Historical Perspectives: Bringing World War II Watches Back Home



I knew I wasn’t going to purchase it, however I picked it up and began analyzing it anyway. It’s one thing of a routine for us watch-obsessed to feign simply sufficient curiosity as a way to snag a second to hunt for a small element in a watch that may fascinate us, however after all we do not act too lest the vendor senses our pleasure. But this vendor latched on to me for one more purpose. He was excited that I used to be not solely well mannered sufficient to face out within the June warmth and take heed to his tales, however sufficient to genuinely respect them. 
And boy did he have some good ones. As a collector, I loved listening to how yearly he drives an actual Jeep that was used within the filming of the TV present M*A*S*H, down the primary avenue of his small city in Pennsylvania to a lot fanfare from the local people. He went from that to the twisted story of Martin James Monti, a disturbingly recounting of a WWII traitor; Monti was an American airman who stole a F-5E Lightning (a reconnaissance model of the P-38) and piloted it to Milan the place he handed it over to German forces and instantly surrendered, solely later to change into an SS propaganda specialist. Somehow after surrendering to the US after an Allied victory, he was allowed to re-enlist within the Army Air Force and later honorably discharged in 1948. I didn’t realize it on the time, however I’d find yourself spending hours listening to extra tales like this, analyzing watches between the tales. 

Issued WWII watches on the market. 

I believe this particular setting was one of many solely locations he might discover individuals who shared his ardour for accumulating outdated army issues, so it is no shock he had a lot to speak about. It was WWII Weekend in Reading, Pennsylvania. The pageant is billed as the most important WWII reenactment within the nation. I used to be there to see the number of planes flown by the Mid-Atlanitc Air Museum, together with a P-51D Mustang dubbed “KWITCHERBITCHIN,” but I ended up with a bonus lesson on the fascinating culture of WWII reenactors. One tidbit I learned from the WWII militaria dealer I was chatting with was that they did not like “non-public buy” watches and as a substitute largely bought solely real A-11 and Army Ordnance Dept. watches, despite the fact that it is well-known that many troopers used their very own watches throughout the warfare. It was an important piece of substances, and to some it simply did not matter the place it got here from so long as that they had a functioning wristwatch. 

Ironically some non-public buy watches had been technically superior to the overall subject watches the federal government with which the federal government equipped troopers. But a part of the reenactment tradition, as I realized, is ensuring each little final little bit of the outfit was interval right. One reenactor even went so far as to feign a transatlantic accent whereas talking to me. I did not trouble telling him that most individuals of the time did not really communicate like that. The watch was additionally an vital a part of the get-up, and the vendor that I had been talking to was there to promote real WWII watches to reenactors as a part of their package. He had a whole bunch of them, categorized by what department of service might have used them. Only the watch I had in my hand was not a army issued wristwatch. Instead it was a civilian market Hamilton, with a typical ’30s roman numeral dial – maybe that is why it hadn’t been offered to any one of many hundreds of reenactors current.

A reenactor carrying an issued watch.

P-51D Mustang at WWII Weekend 

History is not one thing we solely examine in textbooks; in some circumstances we will contact it. We can run our hands by means of the sand at Omaha seashore in Normandy the place as many as 12,000 Allied troopers died; on the 9/11 Memorial Museum in NYC we will really feel the chilliness of the metal I-beams that had been plucked from the rubble and placed on show. There’s one thing very highly effective concerning the tactile ritual of feeling an object with some historical past behind it. Hearing or studying about  vital historic occasions is one factor, however really holding a bit of historical past in your hands is one other. In this particular case, I used to be strapping historical past on my wrist. I used to be making an attempt on what appeared like a ’30s or ’40s Hamilton, and I flipped it over to check out the caseback. Casebacks of this period are often devoid of any attention-grabbing particulars; most had been completely sterile in look. But this watch had a fantastic private engraving.

Lt. G.C. Fullenkamp / Best Wishes / From Your / Fed. Mach. & Welder Co. Friends

The engraving should have taken unimaginable care to get proper, with triangular serifs and small capitals. I used to be drawn in as a result of it symbolized a time when folks nonetheless made issues with their hands. Casebacks right now are designed and laid out on a pc, with engravings often completed by laser; when it is completed by hand it is much less sterile, and the way in which letters join and circulation is much extra thought of. 

