Military Memorabilia is far more than just collectible items. These items tell a story, they give us the rich history behind the men and women who made valiant sacrifices in order to serve their country and preserve the freedom we still continue to experience today. Military memorabilia is a porthole to the past; and when you enter the AFHM, you pass through that very porthole and are transported back in time and immersed into sights and sounds that bring history to life.
WWI and WWII Military Memorabilia at the AFHM
The Armed Forces History Museum boasts of over 100,000 pieces of authentic military memorabilia dating back as far as the Revolutionary War – a bayonet on display in the Firearms and Ordnance Room. A Civil War Uniform, which was reproduced from the remnants of an actual uniform, is on display in the Salute to Services Gallery. The AFHM has a WWI Trench with posts from Flanders Field in France, a WWI horse gas mask and a number of other WWI militaria. The WWII Pearl Harbor Gallery has a 20 ft. screen showing actual film footage from the bombing. Also in this gallery are the scale models of the Japanese ships which were used in the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!
The WWII USMC room has a number of pieces on display. As visitors view the military memorabilia in this area they can listen to the story of Iwo Jima survivor John Residence – who witnessed the flag raising on Iwo Jima – as he tells his story of that fateful day. As visitors pass through this area they are amazed at the full sized Stuart Tank and WWII DUKW. Like all the vehicles and armor at the AFHM, these two pieces are fully restored and fully operational.
The WWII US Navy gallery has an inkwell on display from the USS Missouri, which would have been aboard the ship around the same time the Japanese signed the treaty. An actual Navy periscope is also on display in this gallery. Visitors can peer through the scope out into the museum parking lot.
The WWII Normandy diorama displays military memorabilia that belonged to Colonel Schroeder – the first man to step foot on Normandy Beach. A reproduced French Village is part of this area of the museum along with a diorama showing Private Steele hanging from the steeple of St. Mere Iglese. The German village diorama in this area houses the uniform of Karl Mauss and a number of other militaria from the Axis. Displaying these items is based on their historical significance only. A WWII Communications diorama shows a WWII soldier using radio communication equipment. A number of other communication pieces used during the war round out the extensive World War II portion of the museum.
Korean and Vietnam War Militaria at the AFHM
The Sherman Tank at the AFHM is representative of the Korean War era, along with a Korean MASH ambulance and diorama of a MASH surgical unit. A number of items – including surgical instruments used by the MASH doctors – is on display just outside the MASH tent. Also in this area is a tribute to Tampa Bay’s own Korean War hero – Baldomero Lopez. His family was kind enough to donate a number of items of this brave young warrior. The AFHM is honored to have them as part of their Korean War display. Visitors can listen to the story of Baldomero Lopez’s heroic act at the Inchon Landing diorama.
Another diorama in the Korean War area is dedicated to the Frozen Chosin. Military memorabilia here in this area depict some communication devices used as well as the winter outerwear that was crucial in surviving the frigid temps. As the story of the Frozen Chosin is heard, the chilly temps depicted in this diorama can almost be felt.
The Korean War section of the museum also has a diorama of Rosie’s Bar and a very unique display from Korean War POW Bill Allen. Bill volunteers at the museum and educates visitors on the trials and tribulations of a POW. Bill recounts his story in his autobiography “My Old Box of Memories”. Bill brings his military memorabilia to life with the real life stories of being a prisoner.
The museum also has a collection from the Vietnam era. An impressive diorama of the Ho Chi Minh trail takes visitors on a brief walk through the forest of Vietnam. Display cases inside and around the trail display a number of authentic pieces from this historic time period. A diorama of a Vietnam Firebase rounds out the Vietnam section of the museum.
Other Memorabilia at the Museum
A few pieces are also on display from the historically significant Cold War Era. Next to the Cold War exhibit is a display case which houses the only known uniform in the United States of Saddam Hussein.
A partial replica of a Quonset Hut, a MiG 21 Supersonic Jet and a number of jeeps, halftracks and other armor are also part of the extensive collection at the Armed Forces History Museum. The museum is located at 2050 34th Way N in Largo, FL.
The above is but a brief overview of the extensive military memorabilia on display at the Armed Forces History Museum. Read below to learn more about military memorabilia in general. (Continued below)
WWII Military Memorabilia
World War II is probably the most sought after military memorabilia. Though much of it is still available, the stories that go with it are dying off quickly. Many a brave young man stepped forward after the bombing of WWII, and while some of their stories have been forever immortalized because of the significance of a particular act or overall contributions of their service. Many stories will never be known as they died with the brave young warrior on the battlefield. Others, for whatever reason, never made it to the lime light. Their contributions were equally as significant, but their stories remain only with a small number of family members and close friends. Some of the veterans of the various conflicts have been unable to share their experiences even with family members. Once they are gone, their untold story dies with them.
WWII Military Memorabilia includes uniforms, helmets, field equipment, dog tags, posters and postcards, personal effects such as a flight log or pay record, rifles, shotguns, patches and insignia, as well as firearms and ordnance. Jeeps, halftracks, tanks and other armored vehicles are still around from this era. Unless they are on display at a museum, many of them are in need of refurbishing. All the vehicles at the AFHM are fully restored and fully operational.
Though a number of authentic military memorabilia are available today, some items are rare and difficult to find. Original Revolutionary War relics – 1775 to 1783 – are quite rare and desired by avid collectors. Civil War memorabilia dating from 1861 to 1865, for the most part, is also often hard to find. WWI military memorabilia is sought as WWI was the first conflict that involved other countries and used ‘modern warfare’.
With WWII being one of the most widely sought after eras (1939 to 1945) for military memorabilia, some of the items have become more difficult to locate. Even Vietnam (1961 to 1975) and Desert Storm (1990 to 1991) have rare commemorative items such as edged weapons, trading cards and oxygen masks.
Purchasing Military Memorabilia
Military memorabilia can be purchased from a number of sources:
1) A collector
3) An Auction House
4) An Antique Store
Before purchasing, sources should be researched so the purchaser can be confident that the item he is buying is both authentic and realistically priced based on its current condition. When purchasing military memorabilia, research into the market can be helpful to gain broader knowledge and a general idea of what to expect to pay for any given item depending on its condition. One of the most important aspects of purchasing memorabilia is to finding reputable sellers/dealers. Before purchasing, read the return policy thoroughly and be sure to take all the appropriate steps if you are unsatisfied with your purchase.
Displaying A Collection
Collections can be displayed in a number of ways. The only limit is the imagination. Many individuals get creative with shadow boxes, especially when the items they wish to display belonged to a loved one. Shadow boxes allow a number of items to be on display in a limited space without detracting from the overall effect of the display. Items can also be displayed on bookshelves. The items can be grouped for a more profound effect. Larger collections may require an entire room of various types of displays. All items should be catalogued on an index card at the time of purchase along with any special notations about the item.
Whether you are visiting a museum, looking over a veteran’s personal items or you are a collector of such items, military memorabilia tells the story of the past in a way no book can ever depict. Military memorabilia once used and relied upon provide a deeper insight into the experiences and history of the world and that of the military veterans who have gone before us and the sacrifices they made in order for us to continue to enjoy our freedom.