Why I Collect

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Why I collect…

BY JC

I joined Hawaii Historic Arms Association five years ago and, since that time, I have many of you to thank for a room full of military and shooting equipment, a rack of helmets and collectables in my office, and a wife who still thinks that, at 50-plus years old, I act like a little kid around anything olive drab or with a trigger.

I always had an interest in militaria primarily due to my dad’s 42 years in the Hawaii Army National Guard. As a supply sergeant, dad got me all my surplus gear I used in high school. This was a big plus as I was a very active hiker, camper, and backpacker.

Over the years, I also maintained an interest in local military history, enjoyed talking to veterans any opportunity I got, and loved nothing more than spending time with my dad at Pearl Harbor, Hickam AFB, Fort Shafter, or any military base for that matter. Crawling through old gun emplacements and bunkers like Battery Harlow, Birkhimer Tunnel, Battery Arizona, and others is still WAY high on my list of things that never get boring.

I think I attended my first gun show back in the late 80s or early 90s when my good friend, Vince Evans, was selling knives. Although the array of guns intrigued me, funds for that caliber were non-existent, and whatever spare monies I had went to knives and other sharp-edged objects.

From 1993-1997, I was lucky to spend four great years working and living in Guam and Saipan. Talk about a militaria collector and bunker scrounger dreamland! Although I didn’t bring a lot back, some of the places I visited were outstanding like the atom bomb pits and B29 runways on Tinian, Suicide Cliff on Saipan, and the many Japanese bunkers on Guam. Some places were downright hair-raising like the cave on Saipan my friend Mike took me to. After sliding into it on our stomachs through a very small opening, I was treated to the view of at least a dozen rotting wooden crates and cardboard canisters with US issue grenades spilling out.

Not long after joining HHAA, I acquired my first service rifle, a sporterized 1903A3 Springfield that was still in very good shape. From the serial number, I was able to discern some of the history, but what really helped me out was folks like SHELDON TYAU who took the time to look the rifle over and give me the kind of information and history you will never find online. The first time I took that rifle to Koko Head and fired it with some vintage match ammo, I was hooked. For me, it was the culmination of everything I enjoyed and loved up to that point. It was a physical manifestation of our military history that still functioned just as well as it did when it came out of the armory. If only this rifle could talk….

Since joining HHAA, I have had the opportunity to participate in our Club shoots and events that truly bring history to life and bolster my love of collecting. While shooting period rifles at the matches is a lot of fun, what is even more important is the camaraderie, the esprit de corps, of our Club members. I think we all revert to little kids at the historical matches, and I love that these are fun shoots. Leave the competitions for CMP and let us take home a pumpkin pie and bragging rights for a year!

My only regret is that I didn’t start shooting and collecting back in the day when service rifles were less expensive and more readily available. I am honored that several members have been nice enough to help me build my collection with rifles they, too, have loved and cherished.

One thing I have learned as a collector is that, when the dust settles, we really are only custodians of history whether it be an original M1D sniper rifle or the WWII dog tag. As collectors, we are also the guardians of these items, preserving not only their physical aspects but also the oral history and stories so that the next custodian can carry that piece proudly into the future for generations to come!

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