But then, I received to questioning concerning the man behind the engraving. Had Lt. G.C. Fullenkamp been drafted? Was this a watch gifted to him from his work buddies to ship him off to warfare? More importantly, did he ever get the possibility to return again house? 
I instantly received the sense that this was not my watch. It wasn’t even the vendor’s. I wasn’t totally certain that I ought to have been dealing with it. Even if I did resolve to purchase it, it might by no means actually belong to me. It was actually etched in steel, proper there on the caseback, to whom this watch belonged. Lt. G.C. Fullenkamp was the rightful proprietor. It was haunting to suppose that this watch had almost definitely been worn by a person who fought and maybe, died for his nation.

I ended up shopping for it with the intention of getting it again to the place it belonged. I did not know the place to start out, and I knew Lt. G.C. Fullenkamp was almost definitely not with us, however perhaps he had sons or daughters, and even grandchildren who had been alive. 
So I got down to discover them. 
A fast Google led me to Leonard Fullenkamp, a retired soldier who had served as a professor on the Army War College in Carlisle along with holding command positions with the famed 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, the 2nd Ranger Battalion, the 42nd Field Artillery Brigade, and the 25th Division. He had devoted his life to serving our nation; I had a hunch that he would perceive how vital it was to get this watch again to somebody who additionally discovered it significant. 
I used to be even hoping it was his father’s, and even grandfather’s watch; it appeared probably that it might have been the case. There aren’t many Fullenkamps within the United States. 

But it wasn’t. The Fullenkamps, as Mr. Fullenkamp defined, break up once they got here to America. There had been two branches – one in Pennsylvania, and one other in Ohio. Our dialog did slim down the search space, nevertheless. And all of a sudden issues began so as to add up. Fed. Mach. & Welder Co. was the abreviation for Federal Machine & Welder Company, situated in Warren, Ohio. I discovered an article revealed within the Cincinnati Enquirer dated April sixth, 1937 saying that “four New York men had acquired substantial interest in the concern.” Those grasping New Yorkers. Earlier in 1920, a e book titled The Iron Age Catalouge of American Exports asserted that Federal Machine & Welder Company was the most important producer of electrical welders within the nation. I surmise that a minimum of just a few of the staff had been very considerate. After all, buddies of Lt. Fullenkamp related to Federal Machine & Welder Company had purchased what was on the time a reasonably good watch, with an engraved dedication, no much less. 

Lt. Fullenkamp’s identify additionally seems in a 1935 version of The Army and Navy Journal, however sadly the precise doc  proved very tough to get my hands on. Removing it from some dusty shelf in some dusty basement was more durable than anticipated, so I’ve not but been capable of establish in what capability Lt. Fullenkamp served. 
I referred to as each fashionable Fullenkamp within the cellphone e book, but it surely led to a lifeless finish. What I did be taught, nevertheless, is how one thing superb occurs once you decide up the cellphone and begin dialing strangers asking for assist with a wierd mission that takes some time to elucidate. More persons are prepared to take time out of their day to speak to a man who has a loopy thought a few watch than I had anticipated. One fellow even provided to go to the county data workplace in Ohio.   

If you occur to know any Fullenkamps that hint their roots again to Ohio, please attain out within the feedback. 

When I purchased the watch I requested the vendor if he had any others with related engravings. About half a yr later I received an e mail invitation to go to the vendor at his house in rural Pennsylvania to take a look at just a few extra watches. I obliged. We spent the higher a part of a whole day chatting, and I left with three extra watches. 
The tales behind these engraved watches fascinated me, and in a wierd approach I felt I used to be doing my small half by making an attempt to reunite these watches with the households of service members who sacrificed a lot. The watch nerd in me fetishized these items for the tales engraved – and scratched – within the steel, however I additionally knew that to the households of the lads whose names had been on the casebacks that the importance merely transcends any watch-related curiosity. It was by no means completely a horological pursuit of mine, as a substitute it was about leveraging my ardour for wristwatches to get these items again the place they belonged. The watch is extra significant to the relative of a service member than it’s to a collector. 
The subsequent watch was a lot more durable to decode. I am going to skip proper to it: This watch hasn’t made it again to any surviving member of the family but. Engraved within the caseback is the next message: 

