The Russians stole my torpedo!
[work in progress]
This is a personal place to post things to the Internet related to my hobby of numismatics and items related to my family and friends.
I grew up in Lykens, PA, graduated from PENN STATE, and was commissioned in the US Navy in 1961. I spent 30 years in the Navy - finishing as a Captain. I served most of my years in the Submarine Service. I had command of the USS Sam Houston (SSBN 609). I have a wonderful wife (Marilyn), two kids (David & Karolyn), and six grandkids (Kevin, David, Alison, Amber, Richard & Sarah).
The only Air Force Medal of Honor type was finalized in 1965. Only 17 have been awarded - all for action in Vietnam. Between 1947 and 1965 Air Force personnel were authorized to receive the Army MOH. The design is similar to the Army design with the Air Force crest (wings and thunderbolts) replacing the Eagle. And the central figure is a crowned Miss Liberty to replace the Minerva head.
There have been four design types of the Navy Medal of Honor. The Navy was the first to introduce the Medal of Honor. This decoration has been awarded to both Navy and Marine members since 1862. The first type was introduced in 1862 and was used until 1913. The Navy's Medal of Honor was the first approved and the first designed. The initial work was done at the Philadelphia Mint at the request of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells. The design prepared by the Philadelphia firm of William Watson & Sons was the design selected. The central design of Minerva repulsing Discord was symbolic of the Civil War and was used on three of the Navy types and was also used for the first two Army types
As we all know, we are fast loosing our WWII veterans. One such man, and my fellow San Diegan, was John Finn. Today (27 May) he died here in San Diego at the age of 100 years. John was the oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor. He was decorated for action early on Pearl Harbor Day, thus also becoming the first Medal of Honor recipient of WWII.
Born in 1909, John joined the Navy in 1926, and, he could transfix anyone who cared to listen with tales of what it was like to grow up during First World War and to ply the Yangtze River as a young sailor aboard an American gunboat. His stories of that era reminded me of the movie Sand Pebbles.
In 1937, John was on a Navy ship outside the harbor of Shanghai when the Japanese shelled the city and commenced an invasion of mainland China. As the Japanese continued their conquests in Asia in the late 1930s, John felt that one day America would be attacked. How right he was.
On 7 December 1941, as a 32 year old Chief Petty Officer, John was stationed at NAS Kaneohe Bay, with a squadron of Navy patrol planes. "Rudely rousted from his bed by the cacophony of the Japanese bombs destroying the fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, John raced from his quarters, sped to the hangars that housed his aircraft, and manned a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on an exposed section of a parking ramp. For the next two hours, Finn, in the open and suffering from more than twenty shrapnel wounds in his back and stomach, blasted at the enemy planes, hitting many of them and not relinquishing his post until the attack was over." [this from his Medal of Honor citation]
Admiral Nimitz presented the Medal of Honor to John in an emotional ceremony at Pearl Harbor nine months later. He was promoted to LT before the end of the war. [to John's right is his wife Alice, and Admiral "Bull" Halsey]
Even when we were young, those of us who were raised on stirring John Wayne war movies assumed that there was more than a little hyperbole and cinematic license in them. John Finn was also, at times, caught up with his celebrity. But here was a man whose real-life exploits rendered the movies limp, and ineffectual in contrast.
Not long ago, he was asked what he was doing at the precise moment when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
"Truth be told, my boy" John said, "I was in bed with a good-looking gal." He was then asked if he ever saw her again.
"See her again?" said John. "She was my wife for sixty years!" Then he slapped his knee and bellowed with laughter.
May John have fair winds, and following seas on his final cruise.
[This newsprint photo of John was taken in Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 2008]
Several years ago (1995) I came across two large bank bags filled with over 2000 old style British pennies ( Victoria to Elizabeth II) which I had purchased while living in London in the early 1980's.
On a whim, I decided to dristribute them along the route of my ritual early morning walks. Since I usually walked through Old Town San Diego and past a middle school, there were plenty of places to drop the coins so they could be easily discovered by the kids and tourists.
After several weeks of placing about 50 coins each day, my wife told me that there was a human interest story on the local evening TV news about a "Coin Man" in the Old Town area. I did my best to remain covert. However, a follow-up story reported that someone had spotted the Coin Man, and that he was an elderly man with a white baseball cap, who carried a large coffee mug. I was busted! (But my name was never exposed until now).
About that time I was off to the ANA summer seminar. So, I took the remainder of the large English pennies with me and distributed them around the buildings and campus of Colorado College. The reaction was not all positive. At one point I overheard one YN student remark that "It is criminal to throw a coin down on the ground. That guy should be shot".
