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Jim Atwood Biography by Kenneth Alford

Article about: Book Review; JIM ATWOOD, by Kenneth Alford Privately published November 2018, ISBN 9781729167939. Available on Amazon at a reasonable price. In the Forward to the book the writer acknowledge

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    Default Jim Atwood Biography by Kenneth Alford

    Book Review; JIM ATWOOD, by Kenneth Alford

    Privately published November 2018, ISBN 9781729167939. Available on Amazon at a reasonable price.

    In the Forward to the book the writer acknowledges the assistance and information provided by Larry G. Wilson, Thomas M. Johnson, who both were involved in writing sections and George Peterson who worked for Atwood on many projects.

    The book starts well telling Alwoods early history and is the best written part of the book. It gets looser as it progresses and is not well edited.

    My interest is really in his militaria dealing, and that really begins in 1960-61 when he was stationed in West Berlin as a Captain in Army Intelligence.
    While there in his spare time Atwood discovers militaria relics of the Third Reich freely available and cheap.

    Jim Atwood Biography by Kenneth AlfordJim Atwood Biography by Kenneth AlfordJim Atwood Biography by Kenneth Alford


    An early story of collector/dealer Atwood , from about 1960, on page 78 tells how the widow of a Korean war comrade of Atwood, who had been killed in action, wrote to Atwood saying her son wanted a German helmet for his birthday and could he help? Jim found one at a pawnbroker and bought it for $1.25.
    The shopkeeper said, "Do you want any more, I've got 300 out the back?" Atwood bought them all, then posted the helmet to his comrade's widow, billing her $25.00
    It struck me as an early insight into the character of the man.

    In 1960 in Berlin collectors and dealers were already out and abound visiting flea markets and second hand traders. Nazi regalia had been banned by the the West German government so anything for sale was under the counter. Atwood joined the crowd and did the rounds, mainly shopping for himself. But he had discovered German WW2 militaria could be sold in the US for four times the purchase price in Berlin.

    Seeking new sources he began by advertising in English language newspapers in West Germany for "wanting to buy".
    He discovered there was a strong demand of Third Reich daggers and swords back home. But it was now illegal for West Germans to wear ,display or manufacture any items with a swastika. In shops with daggers for sale, the swastika was usually filed off.
    Hundreds of thousands of swords and daggers were removed from the Solingen factories in 1945 by Allied forces and destroyed by driving tanks over them. So it looked like the supply had dried up. Other dealers had visited the bombed out factories in Solingen but had been turned away by owners telling them there was "nothing left".

    This is where the genius of Atwood shows through. He couldn't believe that in some warehouse or in an attic somewhere in Solingen there wasn't even one dagger left. He was convinced if he could just have a look around he would find some.

    In late 1960 he took a 3 day weekend pass and travelled to Solingen. There he started to research the Solingen blade indistry and history with visits to the city library and a visit to the Blade Museum. One thing he discovered that was not well known by other dealers was the cooperative way the big companies subcontracted most of their work to smaller craftsmen and shops.
    This also gave Atwood hope that treasures remained somewhere in Solingen.

    It was about then an idea probably dawned on Atwood; maybe he could find enough parts to assemble complete daggers.

    In his visit in 1960 Atwood could only find five companies still fully operational, they were ; WKC, Carl Eickhorn, F W Holler, SMF and E & F Horster. However he was able to arrange a meeting with some of the owners and used all his considerable charm to build rapport with them. Only after several hours of meeting, dining and viewing factories did he raise the question, "did any parts or completed daggers/swords remain?" But again there would the standard polite rely "there was nothing left".

    Atwood couldn't believe it, thinking most likely anything that remained was forgotten about in a box in a corner somewhere.
    But unlike earlier visitors he didn't give up. By now he had realised a find of some scale could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
    During this time he met socially over coffee or drinks with Paul Seilheimer, Helmut Eickhorn, Paul Muller, Carl Krebs, Paul Dinger and Karl Wester, all Solingen royalty. Through them he learned who were the craftsmen sub contractors. At this point he hadn't revealed he wanted to poke around in their warehouses and storerooms.

    Atwood recruited Siegfried Rosemkaimer, a grandson of Paul Seilheimer, to assist him in negotiations. Atwood developed a technique, to use with factory owners. He would bet a bottle of cognac that if given 10 minutes to have a look around, he would find some daggers or parts. If not he would leave without the bottle. The challenge worked and on the first factory visit where an owner agreed to the owner's surprise they found a stash of completed daggers and parts. The owner agreed to sell the finds to Atwood on the spot. That was repeated again and again as he visited factories and threw out the cognac bet.

    The company owners were surprised every time, as Atwood dragged out a box of blades, scabbards, grips or completely assembled daggers and swords.

    Atwood visited Paul Muller at his home and saw his workshop and forge. "Did he have any blades left over from the Third Reich?" Muller didn't reply, just located a dusty wooden box full of over 100 damascus sword and dagger blades. "Here's a few old pieces that remain, I'm sure they aren't of much interest to you." Most were for special presentation sword and daggers.
    It included three prototype SS daggers. Some pieces Muller retained but Atwood bought the rest.

    After the success of this weekend visit, Atwood took several weeks leave to continue his search. At one large company he found 400 original complete daggers stored in a cellar. Another had 150 swords and 300 etched KS98 bayonets. Other had boxes of grips, blades and scabbard. Four prototype daggers were found. One company director told Atwood he had enough parts to compete 10,000 Hitler Youth knives and 2,000 RAD daggers. By now Atwood realized the finds were near million dollar value.

