Number 2, September 5, 2001
Celebrating Five Years Of Service To Our Collector Friends!
copyright 2001 All rights reserved
Bannerman’s Island Arsenal Castle, built on Poloppel Island in the Husdon River, just a little north of the Military Academy at West Point, and for nearly a century has been a landmark to those riding the train between New York City and Albany.
One of the fun parts of this business is the opportunity to meet interesting people. Paul was such a person, selling an accumulation of old surplus items from the famous Bannerman’s of New York City.
However, Paul was not just one of the thousands of customers who bought items from the Bannerman store at 501 Broadway. Paul actually worked on Bannerman’s Island Arsenal during the waning days of the business (circa 1965-68) digging through the crumbling ruins of the castle, seeking treasures rumored to be left there, and sifting through the decaying surplus goods to salvage brass. Paul was about 14 years old at the time, and he and two other youngsters were employed for these chores. Willing to work for low pay, youngsters were small, agile, fearless and their light weight was an important consideration when working in the crumbling castle and its haphazardly stowed contents.
Despite its romantic image from a distance, Bannerman's "Island Arsenal" was cheaply built with lots of shortcuts. Reportedly the cement was purchased from a government auction and had been seized when smugglers used a large quantity of cement powder to conceal contraband items being shipped. Old gun barrels and other scrap iron was used in stead of reinforcing rods. However, such shortcuts were considered adequate in a building intended for use as a warehouse facility to hold literally tons of surplus material. At one time it was the repository for hundreds of Civil War cannons and thousands of shells for them (including some still loaded with explosives!) Eventually most of the exotic stuff was sold or stolen, leaving mountains of uniforms and web gear and less valuable items. Val Forgett, founder of Navy Arms Corporation and the replica blackpowder industry (and also a trained Explosive Ordnance Disposal expert) had the challenging job of deactivating the explosive ordnance on the island.
An older man owned the rights to the items left on the island, and directed Paul and his crew in their searching, and made sure any really good stuff got set aside. Much like Mel Fisher’s hunting for sunken treasure in the Florida Keys, they worked with an attitude that “Today could be the day” to find the sealed case of Colt percussion revolvers that was lost at the loading dock, or other goodies rumored to be buried amongst the mountains of stuff in the dark castle. There was no electricity and no running water, so the work was hard, dirty, and always an adventure.
Paul and his compatriots rowed back and forth
to the island daily. The boss allowed them to take home a few items
which had little commercial value at the time. Apparently the youngsters
were allowed to take home lots of haversacks, canteens, brass insignia,
and some heavily rusted old bayonets among other things. One day
on the trip home their boat was swamped and sadly one of Paul’s friends
drowned. At the time, Paul was carrying home a bunch of grapeshot
or cannister in his pants pockets, not a great situation when you find
yourself suddenly swimming in the Hudson River.
Coincidentally, there is a group of people fascinated by the nostalgia of Bannerman’s Island, and its castle. They are seeking to stabilize the ruins and preserve them under the auspices of the New York State Parks Department. I get the feeling that they are mostly interested in the romantic image of the castle, and not the historic militaria it contained. The Bannerman Castle Trust has an interesting site at www.bannermancastle.org with many photos of the castle (in better days). A number of years ago it was largely destroyed by fire, leaving little but unstable ruins and a lot of great memories for Paul.
Confirmed True by Darwin, a1994 Darwin Award Winner!Top
1. The Russians destroyed over 500 German aircraft by ramming them in mid-air (they also sometimes cleared minefields by marching over them). "It takes a brave man not to be a hero in the Red Army" -Joseph StalinTop
The Military Knife & Bayonet
by Homer M. Brett
392 pp. 8.5" x 11" Available from the author, P.O. Box 111, Alexandria, VA, 22313, (703)548-9694. Price $69.95 plus $5.00 shipping. Introductory offer good until December 25, 2001 of $59.95 plus $5.00 shipping.
This is a most attractively done book, featuring color photos on nearly every page (a few historical photos in black and white in the introductory chapter are exceptions.) Photos of each item described are sharp, clean, and very artistically composed with related artifacts. The text is presented in dual columns or paragraphs in English and in Japanese, reflecting the fact that the publisher and printer are located in Japan..
Organized alphabetically by country, each section has a bit of historical background followed by chronological presentation of items from that country. The main emphasis is on modern (WW1 to the present) knife bayonets and combat knives, but there are enough earlier pieces and machetes or other edged oddities that virtually any collector of edged weapons will find something of interest. More than 1,000 items are illustrated , correctly identified, usually with amplifying historical background or other facts, but few details about dimensions or markings.
The author has a special interest in, and close involvement with, airborne and special operations knives of the post WW2 period, and was intimately involved with the development and production of the M9 series of bayonets, and his comments and insights on these items is particularly good. A former U.S. Marine Corps officer, a dedicated military parachutist, and one of the leading bayonet dealers in the U.S., Homer Brett is exceptionally well qualified to write this book which shares his decades of research and experience with the subject.
I view this as a valued addition to my reference library. Although most of the items covered here can be found in Jerry Janzen's Bayonets From Janzen's Notebook, or M.H. Cole's U.S. Military Knives, Bayonets & Machetes (Books 3 and 4), Brett's book includes a large number items which have received little prior coverage in print. Collectors who prefer photographs over line drawings, even those as well done as by Janzen or Cole, will find this a real treat to use.
I recommend you take advantage of the introductory special and order a copy from the author. You might even print this out and leave it out as a suggestion for Christmas!
We get a whole s**tload [see story above] of questions about guns, bayonets, swords, ammunition, uniforms, dinner plates [yes, we have!] and assorted other stuff. We try to answer as many as we can, but this takes away from time to catalog new items, pack and ship your orders, go to gunshows to find more neat junque, read books, or work on the "honey-do" list.Top
Society of American Bayonet Collectors
Main Area of Interest: “An international organization dedicated to the collecting and preservation of American bayonets.” Bayonets made, or used, in North America, from the earliest colonial examples to the latest experimental issues. Socket bayonets were original focus of founders, but now covers entire spectrum. Some interest in foreign bayonets, and most members also collect the arms that held the beyonets.Top
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