That ended my career as Coin Man. Anyway, all 2000 of the coins were gone by this time. I know that at least some were enjoyed and appreciated.
One of the more interesting military numismatic items from the Great War (WW I) was a gold siege coin minted in German East Africa (Tanzania) in 1916.It was minted in a temporary siege-mint by the Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Bank in an adapted train carriage at Tabora (thus the letter "T" under the date) following the fall of Germany's major port, Dar-es-Salaam, to the Allies during the war. It was a gold coin valued at 15 Rupees (1 Pound), and was designed by mining industry expert Friedrich Schumacher. The steam from the train to which the "mint carriage" was attached drove a palm oil press that was used to mint these unique high quality gold pieces.
The gold coins were needed to pay the native troops, for, as in South Africa they, wisely, did not trust paper bank notes. The goal was to give one of these gold coins to each member of this 15,000 native askari army. The minting was possible because of a small gold mine in operation not very far away from Tabora from which the gold used in the coins was mined. The coin features the king of the beasts, a triumphant elephant, trumpeting with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background and the date “1916 T” below. A Senegalese gold worker from Zanzibar made the dies after a model prepared by R. Vogt. The reverse features the German imperial eagle with the legend “Deutsch Ost Afrika” and the denomination of 15 Rupien.
I just received news of a [military numismatic] Gold Strike in Australia from our fellow Gramster and Seminarian, Tony James.
This discovery is a continuation of a string of discoveries which started with the 100 Yen British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) Special voucher, and then the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) Australian counterfeits. Both of these have been reported in the Gram and elsewhere.
Now, Tony was able to get a look into a safe at The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) which had not previously been available due to the fact that the only employee at the RBA who had access to the safe was on extended leave for several months. The search of the material in the safe was meant to find any further info/examples of the BCOF Special Vouchers and/or the NEI counterfeits. Nothing more was found of those items.
But, much to our surprise, a whole new proposed WWII issue was found!
What the Australians had produced in 1943/44 were proofs/essays of Allied Military Occupation Currency (AMOC). There was a color "Photographic Proof of the front and back of a 10 Yen Note" and a "Sketch Design [essay] of the front of a 50 Yen Note"
In addition, there were blank card board cutouts of what appears to be the whole proposed series, showing the sizes of a 1Yen, 5 Yen, 10 Yen, and a 50 Yen. Both Tony and I were also provided with a large number of the WWII correspondence files related to most everything produced by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA). This was the predecessor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). We owe our thanks to Virginia MacDonald, archivist of the RBA, for providing all of this wonderful research material.
Counterfeit Japanese Invasion Money (JIM) was produced by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) during WWII ! Evidence of this comes from three letters among a large package of official files (copies) I received from the Senior Archivist, Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). The RBA is the successor to the CBA, which operated during WWII. It also included a note division, which was equivalent to our Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
The first letter was sent from the Netherlands Indies Commission to the Governor, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, on 5 October, 1942:
In order to effectively prosecute the war against Japan the Government of the Netherlands East Indies considers it essential to have at its disposal supplies of currency similar to that issued by Japan for circulation in the Netherlands East Indies.
The need is urgent and we have to request you to arrange to supply us as soon as they can be printed with the following quantities of notes which resemble as closely as possible the specimen notes handed to your Melbourne manager.
1/2 Gulden 12,800 pieces
10 Cents 30,000 pieces
5 Cents 10,000 pieces
1 Cent 10,000 pieces
When completed we would be glad if you would deliver the notes to the order of Dr. R. E. Smits as they may be required by him.
Signed by Dr. J. E. van Hoogstraten, Chief-Commissioner"
The second letter was a simple cover letter from Dr. Smits, Managing Director Javasche Bank to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA). It recommended approval of the basic request. But of interest on this letter is a hand written note apparently written by the Governor of the CBA. It reads:
"I saw Mr. Chiffley [finance minister] at Canberra on 30/9/42. I told him of Dr. Smits wishes including his views regarding absolute secrecy. Mr. Chiffley raised no serious objections and he fully appreciated that action of this sort is necessary in war; and that the Axis is already doing what we propose to do. He is satisfied for us to go ahead and he will leave the whole matter in our hands." [Initialed on 5/10/42]
The third letter is proof-positive that the official counterfeits were printed by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. This letter was sent from the Netherlands Indies Commission to The Manager, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, on 20 January, 1943:
Referring to our letter dated 5th October 1942 to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Sydney, we beg to inform you that our stock of the special notes you have printed for us, is nearly exhausted. This paper has proved to be very useful and we request you to print for us the same quantity as in October.
