Friday, August 2, 2013

Battlefield Military Museum: a review


As you are leaving Gettysburg on the Baltimore Pike, just as you pass  Evergreen Cemetery, you will encounter on your left an imposing brick structure with the sign Battlefield Military Museum.  Frequent visitors to Gettysburg may have driven past it many times without giving it a thought;  next trip, however, its definitely worth stopping by for a visit.



In fairness to the collection please know that I was shooting through glass so most of these photos don't do justice to the objects in the cases

The Museum has three floors, two of which are open to the public.  The lower (below ground) level is dedicated to collections spanning the World Wars, the focus of the first floor is the American Civil War and the post-Civil War era.  

The museum is idiosyncratic and very much reflective of the collecting tastes of its owner and proprietor.  With over ten thousand objects on display this museum truly is "one man's vision" and is obviously a labor of love that has taken many, many years to bring to fruition.

The galleries are shotgun-style with exhibit cases lining the walls.  Museum conservators be warned; the galleries have much too much light for museum standards, but it certainly does make it easy for visitor to drink in the wealth of materials before them.  As a matter of fact there is little about this museum that will meet with the approval of a museum conservator; visitors, on the other hand...


find themselves engrossed.

By the way the smell of mothballs is heavy in the air.



Looking like the dry-cleaners at Camp Pendleton.

The many painted helmets made me think of Chris Armold's worthy book - Painted Steel



Of the two Model 8 experimentals, the one on the left has an interesting camouflage design. 
 I wonder if its original?  Also, note the paucity of labels, generally one needs to know what one is looking at, as so little identification is provided.


Who ever said "less is more"? *


There is just one remarkable piece after another in this altogether remarkable museum.



Mr and Mrs first-nighter heading out for the revival of Springtime for Hitler (oh do click the link).



"Chock-a-block" or "cheek by jowl"; you decide.


Picklehauben a-plenty, and swimming pool blue cases!



The more one looks the more one sees.  There is so much stuff crammed into this building.  One wonders what's on the top floor?  (which isn't open to the public).



I'm sure the irony of this vignette is lost on the proprietor...

but there is definitely something going on here.



When you start calculating the value of the items in this collection you start to encounter a lot of zeros.


A lapse in the collection is the very under represented area of Japanese militaria, despite this fellow who's finger has been shot off.


The depth of the collection is just fantastic.




Despite its conservational shortcomings, not to mention the overwhelming aroma of mothballs,the  Battlefield Military Museum is a gem and I'd highly recommend you put it on your itinerary for your
 next visit to Gettysburg.


* Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hungarian/Finnish M35-38



Some of my favorite Hungarians:


Bela Bartok



Ernie Kovacs




Eliza Doolittle.  "...and not only is she of royal blood; she is a princess!" *
                                                                               Zoltan Karpathy



And the Hungarian (and often Finnish) M35-38.

Uh-oh, I don't know about you but I'm always a little skeptical about countries that model their helmets after the German stahlhelm.  Sure its a great design but it has a troubling cachet, n'est-ce pas ? (Bang! two french terms in a row).




This is an example of a Hungarian M35-38 which was refurbished into Finnish army service.


Differences from the German M35 include the rivet placement...



and the small bracket on the rear skirt.


This bracket was used to fasten the helmet on to the soldier's backpack while on the march.



The M35-38 in the field and gaily decorated.

A video of the Hungarian helmet in action here (with a nice view at 1:25)



Size and manufacturers marks are stamped into the inside of the rear skirt. Flecks of blue paint on the again indicate the Hungarian lineage of this helmet which, following WWII, was repainted and fitted
 with a Finnish liner.


The liner is distinctly Finnish.

The fabric envelopes for the pads are a little festive.





The ventilator is stamped rather than a separate piece similar to the German M40 and M42.


A very simple iron buckle graces the chinstrap.


The rivets and washers appear to be brass and the liner fingers are sewn to a heavy leather band, vey similar to the German M.16.



More tell-tale flecks of blue paint add to the circuitous  pedigree of this helmet.



The M35-38 served from 1936 well in to the Cold War, seeing two decades of service both with Hungarian forces and later in the livery of Finland.   German design, Hungarian manufacture, Finnish service; this is a well-travelled helmet.


* Thanks to Frances for this information and to Mark for his peerless interpretation of Henry Higgins.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Japanese model 30-32 Steel Helmet

 Talk about a land of contrasts...




Ladies and gentlemen the Japanese model 30-32 steel combat helmet:


With its distinctive acorn shape here is a distinctive symbol, and reminder, of the scourge of the 
so-called Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere



With long web chinstrap tapes and leather liner this non-ballistic and fairly lightweight helmet conqured much of the eastern hemisphere.

Front of helmet with insignia of the Japanese Landing Force

Close up of insignia. I believe that this helmet originally had the Army insignia on the front of it as I can just make out the indentations in the olive/brown paint of the five-pointed army star.

Leather liner and cotton chin tapes. The Liner is a three-finger system sewn to a leather band, riveted 
to the shell.




This rivet appears to have lost its head (don't we all from time to time).



Liner mounting rivets are peened.










Right side with two tiny ventilation holes visible












Detail of script handwritten on liner.



Some however, were reconditioned and sold for export, as we'll see in next week's entry.

 

Be advised that searching for Japanese war photos on "Google images" can present some very jarring images about their savage romp in China.


With some heavy scratches and moderate wear, I'm very happy to have this hard-to-come-by example in the collection. It is a particularly light helmet and the Greenish-brown paint has been brushed on and is rather thick in places.

Provenance:
This helmet was purchased on Okinawa Japan in the mid-1980s by my brother who was stationed there for two years with the U.S. Navy.  He noted the difficulty of securing not just a helmet in this good condition, but of getting any Japanese helmet at all. Japan was so diligent in shedding its militarist past that most of these helmets were destroyed immediately 
after the war.




Sunday, June 23, 2013

American Legion M1 Liner

More, or less, than meets the eye



Found on Ebay a few years ago, these liners frequently turn up, this caught my eye.  Although it certainly not a combat helmet it does fit in nicely with the collection, if only as an oddity.  All will be revealed.


This American Legion color guard helmet (liner) looks like the typical M1 liner.



For the pre-WWII version of the Legion helmet, go here.



Emblazoned with the American Legion insignia, this lid is ready for a parade.



Here's where we start to notice some differences.  Compare the rivet placement with the conventional M1 liner.


Hey, what gives?  Not only is the rivet placement different but the number and type of rivets is different.  



This heavily dimpled rivet is unlike anything on any M1 liner.

This is a Westinghouse liner, 


but check out the suspension:


American Legion suspension




M1 suspension.  All completely different.



The chinstrap is a pretty cheap  affair, fabric with a blackened slider buckle




This close up shows what almost appear to be button holes, though their purpose is unclear.




The fasteners for the chinstrap are unique to this liner.



Its a mysterious liner, so familiar yet so different



It's interestion how the venerable M1 lives on in various organizations, though as a front-line helmet its day is long bygone;  perhaps a tribute to a reliable old mainstay of the American GI.