Friday, July 16, 2010

Trench Art Exhibit, Longmont Museum, Colorado

My local museum is currently putting on an exhibit of World War I and WWII trench art. These art objects were made by soldiers out of military junk. A couple of my grandfather's objects appear in the show. The exhibit is traveling around the country, but my grandfather's bracelet and frame are only appearing here in Colorado.

While in Antwerp a German V-1 "buzz bomb" exploded near my grandfather, blasting a piece of shrapnel by his head. He took the metal as a souvenir and showed it off to his buddies. A friend was in charge of monitoring the German POWs in the port. He knew that one of the Germans was a former jeweler and could make something nice from the metal. For a small price Cortland had an interesting keepsake made for his girlfriend, Marjorie. The prisoner fashioned the rough shrapnel into a charming heart-shaped bracelet. “I gave him three packs of cigarettes. He almost kissed me!” The German prisoner etched the date, and my grandfather scratched in "V-1" himself. The museum wanted a war-time photo of my grandpa (see above). I mounted it in a frame made in Antwerp, which my grandfather bought in the Army PX (Post Exchange).

Apparently, this was a common souvenir in WWII Antwerp. Bruce Kramlich, from HQ also lent the Longmont Museum his shrapnel bracelet, which is a simple polished band. John "Jack" Shireman, from my grandfather's 304th Port Co., also had a V-1 bracelet made in Antwerp. It is not in the show, but he sent me a picture (see below). His was fashioned by a GI. It features John's name on the front and his girlfriend's name on the inside.

If you are in Colorado, come check it out:
Swords to Plowshares: Metal Trench Art of World War I and World War II
July 17 to September 26
I am scheduled to give an author talk at the Longmont Museum on September 15th.

Although not trench art, the above ring is interesting. The dad of one of the soldiers in the battalion worked at a ring company—the kind of place that made high school class rings. He had a bunch of rings made up for the 519th Port Battalion. Bruce Kramlich ordered one before shipping oversheas. The ring features the US Transportations Corps insignia on the top with "519th Port Battalion, U.S. Army" written around the edge.

A favorite publisher of mine, Shire, has a book about trench art: Trench Art by Nicholas J. Saunders. It's out of stock at the moment, but you can find used copies on amazon.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment! You can email me too (see at right).