thesis or dissertation topic for you (or a really cool book).
As for this one my main complaint it that is it too short. It's a small format softcover much like the local history books we see nowadays. The photos are great, and there is a hint here are many, many more that could have been shown. A negative point is they "design" the book a bit too much to include things like a photo of a compass, when I would prefer to see another photo of one of the men. Even if they decided not to add in more text (and I would suggest a capsule mention of all the similar units at the end, or a good T/O&E) they could have just made the pages larger and thus made the photos bigger. Of course, this is just what I would wish, and if wishes were horses we'd all be eating steak.
So I'm quite pleased that the engineer folks did this book. Especially Michael J. Broadhead who edited the work. It is things like this that make it worthwhile donating material to government organizations. For sale from the USGPO, but also at Amazon: Nothing but Praise, by Aldo H. Bagnulo, Government Printing Office, 2009, 978-0-16-083672-5.
It is a $12 book, and it can be found on Amazon.com
But you can download a free copy of it at the Corps of Engineers website. It did take me a while to actually find the durn thing, so here you go.
For more info on the book: http://www.usace.army.mil/History/hv/Pages/112-AfricanAmericanEngineer.aspx
Sunday, May 02, 2010
I had an odd conversation with a collector the other day. He was being somewhat dismissive of books on the US Army written by non-Americans. In fact he was very much of the 'if it wasn't done here, it can't be any good' style of thinking.
Now probably most of my published writing has not been done in the USA, so I kind of took exception to this, and had it pointed out that my stuff is OK because I AM an American. But that people without a close tie to America can't really get into the skin of an American soldier. He's not really prejudiced as you might think. He made very good points about non Americans not having good access to archives and libraries. That they would have a harder time talking to veterans and such, and that they may have been put somewhat off the track by having been in a different Army.
Now knowing he also collected German stuff I had to steer the conversation around to what books he likes for German info. And … tada! … all he mentioned books written by Americans and published in America. So I pointed out that by his thinking all he should read are books on the German army written by Germans.
"That's different; You can't print some of this stuff in Germany so it has to be done here."
So I countered then with any eastern front books should be written by Russians. That, he said, would be ridiculous as everyone knows the Russians have been fed so much propaganda nothing they do is not biased.
And I finally decided to shift the conversation to something else knowing I would not ever get anywhere.
But it is interesting that us Americans do seem to think we "own" our own Army's story, and no one else can tell it. I know I do get a bit irritated when British books use British terms or abbreviations for American military ones. I think an American Rifle company should be abbreviated Co. instead of Coy. That's my own pet peeve.
Certainly, I think it is much harder for someone from, say, Belgium, to write on an American topic. But this means he must be really, really keen on doing, and therefore may put a lot of extra work into it. There's also something to having a totally fresh set of eyes so that someone (like a famous Marine) does not assume that since it was done some way in his day, the same must be true for 10 years before him.
In the end it's up to the work itself to stand the test of people who really know the field. They need to look at it and see if it is well done or not. Certainly we know publishers no longer do this.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
I have been having more and more people tell me how some WW2 stuff will glow under black light.
Now I will grant that we don't know for certain what the Germans made everything out of, especially in the last days of the war, but as to US patches I can say I have never seen a patch that I know for sure is wartime (and I have a few hundred from 2 collections made by WW2 GI's that stopped when they left the army) glow. Maybe a mild glow on one that was washed in detergent, but just a mild glow.
Some people say "they could have used a synthetic…" but no one seems to be able to come up with proof of that. From everything anyone has ever seen on WW2 US patches they were not made of any synthetics. So to claim "some were" is to me an extraordinary claim and demands extraordinary proof.
What gets me is that people most vocal about glowing being OK are either dealers selling them, or people who have bought them. Both have vested interests. I'm sorry but until someone shows me some proof I'm not going to believe it. It 'may' be true, but if so then just show your proof. It's that simple.
