This story along with 100's of others will appear in Volume II of my three volume series entitled THE STORIES BEHIND THE TREASURES OF WORLD WAR II "The Making of a Collectorholic". I hope to have Volume II out no later than the spring of 2017. If you haven't ordered your signed, numbered and personalized copy of Volume I, please do so to discover the joys and adventures surrounding more than 55 years of collecting memorabilia.
I asked Ron how they divided up the silverware. Ron’s answer was simple. They rolled the dice! Soldiers were not supposed to gamble and a deck of cards was too conspicuous. However a set of dice was easily hidden and Clarence pulled out the dice and they rolled for first picks! Don’t forget that a pair of dice were one of the original symbols for the 506th P.I.R.
Early Dice symbol for the 506th P.I.R.
To those of you who have not read the previous story in Volume II of my three volume series (yet to be published), let me stop here for a second and mention the absolute uncanny parallel with the hand written letter written by my other Charlie Company man named Adler Muller. I can now mention him by name as he has passed on to the great beyond. There is no doubt in my mind that these two paratroopers were together making this discovery at the exact same time. In fact, Clarence’s son told me his Dad had mentioned there was a guy from NYC in his squad. Some of the details vary a bit but the overall premise was identical. As I listened to Ron relate the story, I knew I needed to pursue this lead.
Ron’s wife Sheila is the computer wiz and so subsequent phone calls combined with some pictures sent to me via email just added to the drool factor. Sheila had done due diligence regarding the value of the silverware as there are other sites that feature various pieces of formal Adolf Hitler silver. However, I kept saying to myself, I cannot let this opportunity pass by because I am an absolute “sucker” for the story behind these treasures!
During one of our conversations, we came to an agreement regarding the price of the 44 pieces of A.H. silverware plus one little creamer which Clarence had picked up from the Platterhof which is the hotel located at the Berghof complex. I added two stipulations to the agreement. One was that I wanted to meet Ron and his family on their farm and pick the silverware up in person and two I wanted to interview him and get as many details as possible to use in an upcoming book I was writing.
Ron readily agreed to this and I set about planning my journey to Northwest Louisiana. High tension following a police shooting in Baton Rouge precluded me landing there but I was able to fly into Alexandria, LA.
Ron and his family met me half way to their home and Ron gave me a fine tour of this area including the Sabine River Dam on the Louisiana-Texas border. Then it was off to the farm in a very rural area. I had the opportunity to meet Sam and Big Red as part of the herd of Red Waddle pigs Ron raises on the farm. The temperature was well in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit there and very humid but I enjoyed the whole experience.
Ron on his Red Waddle Pig farm giving them a bath
Sam and some of his sows along with a young sow
Sheila and her sister Toni had laid out all the silverware along with pictures of Clarence, great books on the 101st and an autographed copy of my favorite mini-series of all time, “Band of Brothers”.
Ron and I with the war souvenirs brought home by his Dad
You could have given me a bib to wear as the drool factor kicked in and they commented that the look on my face was like a young kid at Christmas.
Once the shit-eating grin on my face subsided, I had a series of questions I wanted to ask Ron about his Dad. Many of these have already been addressed but I was quite curious about how his Dad and his souvenirs got home. I also asked him about other souvenirs and he mentioned a spectacular Bavarian Parlor Rifle that was a prized possession but that had been claimed by his brother and has vanished. By the way, that look on my face may have been enhanced by a shot of Apple Pie "white lightning" we drank to seal the deal...Yeehaa on that!
That's me sipping on some good Louisiana "Apple Pie White Lightning
That glow and "shit eating grin " is the result of the "Apple Pie"
Because Clarence had gotten into the fray fairly late in the war, he did not have enough points to immediately rotate back to the States. During the occupation in Austria, “Tex”, as he was called by his friends because he grew up in Texas was selected to care for a very famous group of horses. Ron recalled this was a very special time for his Dad. Could this have been part of the famous herd of Lipizzaners who were scattered around due to the instability in the area at the time?
An opportunity arose when the word was out that the 82nd Airborne was about to return to the US. He quickly leaped at the opportunity and had to make one more jump before being allowed to join the unit. He returned to the US on-board the Queen Mary in January of 1946 and participated with the 82nd in an enormous ticker tape victory parade down 5th Avenue in NYC.
Clarence stayed in the Texas National Guard and rose to the rank of Master Sergeant.
Once home in Texas, Clarence, like millions of other GIs, returned to civilian life. He carefully guarded his souvenirs. Some rumors were circulating that A.H. silverware was considered illegal contraband and he got spooked. So in 1947 he wrote a letter to his former commander Colonel Robert F. Sink who at the time was in command of the infantry detachment at West Point. I have copied the letter here for your reading pleasure.
Very significant letter to Colonel Sink in 1947
I have to thank goodness that this letter prompted Clarence to hide these treasures away for the next 65 plus years so that the stars would align and I would have the opportunity to write this story.