The two men Fairbairn and Sykes developed a knife during their pre war time in the Shanghai police. During WW2 the knife was adopted by the English special forces. It is often dubbed the commando knife and it is used as a symbol in many special forces badge since WW2 up to the current day.
There are three distinct versions that were used during WW2. The first pattern was made by the Wilkinson Sword company since 1941 and in 1942 the second pattern was introduced. That was again replaced in 1943 by a third pattern that had many more producers besides Wilkinson was mainly machine ground and made in greater quantaties.
After havind sold a first pattern example many years ago in order to fund another purchase I have now a special custom order variation of the 2nd pattern. Although not as rare as the first pattern the second pattern knives with a custom text (in most cases a name) are quite rare and desirable.
The name on the scroll is G.R. Phillips. A quick search in both English and American archives delivered only one hit on the exact combination. An US Army Air Force pilot who flew on B29s. As this is a private purchase knife that was sold at a premium price this could be the original owner but probably it will remain elusive if he really was the owner without more input than only the name.
Here a well used example of the 2nd pattern from my collection where the Wilkinson and F-S markings hardly can be distinguished.
And some of my favorite KNIL Special Forces badges with a depiction of a F-S Fighting Knife!
There are some great sources for further reading on the many variations of this knife:
Photo albums can be a great source of historic information but sadly often the context of the photo’s has been lost over time. This blog is in regard to such an album that has been in my collection for a long time. Recently I dove into it again and now with the modern digital sources I found an interesting background.
The photos seem to be of an NCO in a Hungarian military unit that is involved in railway repairs. There is family crest with name in the beginning of the album and next to the military photos there also some pictures of the man with his family but I have not been able to establish anything beyond the family name.
Two groups of photo’s help to establish the exact timeframe and specific context of a part of the album. They show two heavily bombed railway stations in Debrecen and Szolnok and their damaged surroundings, railways and trains.
Both cities were bombed as part of American shuttle raids which were executed during Operation Frantic that took place between June and September of 1944. This was one of the few direct operational cooperations between the Russian and American forces. Bombers of the 8th and 15th US Army Air Force would undertake bombing flights on the way between bases in the UK and Italy to locations in Ukraine where they would reload with bombs and fuel and on the return flight again would bomb targets that were agreed upon between the Russian and US forces. That is why these were called shuttle raids, the planes would shuttle between the bases in Western and Eastern Europe and bomb targets on the way in between.
On the first and the last flight of Operation Frantic there would be also Hungarian targets. On the first flight on June 2nd Debrecen would be one of the targets. On the last flight on September 22nd Szolnok would be one to the targets. In both cases the railway station and the related area would be the main targets as these were of importance to the German military logistics, movement of soldiers and material like tanks to the Eastern front.
The photo’s show people of the Railway repair crew but also labour units working hard to repair the damages. IMostly trains and wreckage of railways and buildings but also some casualties, of which there were many due to the fact that not only railway related buildings were hit in the raids. Please be advised that photo’s of casualties are at the end of the blog.
A total of 130 planes would hit Debrecen with more than 1000 bombs between 8.46 hrs and 9.00 hrs. The damage would be great but the loss of life was also enormous. Whole streets in the proximity of the railway areas would also be destroyed. Almost 1200 death and close to 700 seriously wounded would be the direct human impact of the bombing with hundreds of buildings (including many regular houses) completely destroyed.
Due to the nature of the album the photo’s are mainly of the railway related impact and not the civilian impact.
The last few pictures show casulaties of the bombings and the location were they were found. Probably most casulaties would have been removed before the repair crews started working but I assume these were uncovered during the repair works.
I cannot express the sadness I felt seeing that little shoe sticking out between the big boots of the men under the cover of tent halves…
You can read more about the bombing in Hungarian here that is also the source for the numbers used in my blog.
The next blog will be about Szolnok where the repair crew went next (based on the photo’s in the album at least) which was the last action of Operation Frantic.
