by Stephen Crane
Basin is a very small, rather isolated community in the badlands of Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. There’s no shortage of veterans from all branches and conflicts, and the local yard sales and auctions are a fairly reliable source of militaria.
As the only active collector in the area, I enjoy very little competition for what does turn up. I am often called when an acquaintance comes across something that looks military. Mostly, I pick up uniform items and odd bits of field gear; but recently I was contacted about something that was quite out of the norm: A WWII German typewriter.
A friend found it at a yard sale (the one weekend I was out of town and couldn’t hit it myself). He called to ask if I was interested. He stated, “It’s German, and in wood carrying case. I think it’s World War Two.”
The first fantasy that briefly passed through my mind was “Enigma Machine!” (hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?). I hurried over to find that the item in question was, indeed, a WWII German military typewriter in its original transport case, in excellent condition, unaltered, complete with the SS runes on the number 5 key. I told him what I thought it was worth (based on a Google search), and he offered it to me for quite a bit less (which was still a lot more than the $20 he paid). He tossed in a 1942-dated water can he had also picked up.
I was able to track down the address where the sale was. I found it was the home of a widow who had recently moved to a local rest home. Her niece was cleaning out the widow’s house. A trip out to the home found a rather spry, and very amiable 101-year-old who was very happy to tell me all she knew about the machine, which unfortunately, wasn’t much.
According to her story, her husband was a First Sergeant in HQ Company, 1st Bn, 415th Infantry Regiment, 104th Division. When he came home after the War, he brought the typewriter, which he “stuck down in the basement, and it stayed there ever since.” The old NCO had passed away in 1987, and with him went the story of the machine.
The 104th had quite a history in the ETO, and overran Nordhausen and the Dora-Mittlebau concentration camp. Perhaps this was the source of the typewriter…perhaps!