May 28, 2007
War memorabilia from across the world lands in Howard Lake
Two people with a passion for historic war items have an impressive collection
By Jennifer Gallus
Symbols of the greatest generation, as well as other war collectibles that were once likely tucked away and covered in dust, are kept in good care by Howard Lake residents Richard Lammers and Pam Loch.
The engaged couple has been collecting items such as sweetheart bracelets, war medals, badges, daggers, pins, books, and autographs for as many years as they can remember.
In fact, Lammers got started in grade school when he was given genuine war helmets and bayonets, with which he used to “play Army.”
“I’ve always had an interest in the first world war. We both love to read and we get a lot of knowledge that way,” Lammers said.
The couple travels to about five or six military shows per year to buy, sell, or trade war collectibles. They also find items at flea markets, auctions, antique shows, and the Internet.
A good working knowledge of history is key when collecting war memorabilia, according to Lammers. The couple has a vast war library and say they are always looking for more books.
Each has their own area of interest within the war collectibles.
Loch is especially fond of Army Air Corps sweetheart items. The Army Air Corps preceded the Air Force. The Air Force was developed into its own separate unit in 1947, according to Lammers.
Sweetheart items include hand-stamped or hand inscribed pieces of jewelry like bracelets made by soldiers, or items a soldier could buy overseas like tokens, hankies, and a wide array of souvenir-type articles that were representative of the soldier’s current station or branch of service, Loch explained.
“Trench art are items made in the trenches when the soldiers had nothing else to do. To make jewelry they would use whatever they had available like pieces of downed aircraft, which would be a lot of the aluminum pieces you find,” Loch said.
“Some of the prettier pieces, like necklaces, are made out of windshield glass,” Loch said.
The branch of service insignia is often displayed somewhere on the sweetheart jewelry. The Army Air Corps is represented by wings, whereas the military police has crossed pistols for an insignia, which is of special interest to Lammers who served in the military police.
Domestic sweetheart items exist as well, and are collected by Loch including patriotic sheet music, patriotic magazine pages, and victory bracelets.
“My specialty is WW I German aviator badges,” Lammers said.
The famous Red Baron, who was killed in 1918 after 80 confirmed victories of allied planes, would have worn a badge similar to what Lammers has in his collection.
He also has gunners’ badges, retired pilots’ badges, and Army zeppelin badges, which would have been worn by crew from airships.
German aviator badges were gold for the Navy and silver for the Army.
Lammers has a 1915 Austrian field pilot’s badge. Austrian aviator badges are very ornate and were made by premier medal and badge makers, according to Lammers.
“For two centuries, a number of countries commissioned them (Austrian badge makers) because they did such beautiful work,” Lammers said.
The highest award for bravery in Germany from 1667 to 1918 was the Blue Max or Pour Le Me’rite badge, according to Lammers.
This original piece sits in the center of his aviator badges and was only awarded to 760 soldiers. It is the equivalent to the Congressional Medal of Honor, Lammers explained.
Lammers also has a number of daggers in his collection such as a WW II German storm trooper’s dagger that possesses Hitler’s swastika symbol and is inscribed “Alles fur Deutschland” or “Everything for Germany.”
Along with all the hardware the couple collects, they also have autographed books and photos of some very unique war personalities.
Bruno Rzonca is one of 115 crew members who survived the sinking of a battleship that had 1,500 crew aboard. The couple has gotten to know Rzonca from several military shows and now have both an autographed book that features Rzonca, as well as an autographed picture him.
The couple also met and have a signed autograph of Captain Tibbits, who was the pilot of the plane Enola Gay that dropped the first atomic bomb in Japan Aug. 6, 1945.
At yet another military show, the couple met Charles W. Lindberg, who is a Minnesota native and was one of the original flag raisers at Iwo Jima.
The list of military memorabilia and face-to-face meetings with famous war personalities is quite comprehensive for the war-minded couple.
“We’re losing 1,000 to 1,200 WW II veterans per day in this country. Now that they’re in their twilight years, they’re just starting to talk about it,” Lammers said.
“Before, they didn’t want to talk about the war and rightly so it brought back painful memories,” Lammers said.
“These items were hidden away in closets and families didn’t know anything about them, or grandmas would tuck them away because they didn’t wear them any longer,” Loch said.
“Maybe a son or a husband didn’t come home and (these items) brought back bad memories,” Lammers said.
As more and more war memorabilia surface, Lammers and Loch will continue to add to their vast historic collection.
“I like the history of it,” Lammers said.