There are many more photo’s in the album, this is a selection.
Carl started in the KuK (Schutzen) Landwehr Infanterie Regiment 21 (Sankt Pölten) and later his machinegun group moved to the Landsturm Infanterie Regiment Nr. 51.
Sometimes as a collector you come across a grouping that is quite unique as in this case. At the moment I am still contemplating what my next step will be….A series of blogs, a dedicated website or even a book…
The group contains a photo album with a cover with badges of Carl, many postcards and a short diary. Loads of information on some very relevant moments in WW1 including the Isonzo battles.
Until I have decided what to do only a small placeholder blog with some teaser materials…
The album contains many official photo’s, but also private photo’s and even WW2 related photo’s. Also many captured Italian photo’s and some leaflets (Flugblätter). So for now only this teaser…
As in any army around WW2 there were ID cards. Often different versions for officers than for other ranks. The two versions here are both for officer of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army.
They are slightly different one is the standard, official version and the other is a temporary one that was handed out during the war against the Japanese but before the occupation which makes it probably quite rare.
The official one (the front can be seen above left) was to a captain who would receive the Military order of William 4th class for his resistance actions against the Japanese.
His medal group is in the collection of Museum Bronbeek and I have donated an album to the museum regarding his receipt of the MWO4 after WW2.
The second was to Lieutenant who was involved in the defense of Palembang in February 1942 and the fights against the Japanese parachutists who landed there. He probably lost his regular ID in that period and he received this one before the surrender to the Japanese on March 9th. So this temporary version was made only days before the surrender.
Both officers would survive the war and internation in the POW camps of the Japanese and reach the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the post war period.
In an earlier post I have described the medals and insignia of the Dutch during the Korea war. In this post I want to share original pictures of one of the participants. His familyname was Munnix and he was already a veteran (Marine) of the war in the Dutch East Indies.
He was part of the first detachment of the Dutch participation in the war in Korea (as part of the 38th Infantry Regiment which was part of the 2nd, Indian Head, Infantry Division). He was part of the support company (ost.comp) and was a machinegunner (.30 Browning).
A few photo’s have a text I will share here as well but most do not. No further context is known as the group of photo’s came into my hands with no additional information.
In memory of all veterans of the Korean war 1950-1954
A longer time ago I actively collected military wristwatches. Now all of these beautifull watches by classic brands like the IWC (Mark X), Longines (6B/159), Zenith (US Signal Corps) and Omega (airplane clock WW1) have been gone for years.
One of the RAF wristwatches by Jaeger LeCoultre had been on the wish list for quite some time but never materialized when I actively collected. By accident I came across an interesting version recently so I picked it up. It was not in working order. Research by the watchmaker made clear that the balance had to be replaced in the splendid 470 caliber. Expensive but possible and now completed!
The Wrist Watch Mark 7a was a navigational watch used by the RAF and had the designation 6B/159 on the case. This model first existed in the “Weems” variation (around 1940) with a turnable bezel. Later (around 1942) the model came without the bezel but with a non hacking central seconds hand. This was relatively rare at that moment in time when subsidiary seconds at the 6 position were still the standard. This was a relatively complicated watch that needed to be of high qaulity for its purpose, navigation. The watch was also needed in high quantities therefore it was sourced from many of the leading Swiss makers but most seem to be from 3 big name brands of that period Omega/Longines/ Jaeger LeCoultre.
The (Jaeger) Lecoultre 6B/159 had very typical leaf hands in blued steel as did the earlier Weems bezel model. It is thought about 5000 of these were produced in total (according to Knirim). Most seem to have been from one large batch produced in 1943 with the Broad Arrow marking above the 6B/159 designation (earlier models made in 1942 had the AM marking ipo the Broad Arrow). All the models with the cal. 470 were delivered in 1943/44, from 1945 onwards the 479 calibre was used.