When completed we should be glad if you would deliver the notes to our commission as they may be required.
Signed: Ch.O. Van der Plas, Chief-Commissioner"
These counterfeit notes were copies of the first of the three series of JIM which were issued by Japan for the Netherlands East Indies (NEI), usually referred to as "Regeering" notes.There is more to follow from the remainder of these files. For example, there is also a discussion in these files, of privately produced JIM counterfeits, also produced in Australia during the war.
Frederick Remington painting: "Holding up the Pay Escort"
The Wham Paymaster Robbery
Last summer, after the ANA seminar I took a side trip to Globe Arizona, on the Salt River to visit Theodore Roosevelt Dam, which I had only recently identified as the dam on the back design of the MPC series 692 $20 note. While in the visitor's center discussing this design, someone asked me if I had ever heard of the Army Paymaster robbery which occurred not too far from Globe in 1889. I had not, so I started my research on this very interesting and convoluted event. I then drove through the area where the robbery took place in the Gila Valley near Fort Thomas. The landscape in this entire area of Arizona reminded me of a John Wayne movie location. When I got home I found the Internet full of references to this story.
"The great Wham Paymaster Robbery has almost disappeared from the public mind, but it remains one of Arizona's great mysteries. Shortly after midday on May 11, 1889, a band of robbers ambushed U.S. army Paymaster Maj. Joseph Washington Wham (pronounced Wham, as in bomb) and his military escort along the Fort Grant-Fort Thomas Road about fifteen miles west of Pima in the Gila River Valley. Following a hard-fought gun battle, the bandits made off with more than $28,000 in gold and silver coins. The daring robbery and the subsequent trail of suspects in the heist created a sensation throughout the Southwest. Questions of guilt and innocence, and of what happened to the money, still linger more than a century later."
The above quotation is from an article by Larry Upton: "Who Robbed Major Wham?", The Journal of Arizona History. The remainder of this article was drawn from various web sites and from the book: Ambush at Bloody Run: The Wham Paymaster Robbery of 1889 - A Story of Politics, Religion, Race, and Banditry in Arizona Territory, by Larry Ball.
He was on his way to pay the men at Fort Thomas, Camp San Carlos, and Fort Apache. Wham, William Gibbon, his clerk, and Pvt. Caldwell, his servant and mule tender, rode in a dougherty, a canopied ambulance, driven by Pvt. Hamilton Lewis, 24th Infantry. The payroll, exactly $28,345.10, in gold and silver coins weighing about 250 pounds, was locked in an oak strongbox and stowed in the ambulance. The remainder of the escort, occupied an open wagon driven by Charles Mermairt, a civilian employee of the Quartermaster Dept. James LaRoy Saline, a civilian teamster, and a Mormon from Pima, was originally scheduled to drive the escort wagon. For reasons that have never been explained, Mermairt replaced him at the last minute. Sgt. Brown and Cpl. Mays were armed with .38 caliber revolvers, while the two cavalrymen held carbines and the seven infantrymen carried single-shot Springfield rifles. Wham, Gibbon, and the two drivers were unarmed. The 24th Infantry was the famous unit of black soldiers called the Buffalo Soldiers.
As the wagons rolled out, Frankie Campbell, a black female "gambler" mounted on a big bay horse, joined them. Wearing a bright yellow, tight-waisted blouse, a billowing wine-colored skirt, and a large floppy straw hat decorated with a red paper rose and red velvet streamers, she was headed to Ft. Thomas so she could be on hand when the soldiers got paid.
Major Joseph Wham and his escort were attacked by a dozen outlaws near Fort Thomas, Arizona Territory. After wounding more then half the soldiers and driving off the rest, the outlaws simply walked away with the entire payroll. A posse of lawmen rounded up various suspects who were later charged with the sensational robbery. Most of these suspects were Mormons with political connections and the accused men were defended by the famed lawyer Marcus Aurelius Smith. Major Wham and his men were unable to identify any of the dozen defendants in court and they were all acquitted. It was widely claimed that political pressure from the acting governor allowed the thieves to go free. It has been said that Frankie Campbell saw the faces of some of the robbers but was never called to testify at the trial.
