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February 06, 2006

Fort Leavenworth Militaria Show

Saturday, SWWBO and I were off to St. Joe to do a little shooting. On the way out, we stopped at the Fort to put the horses out and muck the stables (we're back into poop-scooping because of a labor dispute at the Federal Prison. We hire inmates as staff at the stable - a good deal for both sides. I don't have to scoop poop, they get to spend their days at the stables doing work that is a little smelly at times, but hardly onerous.). Anyway, on our way in we see signs to a militaria show being held at the former Officer's Club, now grandiosely titled the Frontier Conference Center.

Not having been to a pure militaria show in a long time, we decided (yes, guys, with SWWBO's urging even) to attend.

Great show! Saw people I hadn't seen for a while, like Neil, the source of many of the bayonets and not a few rifles in the Arsenal, Jim Gebhardt, former co-worker who has provided many of the reference books in the Library - he has a sideline of translating russian books. Jim is also a gadfly of local media, like I am. And lots of cool stuff to look at and interesting people to talk to. A lot of re-enactors, too - more on that later.

One problem with militaria shows is they are *always* pricey. Mostly because it's collectors doing the selling... being collectors and not dealers, they tend to over-value their stuff, probably overpaid for it, and don't really want to sell it, anyway (like me!). But their spouse wants some of that crap outta the house.... "Gee, Honeybunch Snookums, no one was buying today, I don't know *what* the problem was..." is the usual line when they get home, and the stuff they *bought* gets snuck in later, under cover of darkness.

SWWBO had her usual good eye, and pointed out a 1999-2000 edition of Jane's Armour and Artillery for $35. Good price? You bet - take a look at Amazon for the current edition, or the same one I got. eBay isn't much better - though it *is* better. Thanks, sweetie!

If anyone wants to earn the Armorer's gratitude, snag a relatively recent Jane's Infantry Weapons (oh, heck, old ones are good, too) and donate it to the Library of Argghhh!

But that wasn't the best part. Besides seeing all the kewl stuff and running into old and current friends - I ran into two young Lieutenants just back from Iraq.

The two in US uniforms are our returning vets.  The two in Brit uniforms (the two gents on the right) are Brit Para re-enactors who got drool all over the Castle PIAT

They were dressed out in WWII kit (and these gents were all of 10 days back from the Sandbox) one as a 35th ID troop (on the left), the other as a 1st ID troop (in the center). Both are artillery Lieutenants in the Kansas Guard who served as advisors to the Iraqi Army. And they got to see some really cool kit that is just sitting around in warehouses over there. Not too mention go on patrol with their Iraqis, arming themselves with a STEN gun... too cool, the Armorer's head almost exploded from envy.

They found lots and lots of old WWII era Brit stuff, some WWII German, and lots of more modern stuff as well. I helped them identify much of their kit they weren't sure of, showed them how some of it (like the WWI Brit artillery plotters) worked, and mostly listened to their tales from Iraq.

Brit soldiers in training during WWII.  They are armed with a PIAT and a No.4 rifle.

These guys found 200 (yes, that's 200 out of the 11,500 total produced) PIATs. While they couldn't find a legal way to get any of them home (they could have had a good start on college money for their kids if they could have) they did bring home some parts... and most importantly for the Arsenal - they brought home original CANVAS! The Castle PIAT has been dressed in repro canvas... but is now *proudly* decked out in original canvas... and that with an OIF connection. As you know, that is exactly how the Armorer likes it - stuff with some history, rather than pristine, made, stored, and never used! It's also cool to have some more stuff in the Castle Collection that has dust from the Land Between The Rivers clinging to it.

The Castle PIAT sporting his new duds! The repro canvas on the table.

Having spent all that time bloviating with the LTs, (I am not a journalist... I didn't get their names, much to my chagrin - but, hopefully, they'll visit the Castle and drop me a line) I decided to do more than talk the talk, but I would walk the walk, as well. I went home, got the PIAT and some of the more portable Vickers kit, and went back.

The Castle PIAT in the hands of a renactor.  Cleaning up the drool was *not* easy!

THAT attracted some attention - not just from the LTs, who were pleased to see some of their stuff appreciated and utilized, but the Brit Para re-enactors... well, let's just say no one had seen a PIAT in the flesh and the Castle PIAT got fondled. A lot.

And I made some new friends... and some of the Castle holdings may make a few road trips to regional re-enactment events. Especially the PIAT and Vickers.

And I think next year, I'm going to rent a table (hey, it supports the Fort Leavenworth Historical Society) and do a display myself. Because that was just fun last Saturday.

Thank you for your service, Lieutenants - not just to the Castle PIAT, but more importantly, to the state, the nation, and hopefully, the Iraqis. We'll close with a shot of the baby-faced Lieutenant, who managed to do what I specifically warned him not to do - get the propelling charge for the PIAT stuck in the bomb (which took the combined intellect of SWWBO and I to get back out! - Oh shut up, no 'intellect' snarks!)

10 days back from Iraq - gad they look *young*.