Will WW2 patches suffer a chemical change when dry cleaned that make them glow? I have no idea. I doubt it, but dry cleaning fluids are nasty things and if any chemical can mess with something I am sure it would be dry cleaning fluids. But where is a chemist to explain the science behind it? If an all natural fiber and common dye can luminesce due to dry cleaning it should either be a simple explanation, or a mystery any chemist worth their salt would like to figure out.
What's really odd to me is that people seem to find glowing patches most frequently when they are rare or theater made, or unusual ones. No one ever seems to find blue star commando patches. Now that could be that they are so common that one ever looks at them. Or it could be that they are so common no one ever made post war versions of them (or some such mundane not terribly collectible patch).
People are free to believe what they want, but I think a lot more collectors need to ask for proof of statements like this. There are too many collectors' myths out there that get passed from one person to the next. Normally so someone can make money. Used ot be history was re-writtenf or political gain. Now it gets re-written for financial gain.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Yes, like everyone I at one time collected camouflage. Of course I also collected everything else so I am not sure what that means. It ended up with me writing the definitive(so far) history of US Army camouflage in WW2- to include a pre-WW1 aborted test of a reversible dual color uniform.
Now I am looking at the sheer massive number of cammo patterns and colors in the world and wonder just how many people that love the stuff have done their homework on it. Camouflage is a funny thing. You have to match color to background, and you have to match size of splotches to distance to viewer to be effective. And then once you start moving it generally makes you more visible than if you just wore plain old olive drab.
Good ol' OD#7 is at a low spot in the human visual receptors that make it "not stand out." Just like bright yellow and lime green at area high spot where they stand out more than other colors and are thus used for fire engines. Consider that at one point they were painting emergency vehicles that bright lime green for safety. They stopped. Why? The loss of morale in the fire crews.
But every soldier in the world is camouflage crazy and if they don't wear a cammo uniform they feel left out and unloved. I cannot help remember a U.S. Army cammo designer that once told me a pattern they were working on was reasonably effective, but the soldiers thought it looked stupid, so they had to stop their tests as it would end up lowering morale. After having read so many reports and tests on the stuff I can't help but think that camouflage is, to a certain extent, a con game in which the major benefit is a boost to soldier morale.
I was reading some web reports by so called "camouflage experts" and it was very clear to me that all they are interested in is pretty colors and designs, as they did not seem to have done any actual reading up on the history and background of the subject.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
As I was cataloging my modern gear to keep track of what I have, and what I don't, I pulled out my old Kevlar Pot. Funny thing. I never thought twice about until now. I had been given it by a staff member at Natick Army Labs soon after they started to get issued.
Now I look at it, and see there are markings, maker or size, in it. And in looking at it next to another I picked recently, I went "Hmmmm…."
So out comes the credit card to buy some books on the darn thing (one actually can have too many books, and I do, but that does not stop me). And I posted photos for some people in the know to look at.
I seem to have a knack for picking up stuff only to later find it a rare variant. Or maybe it is just the law of probabilities due to the amount of junk I bring home.
There is nothing marked in there! (ignore the chin strap, I added that later on). I'm wondering now if there even is any Kevlar in it. Imagine what it would be worth if it were a prototype M-1 helmet from WW2.
The New Militaria Magazine is out, and I noticed it was issue 297 (!). That's close to 300. I mean, that's a pretty good record for a collectors magazine.
Of course German Paratroopers in Normandy is kind of cheating as that is one of the areas that sells tons of copies. If only they could find ONE photo of an SS paratrooper in Normandy, then an article on him would break all sales records!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
So Bill Mauldin gets a stamp in his honor this month. It makes me happy. I'd much rather see a stamp for him (and Willie and Joe) than a Disney character.
But the funny thing is that the "official" first day release is not at Ft. Benning- home of the infantry, where you might expect, but at Ft. Jackson. Jackson, which is home to:
U.S. Army Adjutant General Corps Museum
U.S. Army Chaplain Museum
the Basic Training Museum
U.S. Army Finance Corps Museum
(a more chairborne base you may not be able to find).