In reporting the robbery to the Secretary of War, Major Wham described how his "party was ambushed and fired into by a number of armed brigands" The major stated that a large boulder weighing several tons had been rolled onto the road by the robbers to block the progress of his small convoy and that as his escort was making ready to remove it "a signal shot was fired from the ledge of rocks about fifty feet above to the right, which was instantly followed by a volley, believed by myself and the entire party to be fifteen or twenty shots. The officer reported that a sharp, short fight of more than 30 minutes followed, during which time 10 members of his escort, eight of whom were wounded, two being shot twice, behaved in the most courageous and heroic manner.
Two of the Buffalo Soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their part in the skirmish. Major Wham reported that Sergeant Benjamin Brown, made his entire fight from open ground. Brown's Medal of Honor citation reads in part that "although shot in the abdomen, he did not leave the field until again wounded through both arms." Corporal Isaiah Mays was also awarded the Medal of Honor. Near the end of the gun battle he, without the knowledge of Major Wham, "walked and crawled two miles to Cottonwood Ranch and gave the alarm." Marshal Meade swore, after conducting an extensive investigation, that "I am satisfied a braver or better defense could not have been made under like circumstances."
A survey of the ambush site testified to the intensity of the battle. "Three mules, still in their traces, were dead; the others stampeded, and the harness cut into pieces. Along with the shattered strongbox, Wham's valise had been cut open. The valise containing the payroll vouchers was gone. Finally, the men rounded up four mules, spliced some harness together, and made their way to Fort Thomas." Sgt. Brown was left in the field with Frankie Campbell to nurse him, and brought in later.
There are many details of the event which are wrapped in folklore and legend, which makes it difficult to sort out fact from fiction. When the members of the Mormon community were acquitted in the trial, others were accused through rumors, including off duty soldiers, other gangs around the West, and one reporter years later, claimed that Frank James admitted that he and his infamous brother Jesse committed the robbery. Of course, that was highly unlikely, since Jesse was killed nearly eight years earlier! But that did bring up an interesting aside for my research, since while running down that false report, I discovered that the James brothers were indeed involved in another Army Paymaster robbery in 1881.
Back to the Wham affair, I think that they had the right men on trial for the Wham Payroll Robbery. Some locals were even said to refer to the robbers as "Latter-Day Robin Hoods" (interesting play on words). There is even an art connection. Frederick Remington, the famous artist of wild west scenes, painted a rendition of the Wham affair called: "Holding up the Pay Escort" (see the picture at the start of this article) .
If this were a movie, the trailer might read:
Major Joseph Wham died on 21 December 1908, and is buried in Wham Hill Cemetery, Marion County, Illinois. The two Buffalo Soldiers who won Medals of Honor : Sgt. Benjamin Brown died on 5 SEP 1910 and is buried in Washington, DC; Pvt. Isaiah Mays lived until 2 MAY 1925, and is buried in Phoenix, AZ. Nobody knows what happened to Frankie Campbell.
I was asked several questions about "paymasters"and "pay clerks" in the Navy.
This is what I found.
Originally the paymaster role in the Navy was filled by warrant officers, called Pursers,just as in the Royal Navy. Their duties centered around shipboard supply, disbursement, and administration. They became commissioned officers in 1812. On June22, 1860 their title was changed to "Paymaster."
On July 11, 1919 Paymasters became "Supply Officers", the designation they retain today. Their insignia is a split oak leaf (not to be confused with the oak leaf used for rank). In the 1860 time frame an enlisted "pay clerk" was established. They were first called Paymaster's Stewards. That was changed to Paymaster's Writer in 1870 and changed again to Paymaster's Yeoman in 1878. In 1919,when Paymasters became Supply Officers, their enlisted assistants were renamed Storekeeper (D).
The (D) designation stands for Disbursing Clerk. The insignia for all storekeepers was the crossed keys. That name lasted through WWII, until 1948 when as part of a major overhaul of the Navy enlisted rating structure,the new rating became Disbursing Clerk (DK). The DK insignia is a IBM punch card with one key. The DK rating was just combined (Sept 2005) with the Personnelman (PN). The PN insignia (book and quill) is used for the new combined rating.
The information I provided above, related to US Navy paymasters and their enlisted assistants was correct, but does not tell the whole story. I was also asked about Navy Pay Clerks, and their insignia. It was logical to assume that there were no such animals, since the paymaster role was first filled by Pursers, then Paymasters then Supply Officers up to present. And, their enlisted assistants were called Paymaster's Stewards, Paymaster's Writers, Paymaster's Yeoman, Storekeeper (D), and then Disbursing Clerks (DK).