All LeCoultre watches show the brands stamped serial number next to the engraved markings of the RAF. Of this series the serial numbers on the cases are mainly in the 158xxx up to 163xxx numbers which would correspond with the number of 5000 that is mentioned in the Knirim book. The military numbers do not match directly with the watch serial numbers I found out. They were not engraved in the same order as the case serial numbers but the range seems to be mainly in the A23xxx up to A26xxx numbers. All other brands used the same type of military numbering starting with Axxx up to A 30xxx so it seems more than 30.000 examples of the 6B/159 were made for the RAF in 1943/44 and maybe even 1945.
All original dials for this variation were signed LeCoultre. The story is that there were many of these dials (wit the naming for the US market without Jaeger) in stock and could not be used otherwise so these were used exclusively for the military contract. There are several original dial variations but all have a white background. The case was a chromed brass alloy with a diameter of 32mm diameter with a snap on case back.
The Ministery of Defense often replaced/repainted dials during the war. The case was not waterproof the dial and also the movement were often damaged by condensation and dirt. They did not do this with new dials but they re-painted the dials themselves using different fonts and many variations exist. Of course this was done manually. The MoD repainted dial also exists in black and with the full Jaeger LCoultre name on it on a white and on a black background.
This dial is one of the MoD repainted dials with the original dial as basis. The font used seems similar to the one seen on the Longines pictured here (photo from the Knirim book) but with the standard LeCoultre hands (which can be distinguished from other brands as seen in the Longines example).
The dial has some typical features that makes it easy to distinguish a repainted dial from a replaced dial. To the right a dial with the original finish as deliverd by the factory. Left and middle show the front and back of my version (pictures made by the watchmaker Tijdloos in Leiden). General opinion on the dial with numbers in italics is that it is a rarer MoD variation repainted dial.
As the original case was not designed for military use, the chrome case materials (a kind of brass with chrome plating) suffered from corrosion. A stainless steel case of a larger size (36mm) was introduced in 1956. All models of the 6B/159 still in service were recased with the new case but these are relatively rare.
The Bronze Cross is the third highest medal for Gallantry in the Netherlands (after the Military Order of William and the Bronze Lion). It was awarded a total 3497 times since its institution in 1940.
Citation: Barend Nicolaas Tuinenburg, born June 21, 1906, Reserve soldier of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (Army number 65207). In December 1944 escaped from the prisoner of war camp Aikit (Siam, current day Thailand). Joined the Thai gangs, which harmed the Japs by raiding Japanese camps, stations, and trains, resulting in many casualties on the Japanese side, and also saving many Javanese families from the hands of the Japs. After the capitulation of Japan proceeded on foot to the former prisoner of war camp Canbury and reported there to the Dutch commander.
The award was given by Royal Decree. No award document was given to the recipient apart from an extract (uittreksel) of the Decree. This was the custom untill recent times.
The A2 Flight Jacket was the iconic jacket of the US Army Air Force during WW2 with many fans including General Douglas McArthur who also wore the Ray Ban aviators, a man of style.
The jacket also was often embellished with the same paintings as the airmen used on their planes, the so called nose art. Both pictures from internet.
Afther WW2 they were still worn into early 1950s but the jacket was retired after the Korean war as more modern materials (like nylon) were introduced for flight clothing.
In 1987 the jacket was re-introduced to commemorate the 40th birthday of the US Air Force. According to the modern regulation: ‘the jackets will be issued only to officers or enlisted personnel who are in mission-ready, emergency-mission-ready, mission capable, or mission-support billets assigned at or below wing level who met the criteria on or after September 18, 1987, the Air Force’s fortieth birthday. Once a member is issued the jacket,‘ according to the regulation, “he or she may continue to wear it after being reassigned from the duties [that] originally qualified him or her for the issue. It can be worn with the flight suit, service uniform, or pullover sweater but not with civilian clothes. After he or she retires, the wearer may keep the jacket.’
This is an overview of the variations made between 1988-2007 as found on the USMilitariaForum as compiled by Cowboy4.
