Trophies of War

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When I think of trophies brought back from World War II I think of flags, helmets, daggers, swords and insignia from the defeated Axis forces. I have seen thousands of veteran “bring back” items in my years of collecting and selling arms and militaria. But recently I received one that I didn’t really expect.

After the German army capitulated on May 7, 1945, all arms had to be turned in. I have seen photos of piles of Mauser rifles and machine guns that were surrendered to allied forces. Not just military weapons but sporting rifles of all types came in, including one type I see quite commonly, the drilling or combination guns with two or three barrels. But it wasn’t just modern guns that were turned in. There were also historic arms such as early wheellocks and flintlocks that ended up in these piles of weapons.

The gun that came to me is a beautifully made flintlock pistol. At first glance it is clearly Germanic in form with a walnut stock, a brass escutcheon plate on the wrist with foliate patterns, a brass butt cap with a small grotesque mask on the bottom, engraved brass straps that run up each side of the grip, and a brass trigger guard with a face and foliate designs on the bow. It has a two-stage barrel that is octagonal at the breech and then round with a silver front sight that now has a nice uncleaned black patina. The lock plate is ornately engraved with incised lines, a face on the tail, foliate designs and a banner marked “Io. ULRICH. MANTZ.”

Some research showed the maker to be Johan Ulrich Mantz of BraunschWeig, Germany. He was working between 1712 and 1755 and was the gunmaker to the Court of Brunswick. After looking at some of his other guns online, many are more ornately carved and decorated than the wonderful one I have. Like many of the European makers of the day, he also made guns for the Ottoman trade that was so lucrative during that period.

After looking at this gun, I can see why the young G.I. picked this gun out of the pile and brought it back as his trophy after defeating the Nazi’s. So many times we see these types of guns and wonder what their story is and how they got to this country. I’m glad that the family of the deceased veteran passed along his story of how he ended up with it so the next owner can keep the history together with the gun.

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