So I just have to say, "beautiful stamp ceremony, is there one for the enlisted men?"
If you don't understand this joke, you don't know his work very well.
(and in fact there is: down in New Mexico where he lived).
Now I also must point out one of his kids is selling T shirts with his work on them to raise money for what appears to be a very good charity. A group that coordinates free help for troubled vets from medical professionals. I actually looked into it, and it seems to be a legit shoe string operation. The shirts are high quality, silkscreened, and pretty cheap compared to many.
OK, so in a weak moment I got interested in all the changes to Army web gear since I had paid attention. And I got interested in the progression to what we see today. So I decided I would collect "one of" each item (as in "by type"). And of course that also led to my desire for collecting one "combat uniform" of each type (and boots, and helmet and…).
So I started looking at ebay and various other places and found for not much money I the stuff. And I bit. And I started buying. And slowly realized that my initial purchases were not all that great. I had bought "like new" which had names and wear on them. Sometimes I paid more than a mint example for one of the used ones. Yes, I feel stupid about not reading and researching for a week or two before buying. I jumped the guy and HAD to get some of the great deals now!
I don't feel too bad. I wrote it off as my learning experience. I may even be able to get most of the money back by selling off the extra stuff. However, in a short period of time I have gained a pretty good idea of what's out there, what it goes for, and what the tougher to get items are.
Anyone have the MOLLE medical backpack they want to get rid of?
Friday, February 19, 2010
I am convinced that everything that was ever made, or ever will be made, will get reproduced. Such is life.
I try and stay on top of these, as if I don't, I could get taken by a sharp dealer. Case in point- shu-mine boxes. I just noticed IMA is making them. They are simple to make, and there's probably no real way to tell them apart. I've owned about 3 of them over the years - Stupidly traded off all but one.
I am sure they will start turning up on ebay soon with the right fuse. While at IMA I also saw they are making copies of the somewhat rare WW1 era US Cavalry bandoleer. Thankfully, that copy is decent enough for a reenactor, but I don't think would fool anyone with any experience. Not that it will keep someone from aging and finding one 'at a barn sale.' And now an even better copy is being made by WPG. 103635000
I will keep saying to my dying day that the only responsible thing is to mark stuff as reproduction in a reasonable way (inside pocket, etc.) but it'll never happen. Things I buy as a reproduction I mark myself. Which means in the future that when my estate gets sold off it will be worth more. On one hand because I am a famous author and historian (I have had people actually say they want to buy an item that was used in one of my books), and on the other hand because my reputation will help reassure people they are getting real stuff.
This has nothing to do with greed on my part, but a sense of pride in my collection.
And after all, a true collector takes pride in his work!
It was pointed out to me that I seemed to have come down hard on dealers. Not so. I have come down hard on crappy greedy dealers. The ones that lie, cheat and steal as the only thing they collect is money, with no care for what they sell (or respect for whom they sell to).
Of course, one might ask- are dealers necessary? Yeah, probably. Before the internet certainly. Now it might be possible to do only collector to collector exchanges (such as on ebay), but good dealers do play an important role. Not only do they work as a sort of collectibles bank (storing items until a buyer can be found) but most importantly they can be vast repositories of information. Assuming of course they do not sway their info to make a sale. Which, sadly, far too many do when their next meal depends upon making a sale.
In some ways the cost you pay to a dealer actually includes the value of his experience: identification, checking authenticity, and just in general having spent many years learning about the stuff.
I'd make a terrible dealer. I've tried. I hate to sell anything. Even just to trade it off. No matter what it is, I always end up missing it.
They will always say "buy the best quality you can." Well, yeah. It's true.
And I will explain. A lot of new collectors are more concerned with quantity than quality. They prefer to buy a lot of stuff, rather than one nice thing. This means they tend to but a lot of cheaper items (which means more common) than an expensive one.
I am guilty of this. In my misspent youth when I had started seriously collecting militaria I had a bad tendency to go to shows and try and come home with no money. I normally did this quite well. I liked having 'one of each' and would often buy a few $5, different, but common items. This means my collection expanded fast, but it was probably a mistake on my part.