The use of Nose Art is longer allowed in regular use and is rarely seen as it can only be used off duty or after leaving the air force. These issued jackets are a modern collectable and still can be found but the early ones are getting harder to find especially in the larger sizes.
There are also a lot of commerical variations which can be nice but are not really collectables with a historical background as these issued piecesare. So you have to check if these military contract numbers are on the label:
Cooper Sportswear Mfg. Co., Inc. (under the Saddlery label) with numbers 1988 DLA 100 88 C0420 / 1992 DLA 100 92-M-0061 / 1995 SPO 100-95-C-4030 / 1996 SPO 100-96-D-4020 Branded Garments Inc. Orchard M/C Inc. with number 1992 DLA 100-92-C-0346A Avirex Ltd. with numbers 1998 SPO 100-98-C-5018 and 1999 SPO 100-99-D-4009-xxxx and the last supplier Cockpit USA, Inc. with number 2007 SPM1C1-07-D-1540 xxxx
Here two issued examples next to each other a 1988 Saddlery (the earliest version made) and a 1999 Avirex version. With differences in colour and detailing but also in cut. Most collectors especially favor the early Saddlery versions.
The Avirex also has been painted on the back and also has a custom made badge of the Air National Guard. The painting was done at Pop’s leather (Incirlik Air Base Turkey) in 2005. At that moment the 132nd Air Refueling Squadron was deployed as part of the operations of Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
Below the Air National Guard custom badge, the signature on the artwork and an example of the patch (not my collection) on which the artwork is based. The concept of this patch stems from WW2 when the sqn was still a bombing unit. The winged skeleton has a bomb in its hands…
Below a picture from internet of the 132nd Air Refueling Sqn in action with an F22 fighter being fueled up.
Here a badge as shown on www.ericusafpatches.nl of the 132nd (nicknamed MAINEIacs as Maine is their home state) from when they were deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and located at Incirlik Air Base where Pop’s is located.
Great collectables for daily wear by US aviators, former US presidents or just regular guys 🙂 like my son Tibor (Saddlery) and myself (Avirex).
Nametags with wings are a standard item in both Navy and Air Force clothing, so also on the A2, here some examples:
Left top and bottom belonged to the same person Staff Sergeant Sisco. In the top version he is a Aircrew Member (wing) and below his occupational badge – maintenance in the Air National Guard and below only with the aircrew wing and as part of the Air Force. He was a Boom Operator from 1993 to 2000 so by coincidence sort of matches with the A2.
Below the Aircrew Combat badge of the Marine Corps to K. Hagerman, a navy corpsman 3. With that also came the metal badge with one gold star. This probably could not be worn on an A2 jacket but the others could.
Gerrit spent the first half of the ’60s in Greenland working at the BMEWS base, one of the coldest parts of the world. You can read more about him in part 1, the earlier blog about him. The second half of the ’60s he spent in tropical Vietnam working official US (Army) related contracts. Probably 5 years in total between 1965 and 1970 but exact starting and ending dates are unknown. Only one passport survives has his 1969 Vietnam dates in it and some other paperwork from around 1969 survives but not much. All earlier paperwork has been lost over time.
As he passed away I am not sure I will ever know what he did there exactly. He worked in some capacity for RMK-BRJ the largest building conglomerate active in Vietnam during the war. You can read more about their history here: RMK-BRJ wiki
He had some form of medical education in the US and he worked in some medical capacity it seems, probably in the line of Health and Food safety for RMK-BRJ.
Below a photo of his kit-bag (his original Dutch one, not a US version!): GHM Medical Department / Facilities & Operations RMK BRJ / 6th Division Vietnam
His late war MACV ID Card (Military Assistance Command Vietnam)
As he spent a long period in Vietnam he witnessed most of the war and not always from a safe distance! On several occasions he risked his life in the line of duty. As can be read on the Wiki regarding RMK-BRJ more than 52 employees were killed in those years.