So, since I had made a full account of all the titles(officer and enlisted) and the full time-line, there simply could not have been such a thing as a Navy Pay Clerk during WWII, as had been suggested to me. I concluded that, in the book which indicated the Navy Pay Clerk title, it was a simple author's error (or a printers error, as authors call them).
I was wrong. The explanation is related to the way warrant officers were used in the US Navy over time. Over the Navy's first century, numerous warrant officers were called up from civilian life to fill specific needs. As I reported, the first paymasters in the US Navy were warrant officers - called pursers. Up until the start of WWI, the Navy warrant officer community declined, and was almost lost. In 1914 only one warrant officer remained on active duty- a chief sail maker.
Then in 1915 warrant ranks were reestablished to meet the demands of the rapidly developing technology of the time. Among those added to the register were 84 chief pay clerks, 101 pay clerks and 52 acting pay clerks. It was then that the Navy positioned these warrant officers in between the Supply Corps Officers and their enlisted Disbursing Clerks. They were referred to as Pay Clerks (as strange as that seems to me). Their insignia was similar to the Supply Officer insignia (split oak leafs- but, sans acorns). They were active through WWII. Most warrant officers after this time had to be chief petty officers (E-7) before they could apply for appointment to warrant officer.
A book with the unusual title SOUR M.A.S.H. AT SEA is the latest addition to my library of military related tomes. It was written by a Supply Corps Officer by the name of Walter "Bud" Stuhldreher. He served aboard the hospital ship USS Haven during the closing days of the Korean War. He was assigned duty as the ship's Disbursing Officer (viz. paymaster).
One chapter in his book relates to an unusual MPC conversion day (C-Day) which took place in 1954. Ensign "Bud" had been briefed into the details of the procedures for use of MPC. But, what he had not known was that hospital ships were not allowed to moor at piers in war zones, and that they were also not allowed to communicate classified information. These rules, from the Geneva Conventions, would inpact on the events of this Navy C-Day in 1954.
During May of 1954, the USS Haven was anchored at harbor, in Inchon, Korea. One morning a fellow officer rushed in to Bud's stateroom to relate an announcement he had just heard on Armed Forces Radio that all MPC had to be exchanged today for a new series , or would become worthless! According to Bud's account he went to his C.O. and said "Captain, as I see it, you don't really have a choice. You simply are going to have to let me take the crew's money away from them. By tonight, there can't be a single cent in anyone's pockets, not even the wounded men in the hospital !" Of course, because of his isolation, and communications rules, Bud had not known of the C-Day, and did not have a supply of the new series of MPC to exchange.
"By radio, we soon learned that the Army at Ascom City would issue us the new script [sic]. Also, after a vicious argument, they agreed to remain open until we could get there to pick up the new series." But first, there was the necessity of a "reverse payday", where money would have to be taken from the 500 man crew and like number of patients, which included soldiers from "a half dozen countries". Of particular concern to Bud were "the twenty-or-so Turkish soldiers" who were know by the crew to be "uncooperative, at best". At 1330, the announcement of a reverse payday was announced. All went well, except for the Turks. "They howled with anger"- but finally all the MPC was collected. "There were no poker games that night."
Then, Bud departed, by boat, then truck, with six armed guards from Inchon to Ascom to buy $200,000.00 of the new money. They didn't return until late that night. "The next day, at 1000 a normal payday was held and the new MPCs were exchanged for the pay chits. - - - The Turks could not believe their good luck." Bud never mentioned which series of MPC were involved. But , based on the dates, it was an exchange from series 481 to 521. The report of Turkish , and other foreign soldiers, using MPC aboard a US Navy ship is also news to me. Bud ends the chapter with this claim: "This was the only payday in the history of the US Navy, where money was taken away from sailors!"
left click photo to enlarge
I really enjoyed all aspects of MPC Fest VI. But to me the highlight of the Fest was C-day when we converted from series 041 to series 051 MFC. There, to my delight on the ever-so-convenient $24 denominated MFC note was a submarine vignette on the face. It was easy for me to recognize that the submarine depicted was the USS Sam Houston (SSBN 609), since in a previous life I had served as her Commanding Officer (1977 - 1981).