To / Pike Beall / From / Co-Workers / Edgewood Arsenal / 1942

Civilians and troopers labored at Edgewood Arsenal throughout the thick of WWII. It’s unsure what Mr. Beall’s position was, nevertheless.
There are just a few pockets of Bealls within the northeast nook of Maryland, however none of them that I had contacted had any kinfolk named Pike. Given the character of what went on at Edgewood Arsenal, I would not be stunned if Mr. Beall had gone darkish after placing in his time working there. He might have had zero involvement within the soiled work, however given the date stamped within the caseback it places Mr. Beall squarely in the midst of some darkish occasions on the Arsenal. The New Yorker ran a round-up in 2012 on the shadowy operations that had been carried out at Edgewood. The facility was largely identified for human experiments with chemical warfare brokers, and the manufacturing of chemical weapons. 

It’s not simple reckoning with the ugly aspect of warfare efforts carried out on the homefront. What occurred at Edgewood Arsenal wasn’t fairly, and I believe the bigger public would not even know the half of it. We are inclined to glorify the heroic actions of troopers on the battlefield that earned an Allied victory throughout WWII, and to an extent, the actions it takes to take care of the place as a worldwide hegemon within the fashionable world, however wanting into the historical past of this particular watch served as a reminder of the excessive worth as soon as paid proper right here at house. 
I didn’t get a lot additional with the second watch of the bunch, both. The caseback engraving was easy: 

W.H. Croner, Lt. / U.S.N. / 309657

The service quantity supplies a clue to the chronology of the watch. At the outbreak of WWII the service quantity cap of 125,000 was simply being reached. By the top it was prolonged to  350,000. In 1945 it was prolonged even additional to 600,000. That places Lt. Croner proper within the vary of WWII. The watch is an Elgin Army Ordnance watch, an extremely fashionable timepiece throughout that period. Soldiers had been even skilled to repair this very watch within the discipline as outlined in TM 9-1575 Ordnance Maintenance: Wrist Watches, Pocket Watches, Stop Watches, and Clocks 1945-04-06.
Without being the following of kin to Lt. Croner or a present service member, utilizing the equipped service quantity proved tough. There’s a protracted course of one should undergo to lookup enlistment data from WWII. Army service numbers are simple,  however the Navy proved harder. I am nonetheless engaged on this one. 

I used to be zero for 3 at this level, and the fourth watch wasn’t wanting a lot better. It was considerably smaller than the remainder, however an engraver made full use of all the true property on the caseback: 

To / Lieut. A. C. Jones / RCNR / From / Royal Sovereign / Sea Cadet Corps / Sault Ste Marie / -1941-

Canadian! It was tough sufficient to trace down people in America, not to mention throughout a world border. I began with a web based archive search and got here up with a direct match nearly immediately. The British stored wonderful data. The fantastic thing about paperwork hardly ever ever reveals itself, however on this occasion I could not be extra grateful for the sticklers who recorded each element. Lieutenant A.C. Jones’ identify appeared on a manifest with “In Command” in parenthesis. A small museum in Oakville, Ontario held the data. The story was about to get attention-grabbing. 

I received in contact with the museum and ended up getting way more than I bargained for. It seems the Lt. Alex C. Jones was the commander of the HMCS Oakville, a corvette class warship that noticed loads of motion throughout WWII; it was an escort closely concerned in The Battle of the Atlantic. A historian native to the Toronto space, Sean E. Livingston, himself a Naval reservist officer, had penned a whole e book on the HMCS Oakville in 2014 and for the e book carried out thorough analysis on Lt. Jones. I felt like I had struck gold. 
The ship was named after the city of Oakville, and it was commissioned  on November 18, 1941. The city of Oakville hosted an unlimited celebration to commemorate and honor the warship and its crew. Of course Lt. Alex C. Jones was in attendance because the ship’s first commanding officer. He delivered a robust speech to the group. Livingston outlines the scene in his e book:

Back on land, Jones and his entourage obtained a refrain of cheers from the assembled crowd. Members of the Oakville Corvette Committee then escorted the CO to the rostrum, the place Nelles, Macdonald, Deans, and numerous different officers waited. Along the way in which, Jones smiled and waved to the lots, undoubtedly overwhelmed by the sheer numbers in attendance.

