Thursday, November 27, 2014

My grandpa's WWII possessions

I've now blogged about my grandpa's war medals and about his photo finishing/photography during WWII.  There are a few belongings that I got from him that he brought back from the war and I want to get them shared/documented.  Tonight my oldest saw me going through these to photograph him and asked to look at them.  I'm not sure if that was a sign of a spark of interest or not but I'll take it!

This is a flag from Japan from WWII.  My grandpa told me how he got it (I can't for the life of me remember).  I don't believe it was anything as cool as him snatching it from the hands of a Japanese soldier during battle or anything like that.  It seems he was given the flag for some reason.  He always kept it folded up so I've kept it that way as well.  It's starting to show signs of it's age but I'm not sure what to do with it as it's at least 2'x3' and would cost a lot to frame and, quite frankly it's ugly so who'd want to frame it?

This money he brought back came from the Phillipines and from Japan.  There are Centavos and Yen and some of them are in excellent condition given how far they've traveled and how often he'd pull them out to show them to me.  I'm not sure what I'd like to do with them so at this point I'm just leaving them in the envelope he kept them in.  (Hey, it's preserved them for almost 70 years so it's working). 

This picture contains his Navy belt that he wore throughout the war, a wallet he bought in Panama and a shell he brought back from the Phillipines.  At my grandma's there is a box of these shells with a note specifically stating where he picked them up - this shell he gave to me as a kid.  I'm not sure how much he used the wallet but it's worn like he did.  The belt..........I've never unrolled it for fear of damaging it but I feel like there's got to be a better way to store it.  It also makes me feel pathetic because we were the same height but obviously different waist sizes!

My grandpa gave me this dog tag when I was in my early teens.  I really didn't even grasp the significance of what it was until about 10 years ago.  My dad has another set that's on a chain that he got from my grandpa.  I'm happy to have this and am considering if there's a way to get it mounted in the shadow box.  Perhaps I could get the belt mounted in there as well?

The neatest thing he brought back from the war is a Japanese bayonet.  My dad has that tucked away for safekeeping.  I need to work on at least getting a photo of it.  If I can swing that I'll add the photo to this blog post. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My grandfather's "photo finishers" box

My last post I wrote about my grandpa's WWII medals.  I've got another blog idea regarding documenting some of the stories he told me and also another one planned for a few other items (such as his dog tags) that I have.  For now I'm focusing on one item he gave me that I'm trying to determine the future of.

While I was going through the documents that he still had I stumbled on his "Photo Finishers Certificate."

 I asked him about this and he told me that he used to take and develop his own photos during the war.  I've got an envelope with about 30 pictures that he took/developed while at sea and during some of their "landfalls" and he also took the picture of his ship (LST-1022) posted in the previous blog

 He always had this black box in his garage.  It measures 29" long, 15.5" wide and 12.5" deep.  It's made of a pretty solid wood (it's heavy) with metal reinforcement around all of the edges.  It's got a metal handle on each side to help in lifting it.  As you can see, the top appears to be torn up but the top has some sort of leather covering that is indeed cracking and peeling away.  Underneath the leather is the same solid wood that's showing all the way around. 

My grandma is actually the one that told me to take the box out of the garage and take it home (when my grandpa's health had gotten poor enough that he couldn't even get to the garage).  I did end up talking to him about it afterwards and he wanted me to have it. 

My current quandary is that I have this box sitting atop a shelf in my garage.  My garage is cold in the winter and hot in the summer.  The box is 70+ years old and I don't want it to get any further damaged.  

My ultimate plan for this box would involve using it to store my genealogy books and papers and almost making it into a piece of furniture, kind of along the lines of a cedar chest.  There are 2 strikes against me if I try to do this:  1)We live in a shoe and there isn't anywhere to put it currently and 2)It's currently quite ugly and I don't believe my wife would want it inside anywhere where it could be seen by anyone but us. 

When my grandpa passed away my grandma was sorting through his papers (he was kind of a pack rat - she even found the original building permit for when he built their house fifty-some years ago).  She found a couple pages he wrote about his time in the war when I asked him to write some of his experiences down for my oldest son.  He never finished them but what he did I've put away for him but later in the same pad of paper she found this:

I'm not sure when he wrote this but I'm suspecting a couple years ago (his handwriting got quite bad - this is about halfway between his normal handwriting and the last things I saw him write). 

He undoubtedly intended that this be found and knew that I would want to know more about the box.  I'm sure at some point he told me this information but being younger I never wrote it down and I certainly didn't remember it. 

So fellow family history enthusiasts and bloggers - my question for you:  What would you do with this box?  Would you leave it as is or would you have it 'restored' to ensure it's strength and to fix the peeling top?  Would you repaint it or leave it as it is?  I'm leaning toward trying to find someone would could restore it for me but I'm not even sure where to start on such a task.  Perhaps someone is reading this from Michigan and would have an idea.

I leave you with some photos that my dad found (after my grandpa died) in a canister labeled "WWII 35mm".  My dad got them developed and some of them were pretty neat.  Unfortunately we don't know who the other people in the photos are but the assumption is that he took most (if not all) of them.

 I had seen this "series" of photos before.  I can't remember where he told me this was but I want to say it was Guam and it was an old cave where bones were stored.  My grandpa's in the front in the dark outfit.
 Grandpa is on the left in this one.  There is another one that is much clearer but I don't know who the guys in it are
 I wish we'd have known about this roll of film and gotten them developed before he died.  I'd love to know the story behind this one.  There is some sort of camp in the background. 
 A couple of pictures that I have to assume were taken while he was aboard his ship.  I wonder what mission they were on or battle they ended up finding?  I see an awful lot of ships which makes me think they were getting ready for something. 

The engine compartment of the LST-1022.  This one is important to me because we took grandpa on a tour of the LST-393 that's docked in Muskegon MI 6/9/2011 and despite the fact that he was heavily on oxygen and having trouble walking he absolutely insisted that he get down into the bowels of the ship to show us the engine room.  They had a recording you could play of the engine noise and it was deafening!

Here he is next to the LST-393 engine compartment.  He worked on these engines and was absolutely thrilled to be able to see them again (it'd been 65 years since he was last on one of these ships).  I've got oodles of pictures from that trip.  When the curator found out he had someone that had actually served on an LST aboard he was all over helping us on the tour and making sure that grandpa had everything he needed.  At the end of the tour there was a local news reporter there that wanted to interview him.  Thankfully I was able to turn my camera on and record the interview.  He rarely opened up about the war but when we got him around the ships he seemed to really want to share what he remembered.