My goal then was to find out more about this particular picture and to see if I could repeat what I had done several years ago with the vignette on the face of the MPC series 681 fractionals - that is to identify the man on top of the sail. I found the photograph used for the MFC design on a USS Sam Houston web site:
I remembered from my previous research on the USS Thomas Edison (SSBN 610) that it is a good idea to get independent verification of facts before I draw conclusions. For example, I first reported to the Gram that the man on top of the Edison sail was the C.O., CDR Walter Dedrick. That is because it it is "always" the C.O. who stands on top of the sail when entering and leaving port. But after I posted my conclusion on a web site I received an email from Gary Lew, who told me the story of why it was him and not the C.O. on top of the sail. That web page with Gary's first posting of his account is: http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/6153/610pics.htm
So, in the case of the MFC vignette I decided to go to the producer of the MFC to verify that I had the correct photograph. I noticed that both series 041 and 051 MFC had security micro printing around the perimeter of the face design fields. The micro printing reads: "military payment certificates great lakes bank note company port clinton holiday inn express mpcfest military fest certificates remember mike cummings" that is then repeated completly around the perimeter of all the notes, including Training MFC, with the one exception of the $1 MFC training note. I contacted the President and CEO of the Great Lakes Bank Note Company who verified that I had indeed found the correct photograph.
Next was to find out when the photo was taken and to identify the man on top of the sail. First, the general time frame of the photo had to be between 1962 and 1965 because the ship was commissioned on 6 March 1962, and the practice of painting the hull numbers on the side of the sail stopped in mid 1965. The web site sponsor for the site I mentioned above thinks the picture was taken early in that period with the Blue Crew aboard. That would mean that the C.O. was probably Commander W.P Willis, Jr., who was the commissioning C.O. of the Blue Crew. That would also mean that the man on top of the sail is not me.
Then I took the scan of the photo rather than of the note and with a little enhancement I discovered that there is NO man on top of the sail. What looks like a man on the note is really the ECM Mast ! More evidence of this is the fact that no safety stanchions and chains are rigged. Therefore no one would be allowed on the fairwater planes, or on the top of the sail. That is clearly visible on the scan of the photo which I used. Also from the size of the wake on the photo, and visible on the MFC note, the ship is making very high speed (in excess of 20 knots). In such cases no one would be on the planes or on top of the sail.
So, for now, my research is done on this vignette. If I come up with more I'll make another submission.
Left click photo to enlarge.
Since most articles related to Military Numismatics deal with military payment certificates and other recent (mostly paper) issues, I thought it would be appropriate to give some coverage to some older military related coinage.
There is an antecedent to modern era military payment money. I found it in the coinage of the ancient Romans. Richard Alston, (University of London), has written widely on the life of the Roman Soldier. He wrote that it is "clear that the history of Roman coinage and military pay are very closely connected. The patterns of high minting of coins correlate neatly with the high levels of military activity and that it is clear that the army was the major item of expenditure in the Roman state budget." But, it is not always easy to determine for which audience particular coins were minted.
So now to the point, the Romans did mint coins specifically to meet the pay needs of their troops. Those coins can be properly called Military Payment Coins (MPC). Some who write about these coins call them military issues. Others don't differentiate them at all from general issues. But, some of these MPC were unique types, not otherwise minted for general circulation - so they can be separated from the overall population of coins minted for general circulation. Of course, after they were used as pay to the troops, they did enter circulation along with other coins.
The earliest example of a Military Payment Coin (MPC) I found, is a Denarius from the Roman Republic, which is a military issue, minted to pay Roman Legions in Spain, circa 82-81 BC. See the illustrated coin at the start of this article.
There were many and varied issues of MPC during the Roman Republic and Empire. Even some new denominations were created because of the influence of military pay on Roman coinage. For example, when Julius Caesar changed the basis of payment for troops so that pay could be represented in gold coin, we immediately get the first significant mintings of gold coin, though the soldiers were still normally paid in the far more useful silver. It was also during Roman times when the first seige coins appeared:
"During the fourth year (69/70 CE) of the five year heroic revolt against the Romans (known as The Jewish War), the first seige coins ever minted were struck by Jewish resisters in Jerusalem. Only they and the Zealots of Masada, under ben Yair, remained to fight by the time these coins were minted." [Hendin, Guide to Biblical Coins, 3rd Ed., p. 165-179, 1996].
Most of the siege coins minted over the next two millennia were clearly Military Payment Coins (MPC). I'm sure all of you know about siege coins, so I won't say much more about them. Of course there was also siege paper money, which I seem to remember Gene Hessler wrote about some years back. The ANA has a Money Talks segment on siege coins (item1956,Apr 2000) available on their Web site at: www.money.org
On top of what I covered so far there is the obvious area of collecting coins with military related designs, something I have been doing for more than fifty years. It is thought that some of the Roman military coin designs such as those used by Hadrian were directed particularly towards the troops. [to maintain their loyalty?] I've just tried to point out here that The Entire World of Military Numismatics should include more coverage in the area of coinage, especially Military Payment Coins (MPC).