I’ll share here some of my favourite pictures from his collection (these are mainly prints I took from the slides he made) there are many more!
Some local forces:
As a civilian who drove military vehicles (in this case a navy truck) he needed a local drivers license:
Including a Vietnam roadsign test!
It seems as a civilian he needed to organize his own private health care!
Driving a river boat, he went with the river forces (riverines) on patrols on several occassions, just for fun and he spoke French fluently so he could help out in communications too.
After a request on the US Militaria forum I learned the ship must have been part of River Patrol Section 532 based on the patch visible on one of the pictures!
Above shooting a M-79 grenade launcher (for fun?) and below driving the boat himself.
With the Marines he had a Dutch friend there too, recently emigrated to the US unfortunately no names of these people are known.
And some random photo’s. A forget me not club, location unknown and with a Tiger Stripe boonie hat.
It also seems he became a freemason during his time in Vietnam!
Some of the items he collected during this period:
The Marbles pilots survival knife he already got in Greenland and brought to VN.
The Rolex Datejust he bought for his Birthday during R&R in Bangkok in 1967! It can be seen on the stairs of a friends house in Saigon. He is guarding the house with his M1 with double (taped together) banana magazines.
A relatively rare item among his military gear are these: Military Survival Kit – Hot Wet environment. Mainly issued to Special Forces in Vietnam. For more info see this page
You cannot hide your heritage, reading a newspaper from Deventer, the Netherlands, in Vietnam!
Missiles in Greenland, war in Vietnam, problems in Persia…..
During my teens in the early ’80’sof last century I got to know Gerrit. He was an acquaintance of my parents. He had stories and photo’s of countries and places where nobody else I knew had ever been. He was a bit of an adventurer so there was much to tell. Being only a kid much of this information was lost over time.
In this small series of blogs I will share some of these photo’s and items from his travels in the 60s, mainly his life in Greenland and Vietnam. In both locations he was working as a civilian contractor for the US military.
Gerrit was born in 1929 in Deventer, Holland. In the early 50s he studied Hotel Management in Switzerland and soon after emigrated to the US where he became a citizen, after his retirement he returned to Deventer in the Netherlands our mutual home town. During his period in the US he studied medicine but if he ever practised is unclear.
To be honest much of his life remained unknown which probably added to the “mystique” around his travel and activities abroad. He always seemed to work in troubled locations. After Vietnam came Persia and after that Congo just before the local revolutions happened that ended in changing the names of these countries.
The Cold War
In the ’50s and ’60s of last century the tension between the western world and the east, especially the Soviets was building up. The war in Korea, the Cuba crisis and later the Vietnam war were al very visible examples of this. The cold war was also one of fear for a Nuclear war with Ballistic Missiles flying over the oceans. If you could stop the enemies missiles you could win this potential war….
BMEWS – Ballistic Missile Early Warning System
In order to find and after shoot down enemy missiles the US started the BMEWS project in 1959 which was completed in 1964. The main contractor for the entire project was RCA, short for Radio Corporation of America. The contract was close to 500 million USD initially. They were building enormous radar sites with linked computer systems. There was a total of 12 radars at several sites, Thule being the biggest with 5 of these radars the location was known as the J-Site. Next to the Radars there were jets for interception and NIKE missiles but I will get back to that later.
Gerrit in front of the BMEWS Radars in Thule
In the years that Gerrit worked in Thule (63/64/65) everything was aimed at completing the project as soon as possible in order to guarantee the USA a higher level of safety against the Soviet threat….
As mentioned he worked for RCA in the field service, probably in the role of facility manager (he later had several more of these type of roles in other locations).
Here his address at the time as stated in the postcard also seen at the top of this blog.
And here a folder for new RCA arrivals at the Thule BMEWS project. On the inside he describes the location of his sleeping quarters in spring so this is probably from 1963. The location of the dot on the inside corresponds with the map on the outside.