I used to be fortunate sufficient to attach with Mr. Livingston and present him the watch. He had formulated a principle on its origin story. 
The Sea Cadet Corps performed a a lot bigger position in WWII than they do in naval warfare right now. From the engraving, we will conclude that the watch was a present to Lt. Jones from the Royal Sovereign Sea Cadet Corps, and the date would counsel that it was almost definitely introduced to him when the HMCS Oakville was passing by means of Sault Ste. Marie. It was customary for Sea Cadets Corps items to current presents to reviewing officers after finishing a parade inspection. It’s probably that Lt. Jones served as a reviewing officer when the HMCS Oakville stopped at Sault Ste. Marie. The presents needed to be helpful, as they had been the very last thing officers obtained earlier than heading to warfare. 

The Canadian Navy had lots of corvettes of this class throughout WWII – the Flower class, of which Oakville was one, had been based mostly on a Boston whaler design, and that made them fast and nimble, however the draw back was that the ship’s measurement and design meant, typically, a moist and rocky trip for the crew. This was very true within the open Atlantic; that they had initially been meant just for coastal service however they had been continuously employed as transatlantic convoy escorts as nicely. Unfortunately, Jones suffered from persistent seasickness. He would have had the watch with him in his quarters as he was probably introduced the watch on the ship’s journey from Port Arthur eastward to participate within the Battle of the Atlantic. The HMCS Oakville would act as safety to a provide convoys  forwards and backwards throughout the Atlantic to England. 

After Jones transferred command of the ship and took a publish on land, the Oakville performed a pivotal position in an encounter with the Nazis within the Caribbean. During a convoy from Trinidad to Key West,  Oakville encountered a German U-boat. An American PBY airplane initiated contact, and a skirmish at sea shortly erupted. From an American Naval Intelligence report:
The PBY airplane dropped 4 650-pound depth expenses from 50 feet, then dropped a flare. U-94 was someplace between 30 and 60 feet beneath the floor, in accordance with prisoners’ estimates, when the airplane’s depth expenses exploded.
The U-boat nosed upward and surfaced. The crew made useless efforts to submerge.

Meanwhile, H.M.C.S. Oakville closed. According to her report on the motion, she had seen the airplane flashing “S’s” by sign lamp in addition to the flare. She proceeded full pace forward towards the flare, at which spot 5 depth expenses set at 100 feet had been dropped. Shortly afterwards Oakville obtained … Asdic [an early form of sonar] contact. Less than one-half minute afterwards, a lookout sighted the bow of a submarine on the bearing indicated, about 100 yards distant, and slowly opening. Course was altered to ram. The U-boat handed below Oakville’s bow, however bumped towards the corvette’s port aspect when the hitter turned onerous to port. Oakville opened fireplace and altered course to ram once more. She scored a success on the conning tower and a Four-inch shell carried away the U-boat’s deck gun. U-94 seemed to be taking avoiding motion by growing her pace. Oakville rammed the starboard aspect of the U-boat, then dropped depth expenses, considered one of which appeared to blow up immediately below the U-boat which quickly decreased pace. Oakville then opened vary and rammed a 3rd time, this time squarely abaft conning tower.
A boarding occasion from Oakville accepted the give up of U-94, whose crew scuttled her.
Back to the watch. Finally I discovered the hyperlink I used to be in search of, and satirically it ended up main me to our brothers in arms to the North. I now knew the historical past of the watch, however did not fairly know what to do with it. 

The city of Oakville, Ontario has a small museum with frequent exhibitions about Oakville and the occasions that happened when the warship pulled into city in 1941 on its approach out to warfare. Instead of monitoring down the Jones lineage, it made sense for all of the residents of Oakville to have the ability to benefit from the watch and hopefully add slightly shade to the narratives of a heroic technology that is shortly disappearing. The watch was shipped from HODINKEE HQ final month as a donation to the museum. It might be on show in an upcoming exhibit. 

It was initially a present from the Royal Sovereign Sea Cadet Corps to Lt. A.C. Jones, given as a bit of apparatus to assist within the bigger battle that may decide the destiny of the world. Nothing is thought of the watch’s journey because it was gifted to Jones, however now, 78 years later, it is in a distinct form of service, as a reminder of the grim and determined enterprise that was the Battle Of The Atlantic. 



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