My Grandfather’s WWII Stuff

Years ago, my grandfather would take me to his basement to show me his box full of World War II stuff. It contained a German helmet, some Nazi knives, and a couple of old handguns. (See photos of him during World War II here.)

Many years later, my grandfather discovered that some of the stuff was stolen. My grandparents had some work done – a couple of times – in their basement, and had no idea anything was taken until it was too late to know exactly when it was taken or which person/persons took it. The guns and knives were taken. I recall my grandfather, in his 80s, saying that losing those guns ‘broke his heart.’

Here’s what we’ve got left. The helmet, four holsters, a Nazi belt buckle, and a canteen. I’m assuming the holsters are from WWII, but I’d have to take them to an expert to get authenticated.

The helmet and the canteen, relatively speaking, seem small. Maybe the German had a small head, and maybe 1940s soldiers had smaller canteens than the ones I’ve seen in supply stores. The canteen has English written on it so I’m unclear if it’s a U.S. canteen or a German one that he found. It also has a broken lid that was replaced with a working one.

Also, the German helmet has the name Gren Fribrmamm (I think) on it.

Bitten by a Snake in the Eye

Trimeresurus flavoviridis or Habu pitviper (Wikimedia Commons)

I suppose it’s a miracle that both my grandfathers, serving in different parts of the world, survived World War II. While my paternal grandfather described his entire experience as ‘marching around Europe with a bayonet,’ my maternal grandfather, Albert Owens, opens up a bit more.

Now 85, he tells the story of his time in Okinawa as if it were yesterday. A marine at 17, he was wounded in 1945 at the age of 19.

Asleep in a pit, he says he felt something on him. He tried to brush it off, looked up, and felt as if he were punched in the face. He got up and left the hole, and told the others that ‘something funny was going on down in that hole.’ He thought it was a toad.

At this point, he couldn’t see out of his right eye. Someone shone a flashlight into the hole, saw a snake, and shot its head off.

The doctor couldn’t save my grandfather’s eye, and had to remove it before there were problems with the other one. He now has a glass eye.

The snake, which was poisonous, sank its fangs directly into my grandfather’s eyeball. Direct hit. Believe it or not, that likely saved his life because the blood vessels in the eye don’t lead out (I’m not exactly sure how it works but you get the idea). Had the snakebite happened on the eyelid, or the cheek, or the forehead, my grandfather might have died right there in that pit, he wouldn’t have gotten married and had kids and I wouldn’t be here today (because, you know, it’s all about me, haha.)

The snake was an Okinawan habu, and there was a farm nearby which collected them. He didn’t know why, nor did he care. But the Internet tells me why:

“On the island of Okinawa, this species is heavily collected, primarily for use in habu sake. Actually not sake, but a stronger liquor called awamori, it is alleged to have medicinal properties. The production includes the snakes in the fermentation process and it is sold in bottles that may or may not contain the body of a snake.

That better be some good liquor.

My grandfather also tells me what he was doing just a day or two before he was blinded in his right eye for life. He was hunting a chicken.

Albert Owens, January 3, 1926 ““ December 3, 2012


Ryan Meets His Grandparents

It’s funny that my parents are now grandparents but they’re in their 60s so there really isn’t anything strange about that. Here they are with my grandmother and my newborn nephew, Ryan.