Unique mil­i­tary items to be auc­tioned

Col­lec­tion in­cludes uni­forms, two full foot­lock­ers

Daily Press - - Local News - By Hugh Les­sig Staff writer

The sol­dier’s foot­locker has all the es­sen­tials, in­clud­ing socks, soap, a book­let of in­fantry drill reg­u­la­tions and a let­ter opener in the shape of a naked lady.

The col­lec­tion of mil­i­tary uni­forms spans his­tory from the late 1880s to mod­ern day. One stray box con­tains post­cards from an Amer­i­can pris­oner of war in World War II to his home in Ban­gor, Pa.

All this and more will be up for bid Sun­day at 10 a.m. when the Phoe­bus Auc­tion Gallery marks Vet­er­ans Day and the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War I.

Hun­dreds of unique items will go on the block.

Bid­ders have a shot at any num­ber of guns, knives and swords from dif­fer­ent eras. They can buy a World War II-era Navy first-aid kid that looks like it came from a PT boat or life raft. Some­one took the mor­phine, but it’s still stocked with ban­dages.

A close look at let­ters and post­cards can turn up sur­prises. One let­ter from the 1920s came from Dwight D. Eisen­hower, then an Army ma­jor, invit­ing oth­ers to tea.

Most of the auc­tion items come from the col­lec­tion of Sam Martinette of Nor­folk, who spent decades brows­ing sur­plus stores and an­tique shops and ac­cept­ing things from peo­ple who knew he was a col­lec­tor.

“I’ve just al­ways been fas­ci­nated with the grunt,” he said.

Martinette served in the Army re­serves from 1964 to 1970. He also wrote for The Vir­ginian-Pi­lot and worked for the cities of Hamp­ton and Nor­folk. Along the way, he’s kept an eye out for in­ter­est­ing stuff.

“You find some of the coolest stuff in the an­tique shop, and peo­ple don’t even re­al­ize what it is,” he said.

Two fully-stocked U.S. foot­lock­ers will be up for bid, as well a col­lec­tion of per­sonal items from a Ja­pa­nese sol­dier in World War II.

Wil­liam Welch, the cu­ra­tor of the auc­tion, said he was struck by the sim­i­lar­ity of the items.

Sol­diers who leave home tend to take the same things: a fa­vorite cup, a pipe and pho­tos of their girl­friends — or women they wished would be their girl­friends, he said.

Although 90 per­cent of the items come from Martinette’s col­lec­tion, other pieces will be in­cluded, Welch said. The fo­cus is on the Army’s famed 29th In­fantry Di­vi­sion, whose mem­bers stormed the Nor­mandy beaches on D-Day, as well as the 80th “Blue Ridge” Di­vi­sion.

“This is the first time we had a col­lec­tion of mil­i­tary items that was this large,” Welch said. “There are 460 lots in this sale.”

For Martinette, part­ing with his col­lectibles wasn’t easy.

“I was told I wasn’t go­ing to be buried like a Pharaoh with all my goods around me,” he joked. “It’s time to down­size, big time.”

Look­ing around the gallery, he said, “It’s amaz­ing to see stuff that’s been on my walls. A lot of this was in one room. I called it the war room. It’s bit­ter­sweet, but it looks good to see it all out.”

ROB OSTERMAIER/STAFF

Wil­liam Welch of the Phoe­bus Auc­tion Gallery talks about the col­lec­tion of historic mil­i­tary gear and equip­ment that will be up for auc­tion Sun­day.

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