Thule Air Base – 4683rd Air Defense Wing
Obviously Thule was an Air Base next to the BMEWS radar station. In the period Gerrit lived here (’63/’65) the 4683rd Air Defense Wing was stationed there. This unit was formed in 1960 and discontinued in 1965 so Gerrit witnessed most of its lifetime.
Thule Times of 1964 with the Wing Commander and the Base commander
They flew with the Convair F-102, Delta Dagger as pictured below in Thule.
NIKE Missile base
I am not sure how secret these things were back in that period but Gerrit was always proud of his Security Clearance (he said the highest a civilian could get). I did not see any of the NIKE missile pictures until after he passed away and I received his box of Greenland pictures….
Several pictures of the NIKE Hercules missiles, ready for action…
Next to the Jets and Missiles there were other planes….
People had to be brought, supplies had to be brought so plenty of other planes on the Air Base like these:
DC3 and it’s big brother, a C137 Stratoliner
Or Danish visitors:
And of course the Fire Brigade in case of problems….
And there were helicopters too!
A HH43 – Huskie Helicopter
Prized possessions of an Arctic Traveller
Gerrit lived as a civilian on the Air Base. It seems that in his role he had acces to military supplies and also to the military shop, the so called Base Exchange (BX). A place it seems were also luxury items like Omega watches could be bought or ordered.
Next to the photo’s I have some of his most prized possession of that time, his parka, knife and watch. I will discuss them here as they are quite unique…at least to me!
In most photo’s he can be seen wearing his N3B US Air Force cold weather parka. Next to the Parka I have the matching trousers and a pair of aviators fur lined boots…
He also had a Marbles Jet Pilot survival knife that he kept on using in the Vietnam war. Marbles designed the knife but they did not get the Defense Contract. So probably this is a private purchase from the Base Exchange. In any case it is a rare knife by now.
And here is Gerrit wearing and using the knife! First in his dormitory with the parka on the chair, the knife on the table, used to open a can? And plenty of Kodak films in the drawer…
And here worn on the belt during his trip to Dundas
And my personal favorite, as it can still be used, his Gold Omega Seamaster. Bought January 1963 on the Base Exchange!
Gerrit somehow got the opportunity to make a trip with the local inhabitants, the Inuit or as they often were called in that time Eskimo’s. Today there are companies offering dog sled tours in that area but looking at these photo’s it was not a commercial business yet in the 60s. Dundas mountain is quite near to the Thule site so it appears on many pictures. As the picture below show the trip started from BMEWS itself, four of the five radars can be seen here and of course the dog led sled!
As I have no details on the trip itself from Gerrit it was good te see that on some pictures he made captions of what we can see!
The caption reads: An Eskimo from Dundas with gun and screen for the seal hunt
He mentions one of the dogs by name and says he often took it into his truck
Two photo’s of “locals”, really love these, they could be in a period National Geographic…
Also during his time in Vietnam Gerrit always had good relations with local people. Not being in the military himself probably gave him some more possibilities for this.
The family that took him on the trip?
Dundas from the seaside…
This wildlife booklet must have helped, he studied it well. He brought even some items with him that are no longer here like a Narwal tooth, from the unicorm of the seas…
Life on the base
In the years Gerrit was in Thule the base was still quite new and still being built. It was not a place of luxury but of a very simple life, work, eat, sleep, repeat….
Here some pictures of that simple life in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.
Construction still ongoing!
As on any base there was also a Chapel for the churchgoing part of the staff. And of course Xmas specials on the menu.
Dormitories were quite simple with small rooms. Not sure if private rooms were available to all personnel?
Outside of the dormitory and inside.
Just enough place for a bed, a small table and some personal belongings…
Weather conditions were very harsh, even in spring and summer
Describing weather conditions and leaving his Jeep near the other Barracks for better protection against the snow.
And of course US Mail!
Later after the 1968 accident with a B-52 there was radiation but no idea what the radiation could have been before 1965?
And the ubiquitous sign post found on every base far from the States!