Unique military items to be auctioned
Collection includes uniforms, two full footlockers
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.”
William Welch of the Phoebus Auction Gallery talks about the collection of historic military gear and equipment that will be up for auction Sunday.