I spent money on such common things as canteen and pistol belts. There was very little written about such 'junk' at the time so I essentially collected by seeing what looked different. In some cases (and not many) I lucked out and ended up picking up a rare variant not knowing what I was doing. In most cases I bought decent average examples of things, which have gone up slightly to moderately in value.
Some very common items, such as WW1 canteens which are pretty hard to destroy) turn up so often in flea markets and such that I think by now I have about 8 of them sitting in a box. I probably paid the going rate for the first one, and now a days due to the large number of them the going rate is not much more.
But in my quest for one of everything, I bought a lot of 'filler' quality. Jacket with a hole, or a repair, or something. Webbing with a small tear and a bit dirty. Helmet that was somewhat dinged up. Good honest wear, but not top quality. The value of these has not gone up all that much, and there is plenty of average quality still on the market.
Because I was too concerned with how many items I could buy, I passed over a great many really good quality things that are now very scarce or rare. So I now find that I can go out and easily buy the poor to average quality stuff with no real problem for not much more money, but the rare stuff, the unique stuff, the mint condition stuff- well that is not always easily found, and that equals higher value and price.
So Big Important collector rule # 3 is that once you figure the focus of your collection, don't buy poor quality unless it is dirt cheap, and try and only by the very top quality. If you collect Elvis plates this means don't buy the 5 chipped ones for $50, save the $50 for one in good condition. Pass on the 3 very common Elvis plates to save the money to get the rare older plate. Thos common ones will always be available. Dabbling collectors who buy those will always be getting out of the hobby and selling them off- sometimes for far less than they are worth.
And yes, I regret many of my purchases, and kick myself for passing up some amazing stuff. But it has all somehow entered my collector's data bank and made me what I am today. I just wish someone had told me when I was young.
Oh wait, I think they did. They just did not explain it very well. I just thought they were being snobby.
Everyone will tell you this. Everyone ends up ignoring it.
The Big rule #2 is to do your homework before you start buying. This is generally refined down to "buy the book before you buy the item." Meaning, read some books on the subject before you start picking things up.
If you don't you WILL end up buying stuff that is junk, or overpriced, or fake. Then you'll eventually find out about it and become bummed. IN some cases you will then feel so crappy you will lose the joy of collecting. This has become a major problem in collecting German WW2 items, because 98% of everything sold in this field is fake. Or maybe 99.5%.
Some of it is so good that unless you've been handling it for years, and have stayed up to date on what is going on in the field you just can't tell. And of course there are dome really evil, shitty, hell bound people that write books on the subject that knowingly show a fake as real- so as to enable them to sell junk. A friend of mine was once threatened with physical violence for writing articles on how to spot the fakes. Another was threatened with an advertiser boycott of a publication because the magazine printed such articles. I'm told that certain major dealers in Britain that drive really fancy cars have hired goons to deal with this issue.
More beginning collectors have started out by buying a few items, generally not that cheap, and when they find they have been screwed, they stop collecting. I used to predict this would really hurt the market as a lot of people who might have stayed in the hobby would leave, and thus remove a lot of customers, but there is a sucker born every minute- and two when it comes buying Nazi stuff.
Mea Culpa. I've been there. You see something you did not know you could actually get, and your eyes become too big for your brain, and you plunk down good money assuming this is a bargain, or it is a once in a lifetime chance, or that you cannot wait one more minute to start in on this new hobby. I'm pretty good at avoiding this, but to my shame I will tell you the last time I was took.
I discovered you could buy inexpensive roan coins that you got to clean, and figure out where they came from and what time period. No problem there. I read enough before spending money on some. I got my money's worth and had a lot of fun and learned a lot. I still dabble in ancient coins when I need a diversion. But I was suckered by a similar area.
