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Masters Thesis On U.S. Soldiers Looting During WW2

Article about: I found this online. Figured it may be something of interest. I agree and disagree with some of the points. I also think if the author expanded his interview pool and supported some of the i

  1. #1

    Default Masters Thesis On U.S. Soldiers Looting During WW2

    I found this online. Figured it may be something of interest. I agree and disagree with some of the points. I also think if the author expanded his interview pool and supported some of the items with primary sources it would be much better but in my opinion. enjoy

    Looting Thesis.pdf

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    As the old saying goes "Germans fight for the Fatherland, British for King and Country, Americans for the souvenirs and for the hell of it" Looks like an interesting read though.

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    I started reading, but don't really have the time right now. Having grow up in the 1960' and 70's in a American Legion in Queens NY, I was both the child of a WWII veteran and reared among his peers. There were also many WWI veterans around at that time. Knowing them well, I've long observed that those same veterans were children of the great depression. Many at one time had nothing and experienced hard times, some still were experiencing hardship just prior to their active service. I believe that some amount of trophy taking was more or less the the realization that an item could be reused, sold, traded, or useful in any manner of ways and more importantly things were freely available. The "You many never get an opportunity to find one of those again" mentality, "Hang on to that, you may need that someday", if you will. I find that prior personal background, upbringing, and conditioning is often overlooked in scholarly (or otherwise) analysis. Not saying that was done here as I've not finished it, I hope to get back to it as time allows.

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    Good read.

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    There would be many a TR collection presented on WRF that would be the poorer had such "souvenir hunting and looting" not taken place by US GI's. They were "preserving history" for future generations...and for collectors.
    Last edited by StefanM; 01-05-2015 at 08:27 AM.
    I collect, therefore I am.

    Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter.

  6. #6


    Quote by StefanM View Post
    They were "preserving history" for future generations...and for collectors.
    Strongly disagree...............When I was in Iraq in 2003, they stole anything that wasn't nailed down!

    Quote from the Thesis:

    Keepsakes have been a military tradition since the dawn of warfare. Returning from battle, soldiers have brought back with them a hodgepodge of worthless trinkets, military spoils of war, and other proofs that they were in battle. World War II was different than the American wars that preceded it, in that when the soldiers returned they brought back with them possibly the most extensive collection of enemy equipment than ever before or since. Owing to the prevalence of hunting for keepsakes were the limitless possibilities for GIs to obtain items. “If I saw something that they [German soldiers] had that I wanted, I took it,” declared Francis O. Ayers. “They didn’t argue. Trust me, they didn’t argue about it!” 24 For the average soldier in the European Theater of Operations (ETO), acquiring objects for keepsakes was the initial impetus for picking up war trophies; and of all the objects soldiers picked up for keepsakes, there was nothing more superlative than flags. The profusion of Nazi flags that defiantly hung in destroyed military emplacements and were unceremoniously discarded in village squares were mute testimony to a once powerful but now passing regime. To many GIs, possessing the enemy’s colors was not just a good boost for morale, but also emblematic of complete victory.

    That, in my view says it all!

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    Besides the traditional, commonly encountered war-trophies and service mementos, civilian items such as jewelry, silverware, clocks, cameras, paintings, figurines, and other valuables also found their way to the US following the war...And although many of these valuables were acquired on the post-war Black Market in trade for cigarettes, coffee, white bread, soap etc etc, much of it was not...More than once have I read about some long-lost European work of art that was picked up for a pittance at a yard sale in the US...But the Germans seem to have been particularly incensed by the British looting, and a new term for theft was coined which is still in use today, namely "Englisch Einkaufen" ("English Shopping")...On the other hand, all of that pales in comparison to the thievery embarked upon by the Germans, and later the Soviets, in my opinion...
    cheers, Glenn
    Last edited by bigmacglenn; 01-05-2015 at 07:46 PM.

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    I enjoyed reading this thesis.
    It explains a lot about the things veterans mentioned to me about their bring backs and the situation at the time.
    Thanks for the link friend it has been very informative.

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    An enjoyable read, about a not so enjoyable part of history.
    Small "worthless" trinkets and odds and ends have always been collected by soldiers before returning home. But I agree, that especially WW2 saw some looting on an unprecedented scale.

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention

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    I am happy that this is generating some conversation. Lots of different angle to look on this.

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