Who knows, maybe someone may write a book on MPC.
MPC series 692, $20 back. Left click photo to enlarge.
The Dam Vignette
I was looking at the back design of the $20 note of MPC series 692 - a very unusual looking dam. Several references listed the dam vignette as being Hoover Dam. Well I've been to Hoover dam, and this is no Hoover dam! So, I thought I'd spend a few hours surfing the Web and find out just what dam it is.
A web search for dams yielded many thousands of sites - so I set to work. After several hours of searching these dam web pages I soon realized that this needle-in-the-haystack method was not going to work. So, I searched for dam organizations, and quickly came across a web site for the United States Society on Dams.I sent an e-mail to the Executive Director, along with a scan of the dam vignette and asked for his help in identifying the dam. I sent the e-mail on a Saturday morning, and in a few hours I had a reply. I thought to myself: "wow this dam guy is fast!" And, what is so critical about his dam job that he works on Saturdays?
His reply was right to the point. He said that the dam was the Theodore Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River near Globe, AZ. He also said that it was built by the Bureau of Reclamation and was completed in 1911. But, I decided to continue to find independent verification of these dam facts. A specific web search for Theodore Roosevelt Dam yielded 270 web sites, many with pictures and many interesting facts about the dam. I'll share a few with you.
First, because of the unusual design of the dam it was not a problem to verify from many pictures that I had the right dam. I have a contemporary Post Card that shows a view of the dam which most closely resembles the dam vignette, except for a model T Ford on the dam road.
Anyway, it was President Teddy Roosevelt who signed the National Reclamation act in 1902. That started the largest dam building project in US history - to include Roosevelt Dam. The dam was started in 1903 and was the first major project under this act. It was a masonry dam, or as the engineers call it a "rubble-masonry, arch-gravity dam." This just means that it was made of dolomite blocks, rather then poured concrete. It's unique cyclopean-masonry, thick arch designed earned it a listing on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The original name of the dam was simply Salt River Dam #1. When it was dedicated in 1911 Teddy Roosevelt was there and gave the keynote speech. I have several pictures of that. The name wasn't changed to Theodore Roosevelt Dam until 1959.
The movement toward hydroelectric power was underway, and by 1940, 40% of the nation's power (75% in the West) was hydroelectric. Of course now we have the environmental extremists who are trying to rip down the dams in order to save the freckled-faced-fagot-fish, or whatever. In 1911 this was the largest masonry dam in the world. In the 1980s the dam was renovated under the Safety of Dams program. The original masonry dam was encased in poured concrete and raised in height by 70'. That change wasn't completed until 1996. So the renovation took much longer than the original construction and cost much more! So what's new? In any case, the present dam no longer resembles the MPC design.
Well, now you have the whole dam story. Next, who engraved the dam vignette?
The Great War (1917). Left click photo to enlarge.
This family picture, taken in 1917, is of my Uncle Harry Klinger (the soldier),
and the nurse (Aunt Grace Klinger), the little girl (Aunt Vira Klinger) and the sailor (my dad, Richard Klinger). Dad had two other sisters (Katie and Flora), and three other brothers (Harry, Francis, and Carlos).
In those days, everyone was patriotic - the Klingers still are !
World War Bonus Bond. Left click to enlarge.
While researching the Adjusted Service Bonds which were used by the Federal Government to pay the WWI bonus, I came across references to World War Bonus Bonds issued by the State of New York. These bonds offered 4% simple interest and were payable in gold coins !
But, I haven't been able to find out much more about them. So I am asking for help from others for more information. Also, did any other states issue similiar WWI bonds?
Thanks for any help you may be able to provide.
Adjusted Service Certificate. Left click to enlarge.
Adjusted Service Bonds & The WWI Bonus.
I recently found a scan of an Adjusted Service Bond (ASB). I had never even heard of such a bond before
so this opened up an interesting story for me about the military bonus program of The Great War (WWI).
The Adjusted Service Bonds are unusual in many respects. First, they were issued on 15 June 1936,
and matured nine years later on 15 June 1945. They were only issued in one denomination ($50.00). They were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and have a Andrew Jackson vignette at the top which is similiar to the vignette used on the $20 bill of the era. They payed 3% per annum simple interest, but could be cashed at face value as soon as they were received. The amount due on 15 June 1945, was $63.50 per Bond. This particular bond was sold online within the last year for $750.00. You can view the bond at the following web address:
The full story starts at the end of the First World War (11 November 1918). Several veteran groups, and many
US Congressmen were already lobbying for a "soldiers bonus". Some wanted military scrip issued as
happened after previous wars - to be exchanged for land. Others wanted a simple cash bonus. The
debate went on for several years, and finally in 1924 the World War Adjusted Compensation Act was passed, over the veto of President Coolidge. It provided for the payment of a "bonus" with interest aimed to adjust the pay of armed forces members during World War I, in compensation for lost wages in the private sector during their service. The payment was not to be made until 1945.