I spotted on ebay a guy selling roman coins that also had some roman artifacts from an "ancient battlefield." Now being really interested in the Roman Army I HAD to get some before this great opportunity went away. The dealer was a bit cagey in his answers, but I fell for it. I sent (not a large sum of money, but probably a good 3-4 times what they were actually worth. As I learned more I found that the same kind of old metal junk is found all over the place in Europe, and I probably could have bought a whole bag of odd bits that were similar for a lot less. I fell for his description of them coming from a field where Roman battles Germanic tribesmen. Great story- but almost certainly made up as it sounded cooler than "old metal bits that look Roman in time period that come from the leftover detector finds that no one wanted." I still have them I a case to remind me not to jump on something before doing my homework.
So, two days ago I stumbled on something that I thought would be kind of fun, but I did not buy. I read. I read all the ebay listings., I searched the web for collector's groups, I read the 'how to' web pages kind people had put up. I learned a lot. In the end I went into it with eyes wide open and buying material from a reputable source instead of a "get rich quick" ebay junkseller. I'd say what it is but it is part of a cunning plan for a gift for someone that I do not want to tip off.
And the Corollary to this rule is "do not trust dealers." If someone is making money by selling you something, they are tainted. Now, many dealers are honest, but many are not. They will sing you a song about how this button was only worn by the special guards at Abraham Lincoln's funeral, or that this doll arm is the hardest part to find on a 10" Shirley Temple. Anything to make the sale.
Just say no, until you have really looked at the hobby and fell you have a handle on it. Ebay makes this so much easier. Case in point. There are 10 million unissued WW2 era US rifle grenade sight kits out there. There is no proof at all they were ever even used in the war. Everyone has them for sale, and every collector probably bought one early in his collecting days as he figured it was a cool item, but they are pretty much worthless (OK, so maybe $5). Now in the old days if you went to a gun show and saw one for $30 you might think it was hard to get and snap it up. Today, a simple search on ebay will show 10-20 listed at any one time. Some for very low prices, some for very high.
Love or hate ebay- it can give you an instant snapshot of a collector's field from the comfort of your own home. Don't trust all the wacky stories tell you (found in the attic of Abe Lincoln's tailor's grandson), but use it to get a quick idea of what it out there. If there are more than 10 of something on ebay at one time, it's probably not all that rare.
I guess I have to start addressing all the BIG and IMPORTANT collector rules that we all know, but somehow keep breaking and end up regretting it.
Rule #1 Collect what brings you joy.
Sounds dumb right? Wrong. Too many people collect stuff they do not really care about as an item, but only see dollar signs and profit in it. They are not collectors- they are dealers (and generally greedy ones as well).
If you get a tingle in your toes when you see a Speed Racer lunchbox, that's cool. If you read a story about how you can make big money in matchbook covers and start grabbing them up, that's not cool. The reason? Collect as if the resale market for your stuff was to become non-existent. Then if you are stuck with a room full of worthless Pee Wee Herman memorabilia they will still be of value to you. (or you can give them to me cause I love him).
Digression- stupid collector thing. I found a large talking Pee Wee Herman doll at a yard sale. It was cheap because the voice box was messed up and it spoke way too fast and high pitched. I snagged it, found a long wig, put it on the doll, and made an instant Cousin It doll! I am happy, and people are amazed at it.
Ok, back to the rule. A lot of people collected Beanie babies. Most thought they would be come rich on them. Most ended up with a room full of dumb worthless little stuffed animals they ended up giving away to kids. They wasted their time and money, when they could have been collecting John Wayne commemorative plates and actually LIKED them.
So collect stuff you like! People that aquire things for resale are not collectors. They are dealers. If these dealers really don't care much for the items, then they are dealer scum. The ones that don't care if they screw over a new collector, or fake something for additional profit.
However, if you buy a Shirley Temple doll for love, then find a better one and want to resell the older one to another collector so get some money to put into more collectible stuff, that's fine. You care about the items. You want to see them go to good homes, preferably with another collector.
When they die, a true collector wants his (or her) collection to either:
A. Go to a museum.
B. Be sold off to new younger collectors with love of the stuff.
C. Take it with them.
As for me? I prefer C !