Souvenir Collecting – Ltd.

The Green Light Is On for Battlefield Mementos - If You Observe the Rules

(Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin – January 1944)


Official OWI photograph
OKAY: Captured enemy helmets - Germans left these behind in Tunisia - are legitimate souvenirs.
Official U. S. Marine Corps photograph
FORBIDDEN: But you can't send home explosives, such as these live Jap bombs found on Guadalcanal.

When Johnny comes rolling home it won't be in a Volkswagen. But don't think it hasn't been tried - and with near success. It has.

A guy in uniform succeeded in getting a captured German jeep in North Africa. Then he drove it down to the dock, aboard a ship and stowed it away. He even drove it down the gang plank at an east coast American port. But that's as far as he got. Navy authorities took it away from him, but fast.

And then there's the story of the hand grenades.

Not so long ago two sailors brought several h.g.'s aboard their ship. They hid them aboard-in the officers' accommodations. And the h.g.'s were of the live variety. Very live.

But the story isn't funny.

An officer moved some blankets and one of the hand grenades hit the deck. Result: four persons hospitalized with lacerations of the eyes and arms.

There's also the story of the antiaircraft ammunition. It's not tragic but it could have been. And it's happened more than once.

During the usual postal. inspection of packages mailed into the United States, inspectors found some antiaircraft ammunition. All they needed was the gun to make things go "boom."

Enough matches to start fires that could have leveled New York, San Francisco and Waukegan have been intercepted in mail from the boys overseas.

Scratch an American and you find a souvenir hunter. That's all right. The Navy doesn't mind. All the Navy wants is a little judgment exercised.

Official U. S. Coast Guard photograph
AXIS MEDALS: These were obtained from enemy prisoners
in North Africa in exchange for American cigarettes.

In order to keep your souvenirs, lend an eye to this recent directive: "Naval personnel returning to the near success. United States from theaters of operation may be permitted to bring back small items of enemy equipment EXCEPTING name plates, items which contain any explosive, and such other items- whose usefulness to the service or whose value as critical material outweighs their value as trophies …

"Naval personnel in the theaters of operation may be permitted to mail small items of enemy equipment EXCEPTING articles listed above, inflammables, and firearms capable of being concealed on the person, to friends or relatives in the United States."

Mate, that doesn't mean hand grenades, live ammunition or matches, even if they do have Tojo's or Adolph's signatures scrawled on them. And it doesn't mean captured "walkie-talkie" sets either. That's been tried, too. It's a nice idea to be able to carryon a conversation with the girl friend after the old man kicks you out. You could do just that with a "walkie talkie." But radio and fire control equipment have a value to the United States government that far outweigh their value as souvenirs.

Those are some of the "don'ts." However, there are plenty of "do's."

For instance, among the permissible souvenirs are captured rifles and small arms that cannot be concealed on the person, bayonets, uniforms and parts of uniforms, small personal flags (such as the ones the Japs carry), shell fragments, provided they are small and harmless (large pieces might be wanted for metallurgical examination by our experts) , spent bullets, empty antiaircraft cartridge shells, with primers removed, helmets, gas masks, canteens, swords, etc.

The list of things that it is permissible to mail home or bring back is almost inexhaustible. It just takes a little common sense.

Remember, too, that souvenirs do not include U. S. Government property. When you set up shop for yourself after the war, you'll have to do it with gear you've paid for with your own hard cash, not with anything stamped "U.S.N."

Alcoholic spirits (includes whisky, gin, rum, etc.) are also verboten. Mailing violates postal regulations.

If the Navy can let men keep anything of sentimental value, it will do so. If possible, on borderline articles, they are returned after examination by Navy authorities.

such as the lap machine gun above,
found on Kiska, may be sent home
as souvenirs if: (1) they're incapable
of being concealed on the person and
(2) their usefulness to the service or
value as critical material doesn't
outweigh their value as trophies.

For instance, a sailor brought home a captured Japanese knee mortar. He even included ammunition. Navy authorities took the mortar and the ammunition. Then they gave the mortar back to him - minus the ammunition.

When you find an item that you want to send or bring home to a relative or friend, this is what you do :

Go to your commanding officer and get a certificate (in duplicate) signed by him stating that you are officially authorized by the theater commander to retain as your personal property the articles listed on the certificate.
When you arrive at the port of entry into the United States you will surrender the duplicate copy of the certificate to customs officers when you declare the articles.

Get a similar certificate when you mail captured material back home. The certificate will be accepted by postal authorities as evidence that the sender is officially authorized to mail the articles and will be retained in the parcel for the possession of the person to whom the parcel is addressed.
If the articles in the parcel are sent as gifts, the parcel should also contain the gift declaration (INFORMATION BULLETIN, Oct. 1943).

And if you pick up some enemy equipment and you are told that you can't keep it, you can bet that the Navy has a good reason for wanting it. Sometimes the reason might not be obvious, but there's a good reason, nevertheless.

Either the item is dangerous or the Navy needs it for analytical purposes.
Above all, don't be like the service- man (name withheld by request) who mailed a live hand grenade to his mother with a note: "Mother, put this on the mantelpiece." And then added, as an afterthought, "Don't let it fall off. It might explode."

Official U. S. Navy photographs
Bargain hunters line the rail of a U.S. warship
visited by a floating souvenir shop in the South Pacific.