The mechanism used to pay the bonus was to issue Adjusted Service Certificates (ASC). The picture at the lead of this post is an Adjusted Service Certificate. I think that this is the only ASC in collector hands? In effect, Adjusted Service Certificates were 20-year endowment insurance policies maturing on 15 June 1945. They earned 3% simple interest over this period. To qualify for the bonus, a veteran had to have at least 60-days service between April 15, 1917, and November 11, 1918. The bonus paid was $1 a day for Stateside service and $1.25 a day for overseas service. They (ASC) could not be used as collateral, so the money was out of circulation until 1945. The average payment due in 1945 was more than $1000.00.
In 1931 an ammended bill was passed over President Hoover’s veto that gave soldiers the right to borrow against bonus certificates for as much as 50 percent of their value. President Hoover warned against this
in his 1931 State of the Union Address when he said: "The law enacted last March authorizing loans of 50 per cent upon adjusted-service certificates has, together with the loans made under previous laws, resulted in payments of about $1,260,000,000. Appropriations have been exhausted. The Administrator of Veterans' Affairs advises that a further appropriation of $200,000,000 is required at once to meet the obligations made necessary by existing legislation. There will be demands for further veterans' legislation.... But our present expenditure upon these services now exceeds $1,000,000,000 per annum. I am opposed to any extension of these expenditures until the country has recovered from the present situation." It was also President Hoover who signed an Executive Order to establish the Veteran's Administration, possibly to put some of these events in order.
The Bonus March - In the spring of 1932, more than 20,000 veterans, most of them unemployed and in desperate financial straits, spontaneously made their way to Washington, D.C. They demanded passage of a bill providing for immediate payment of their World War I bonus. Calling themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force (BEF), they camped in vacant government buildings and in open fields. One headline dubbed the event: "The Shame of Anacostia Flats". The veterans conducted themselves in a peaceful and orderly way, but when the Senate defeated the Pittman Bill (June 17, 1932) the marchers refused to return home. On July 28, President Herbert Hoover ordered the army, under the command of GEN Douglas MacArthur, to evict them forcibly. One of MacArthur's unit commanders was LTC George Patton. The Army had their camps set on fire, and the army drove the veterans from the city. Hoover was much criticized by the press and the general public for the severity of his response.
In 1935, Congress passed a bill providing for the immediate cash payment of the war bonuses. Franklin Delano Roosevelt vetoed it. In 1936, FDR vetoed the same bill again. But on Jan. 27, 1936, the veto was overridden. The next day's Washington Post headline read: "Soldier Bonus Becomes Law as Senate Crushes Veto, 76-19; Full Payment Sped for June 15." The payment method used was to issue Adjusted Service Bonds - so the story comes full circle.
The Bureau of Public Debt, US Department of Treasury reported in 1999 that there was $300,600.00 in unpaid Adjusted Service Bonds for the Veterans of The Great War. Since all the bonds were of $50.00 denomination, this means that in 1999, 6012 of these bonds were "still out there". The bonds can still be redeemed at the same office as can the Armed Forces Leave Bonds. That office says that only a "very few" ASBs have been redeemed since 1999. Also, just as in the case of the AFLBs, remainder amounts due were paid by check. One account I found (on a genealogy web site) was of a soldier who in 1936 was due to receive $973.00. He received his Adjusted Service Bonds and a check. There was no date on the notice. He received: 19 bonds with serial numbers 32,410,751 – 32,410,769 in the amount of $950.00. The check (No. 969,717) from the US Treasury was for $23.00.
a gold florin (c1450).
The age-old numismatic question "what is it worth?" has been around for a very long time. In a 1588 speech titled: A Discourse upon Coins, given at the Academy in Florence by Bernardo Davanzati, I think he captured the crux of that question perfectly.
"A Mole is a vile and despicable Animal, but in the Siege of Cassilino the Famine was so great, that a mole [rat] was sold for 200 Gold Florins; and yet it was not dear, for he that parted with it died of Hunger, and he that bought it outlived the Siege."
You can read the entire 1588 speech at: