BOUCKVILLE, N.Y. – The Purple Heart awarded to U.S. Cpl. Joseph E. Oleskiewicz – a member of the “Filthy Thirteen,” the 1st Demolition Section of the Regimental Headquarters Company, 101st Airborne Division, dropped into Normandy on June 6, 1944 in World War II – sold for $5,100 at Mohawk Arms’ Auction #72, a live and internet auction that ended Dec. 5-6.
The “Filthy Thirteen” had orders to secure or destroy bridges over the Douve River in France. Half the men were killed, wounded or captured during the mission. Oleskiewicz survived, but was tragically killed in battle just a few months later, in Sept. 1944, during Operation Market Garden. He appeared in a Stars and Stripes magazine photo taken on the night of June 5, 1944.
The auction, featuring 1,900 lots of military items from multiple wars and generations, was held in Mohawk Arms’ Bouckville, N.Y., gallery (located on Route 20 in central New York State, not far from Interstates 90 and 81) as well as online, at www.LiveAuctioneers.com and the Mohawk Arms website, www.MilitaryRelics.com. Many telephone and absentee bids were also recorded.
The auction was packed with awards and medals, ethnographic weapons, bayonets and swords, Third Reich and other German memorabilia, reference books, American Civil War and Rev-War canteens, Imperial German helmets, British Napoleonic-era spontoons, American World War I uniforms, vintage firearms, Civil War leather goods, photos, letters, Nazi peaked caps and more.
Overall, the auction was a success, but not without some surprises. “Areas I thought would do well fell flat, while some others far exceeded our expectations,” said Ray Zyla of Mohawk Arms, Inc. “Categories that were somewhat disappointing included German steel helmets and Civil War swords and equipment, although Confederate canteens did do well and were the exception.”
As for categories that held their own or surpassed expectations, Zyla listed these to include swords (German Imperial, Third Reich and Samurai especially), Civil War handguns and revolvers, American combat knives, German Third Reich daggers, reference books and medals and badges. He added, “World War I items are coming on strong, but just in interest, not prices.”
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium, which ranged from between 16 to 22 percent, depending on how the bid was placed.
The top lot of the auction was a German Luftwaffe silver pokal (silver footed chalice) awarded to the Nazi flying ace Karl Nordmann, showing eagles in combat and a 1939 Iron Cross. The pokal brought $9,912. Also, a German World War II convex Maltese (or Spanish) Cross award, with swords and an eagle/cut-out swastika on the swords between the arms, with pin, fetched $1,068.
A cache of eight books from Adolf Hitler’s personal library, seized by an American Major with the 713th MP Battalion and his French counterpart and containing Hitler’s hand-penciled notes and directives, were sold as single lots. An example, Das Saarbuch by Friedrich Heiss, sailed past its pre-sale estimate of $450 to realize $2,200. Also, two items from Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun’s dressing table – a crystal square decanter and matching powder jar – went for $2,135.
A U.S. World War II 1st Ranger Battalion special combat knife with a 9 ¼ inch Bowie blade and engraved “Old Faithful” and “Australia – Aug. 20, 1943,” changed hands for $1,220. Also, a U.S. World War I 50th Aero Squadron camouflage helmet, with a painted insignia of the Third Army, the 7th Corps and the 50th Aero Squadron (a Dutch girl carrying a stick) garnered $1,525.
A Confederate wood drum canteen with iron bands and strap loops of irregular workmanship but in very good plus condition, easily topped its pre-sale estimate of $1,200 by hitting $4,200; while a Colt Army M1860 percussion revolver, a four-screw type (to accommodate a shoulder stock), with a worn but visible cylinder scene and matching numbers (“17452”), hit the mark for $1,708.
A German World War II TN (Technical Corps) officer’s dress dagger, with nickeled crossguard bearing a relief eagle/swastika/gear wheel and an 11-inch blade, in excellent condition, rose to $5,050; and a German World War II “Prinz Eugen” model dress sword (favored by Waffen-SS officers), bearing a single back strap, eagle/swastika pommel and relief oak leaves, made $1,037.
A German World War II Gau Sudetenland commemorative badge, with large detailed eagle and swastika mounted within an aged, blackened, open silver oak leaf wreath bearing the date (1938) commanded $5,100; while a rare German World War II army parachutist’s badge, unmarked but resembling a Juncker construction, with an eagle/swastika and open oak leaf wreath, hit $1,586.
A Prussian 6th Kurassier Regiment EM helmet, having a Tombak body with German silver visor trim and a matching “football” base with a short brass spike and convex gilt brass chin scales, went for $3,840. Also, an Imperial German 89th Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Mecklenburg Grenadier one-year volunteer helmet with brown leather sweatband and “split” tan silk liner, made $3,120.
Rounding out just some of the auction’s major highlights, a wooden suitcase containing 20 Japanese model ships from around World War II, made by the Comets Metal Co. (Richmond Hill, N.Y.), each one mounted on a board, brought $793; and an early German World War II Army M1918 “cut-out” helmet with painted eagle-swastika and a Prussian Shield, hit $2,640.
Mohawk Arms, Inc., is always accepting quality consignments for future auctions. The next sale is slated for mid-2015, probably in early June. To consign a single item, a collection or an estate, you may call them at (315) 893-7888; or, you can e-mail them at Mohawk@MilitaryRelics.com. To learn more about Mohawk Arms, Inc., and their calendar of events, visit www.MilitaryRelics.com.