    Atwood was clever, with every purchase he got a sellers letter of authenticity confirming the parts were authentic and manufactured during the Third Reich era. During a 5 year tour in West Germany he had discovered an huge quantity of the most sort after militaria and at the same time cornered the market. In fact such was the strength of relationship Atwood had with Solingen owners, when other dealers heard about Atwood's success, and visited these same factories, they were told Atwood had an exclusive contract with them.

    Getting his booty back to the US became an issue. Initially he posted small amounts through the US Army Postal Office to dealers in the US. This way he avoid the snooping of Customs in both countries and avoid duty charges. This caught up with him in 1964 when he was under investigation by US Customs, FBI and ICE tipped off it is said by Major John Angolia, a rival.

    About this time he was due to rotate back to the US. He still had huge quantities of dagger parts in storage at the Linder factory in Solingen. He got Siegfried to pack up the parts in 20kg amount and mail through German postal to his address in the US. This Siegfried did, sending it all by ship one at a time over a year or more.

    George Peterson, was employed by Atwood in 1967 to help him in his business. Peterson lived in the basement of Atwood's house and Atwood had him painting German helmets and assembling daggers, SA,SS, Kriegsmarine. The round SS rune badge on the SS dagger was manufactured in Japan and fitted to the grip. Hitler youth knives had the HJ diamond badge fitted.
    George said they often had to grind the tang on the SS & SA daggers to make them fit. He would then use black shoe polish to fill in the imperfections and give patina. Despite this George claims Atwood never passed off the daggers as 100% original, but as "parts daggers". He and Tom Wittmann both claim it was unscrupulous dealers and sellers later who re-sold them later as original pieces. There is an advertisement from 1967 that Atwood placed in a magazine it described how the dagger are refurbished, so there may be some truth in it.

    But the story changes a little when we learn Atwood bought the original dagger dies and and tools from Eickhorn and had them shipped to his US home. Then in the early 1970's Tommy Long was working for him. Long describes on P228 that Atwood had him set up assembly line in a house on the Atwood property. It became a dagger assembly factory, "using the rest of his staff and his daughters to crank them out. Atwood bought buffers, sanders and polishers. Once the daggers were assembled they were antiqued and sold as original and authentic..... The operation eventually expanded to the actual manufacturing of the knives."

    About this time Atwood bought a container load of WW2 German helmets from Norway. Atwood replaced the liners with new old stock liners, Tommy Long sand blasted, repainted, applied decals and they sold them as mint authentic helmets, but that's another story.

    The extent the Solingen companies helped with the assembly of parts daggers or swords seems to be confirmed on page 184 where a letter dated 21 November 1968 from WKC states "the original parts were completed into finished daggers and sold exclusive to Atwood.....In some cases it was necessary to clean, restore or polish the finish of these pieces due to corrosion by years of laying in open storage. Also it was necessary to substitute only a minor number of missing parts for some daggers, such as screws and scabbard interior parts."

    And in a letter from WKC President Hans Kolping on February 15, 1967 to "Shotgun News" Kolping writes;
    "when a well known American collector (Atwood) contracted to purchase the entire remaining lot of original parts, UPON ASSEMBLY INTO FINISHED DAGGERS. They were sold on an exclusive AS COMPLETED daggers."

    Which seems to be clear some of the parts daggers sold by Atwood were actually assembled in the WKC factory in Solingen in 1963 before delivery to Atwood.

    Now what about that WKC Luftwaffe General sword?

    The legacy of Jim Atwood in German militaria will continue for years to come.
    Last edited by Anderson; 10-09-2021 at 05:21 AM.

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    $1.25 dollars in 1960 is worth around $11.55/£8.48 now! Crazy.
    Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die.


    Currently looking for a Wehrmacht officers schirmmütze with half bullion insignia. Please PM me for more details.

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    Anderson,
    Great summary and insight into the mind and actions of the man. I'll copy this and keep it with Atwood's edged weapons book that my dad passed on to me several years ago.

    Tom

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    Mein Gott, this has to have many people looking at what they have and asking themselves a lot of questions. It is difficult enough to locate, verify and purchase original item. But of what was written & thinking further how many collections of daggers, swords and helmets are parts assembled, refinished & repainted items?
    Last edited by Rich Moran; 10-09-2021 at 09:42 PM.

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    Thx Peter for this great post, for sure many starting collectors havent got a clue about the actions of this man.
    This book shows what kind of man this Atwood was.

    Best
    Ger

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    I agree with Anderson that $23 US is quite the worthy affordable price exposing this Hobby Gangster.
    This book is just the tip of the iceburg of his " rogue doings "

    " A man who prospered working alongside rogue CIA agents, generals, criminals, ex SS Officers and at least one agent from the “other side.” He could enthrall Senators or laborers and dazzle the ladies while at the same time being a man’s man. Everyone who thought they knew him rarely saw the complete Jim. It remained for a few confidants to assemble the scattered pieces of the puzzle this James Bond-like man left behind at his demise. "

    I just ordered a copy
    It is not the size of a Collection in History that matters......Its the size of your Passion for it!! - Larry C

    One never knows what tree roots push to the surface of what laid buried before the tree was planted - Larry C

    “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” - Winston Churchill

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    "I just ordered a copy"

    As did I.

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    It's George Petersen....
    The best Militaria forum in France is here : http://deutsch-militaria.forumactif.us/

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    I would think a must read for any new collector of German daggers. His shadow is long.

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    Very interesting reading. Thanks!
    Had good advice? Saved money? Why not become a Gold Club Member, just hit the green "Join WRF Club" tab at the top of the page and help support the forum!

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