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Antique and Collectable Firearms and Militaria Headquarters
www.OldGuns.net
Newsletter
Number 2, September 5, 2001
Celebrating Five Years Of Service To Our Collector Friends!
copyright 2001 All rights reserved


Contents:



Feature Article:
Bannerman's Island Adventures

     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.
 I only had a short time with Paul, but hope he will take the time to write out a detailed account of his experiences.  He lived an experience that many collectors fantasized about, and knows what conditions were actually like.
 Many of Paul’s items from historic Bannerman’s Island will be offered on our site in coming weeks and months.  We hope you will enjoy these.

     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.

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  • New Items At OldGuns.net  (posted now or coming soon):
  • We have some exceptionally nice collector handguns (broomhandle Muaser with matching shoulder stock; minty Glisenti; superb Baby Nambu, and lots of other modern pieces. We think these are the first items from a large collection of quality pieces.
  • Also an extensive collection of percussion revolvers and early conversions to cartridge.  Several nice Krag rifles, and some other long arms are coming soon.
  • Several more inexpensive guns for the restoration addict or bargain hunter.
  • Several boxes of top grade militaria that we have not yet begun to catalog.
  • A nice assortment of bayonets, U.S. and foreign.
  • Large lots of collectors ammo and books.
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    Darwin Award Nominee
    (Note: Darwin Awards are earned by those who remove themselves from the gene pool by extraordinarily stupid actions, demonstrating the survival of the fittest members of a species.)   Used courtesy of http://www.darwinawards.com

    Confirmed True by Darwin, a1994 Darwin Award Winner!

    Rattler Got Your Tongue?

    (1992, California) Snakes flick their forked tongues in the air to "smell" the world, collecting molecules then pressing the tips into small olfactory pits. An inebriated twenty-year-old man took umbrage when a wild rattlesnake stuck out its tounge at him. Tit for tat! He held the snake in front of his face and stuck his tongue out right back at the rattler. The snake expressed his displeasure at this turn of events by biting the conveniently offered body part. The toxic venom swelled the man's face and throat, choking him to death.

    DarwinAwards.com © 1994 - 2001

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    Military History Trivia (WW2 & Korea this time)

    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 Stalin

    2. Among the first "Germans" captured at Normandy were several Koreans.  They had been forced to fight for the Japanese Army until they were captured by the Russians and forced to fight for the Russian Army until
    they were captured by the Germans and forced to fight for the German Army until the US Army captured them.

    3. Generally speaking there was no such thing as an average fighter pilot.  You were either an ace or a target. For instance, Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down over 80 planes. He died while a passenger on a cargo plane.

    4.  The Korean War, in which the Marine Corps fought and won some of its most brutal battles, was not without its humor.
        During one engagement a ROK (Republic of Korea) commander, whose unit was fighting with the Marines, called legendary Marine Chesty Puller to report a major Chinese attack in his sector.
    "How many Chinese are attacking you?" asked Puller.
    "Many, many Chinese!" replied the excited Korean officer.
    Puller asked for another count and got the same answer "Many, many Chinese!"
    "#*#&*!#%!" swore Puller, "Put my Marine liaison officer on the radio."
    In a minute, an American voice came over the air: "Yes sir?"
    "Lieutenant," growled Chesty, "exactly how many Chinese you got up there?"
    "Colonel, we got a whole s**tload of Chinese up here!"
    "Thank God." exclaimed Puller, "At least there's someone up there who knows how to count!"

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    Book Review-
    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!

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    Oldguns.net Site Insights - "I want to know about ________"

        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.
        In a great many cases other people have asked about the same item you want to know about.  PULEEZE!!! Use the search tool at the top left of the main page to look up what information we arleady have on the subject.  If you still have questions, go ahead and ask, but tell us which Q&A item failed to completely answer your concerns, or that you checked and did not find anything.
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    Featured Collector Group-

    Society of American Bayonet Collectors
    Address: P.O. Box 711282, Salt Lake City, UT 84171 $30 per year
    http://www.amerbayo.org

    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.

    Geographic area of members:  National coverage, and several foreign members as well.

    Publications:  Journal of Society of American Bayonet Collectors, Quarterly about 24 pp, with articles, photos, sketches.  U.S. made or used items emphasized, but foreign bayonets included as space permits.

    Meetings:  Annual meeting in March in conjunction with “Baltimore” gun show sponsored by Maryland Arms Collectors.  Dinner meeting (with social hour before) then “show and tell” with many members bringing something they think will be of interest.   Casual attire, some spouses attend, guests also welcome if accompanied by a member.

    Prominent Members: The late Robert M. Reilly was the group’s founder, along with Jerry Janzen.  Members include respected authors Roy Marcot, George Neumann, Ed Hull; and many of the foremost bayonet collectors in the U.S., and others.

    Who should belong:  Anyone interested in bayonets with American connection.

    My observations/comments/recommendations: Amazing amount of knowledge presented, and gladly shared among members.  Beginners welcomed as well as advanced collectors.  A fun group, from extremely diverse backgrounds, ages, interests.  Take your spouse, so they will understand that you are not the only person interested in these things.  Good excuse to attend the Baltimore show, the finest antique arms show in the country.

    Membership Applications:  Submit application available from website.  (Note: John Spangler serves as Secretary of this group and will be happy to sponsor members).
     

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    This is the end of the OldGuns.net Newsletter
     We hope it was useful or interesting.  We invite you to visit Antique and Collectable Firearms and Militaria Headquartershttp://oldguns.net when you are ready to add to your collection, or even if you decide to sell all or part of it.

    John Spangler & Marc Wade

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