July 13, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
At some point I wanted to finish a book titled Assault Troops of World War I: the Central, Allied, and Neutral Powers. I may get to it eventually, but for now I’ve totally lost interest. The everyday berserkery of people interested in military matters has drained me of my enthusiasm.
It’s a bad day. I’m withdrawing from caffeine and dealing with rotational vertigo attacks. As I filled the feral cats’ food and water bowls, I found a leaf that looks just how I feel.
Not everybody interested in militaria is a berserker. An Aussie I know sent me a link to a story about a guy I once wrote to, asking if I could use a photo in his collection. He never replied. That’s par for the course, so I shrugged it off. In this case, however, he didn’t reply because he was dead, killed in a car accident three days before I sent my e-mail.
The militaria world mourned his loss, but my Aussie friend directed me to an outstanding post that epitomizes the sort of people who would be my readership if I continued writing books about military history.
OMSA is the Orders and Medals Society of America, MCF is the now-defunct Militaria Collectors Forum, WAF is the Wehrmacht Awards Forums, and GMIC is the Gentleman’s Military Interest Club. I was a member of the latter two, and I had unpleasant experiences on both. In the military-history culture, knowledge is proprietary. It’s sacrilege, laughable, and disgusting when a newbie like me comes along and says, “Hey, look what I’ve discovered!” Only certain people are allowed to opine. You are either an expert or an acolyte. However, you can’t be an expert unless you’re already an expert.
Nobody was interested in anything I had to say. Not only that, they belittled me, insulted me, and graduated to foam-spewing hostility until I stopped posting on all military discussion forums.
Just for fun and to distract myself from my headache, depression, and dizziness, I looked up Wilbur C. Stump and found this page. Thirty-one posts in three years.
From there I landed here, which has some great info.
Another guy tied Prosper Keating to WC Stump.
Go back to the Wilbur C. Stump post on the death of Rick Lundström. See the URL? It’s the discussion forum of A.D. Royster Militaria.
All of this berserkery and Jew-hate is very familiar to me, even though I’m not a collector of militaria. I have no interest in anything except postcards, and only from World War One. I know about Nazis, but only because I study all military powers of all eras. My collecting field is photos and illustrations of World War One flamethrowers. That’s it.
I Googled Propser Keating. Here he is.
Prosper and his wife Odile.
Am I surprised? No. I’d be surprised if Prosper didn’t look completely off his rocker. He’s been carrying on his various feuds for almost a decade now. I myself buried the hatchet with a military loon who didn’t deserve my gesture, but I gave it because I thought it might be a test.
My first military book was German Flamethrower Pioneers of World War I. It wasn’t my idea to write it. I was talked into it by a man named “Lew,” whose father served in the 2nd Company of the Guard Reserve Pioneer Regiment, the German flamethrower regiment of World War One. The agreement was that Lew would write the book, and I would provide photos, illustrations, and original drawings of flamethrowers.
There are no blueprints, so I had to make my drawings from looking at photos and estimating dimensions. The contract Lew and I signed gave us a year to finish the book. He didn’t write a single paragraph, but he went on two European vacations. After six months I knew what would happen, so I duped him into sending me copies of everything he had, which wasn’t much. After the deadline came and went, I cut off all contact with Lew and wrote the book myself.
I had the good fortune to be online when Lew discovered that the book had been published. He went hysterical, and then within ten minutes he began a two-year campaign of telling everyone in the militaria community—people like Prosper Keating—that I had “stolen” Lew’s research and screwed him out of a book deal. Lew’s campaign was effective. People thought I was a lying backstabber. I hated Lew and wanted him to die.
After I contracted Meniere’s disease on October 7, 2011, I bought a fantastic postcard on eBay. Nobody else bid on it, which was very odd. It’s the sort of card that collectors would give almost anything to have.
It’s German flamethrower pioneers about to go out on a combat mission. The men in the truck are the flamethrower operators, and the men in the wagon behind are hand-grenade throwers.
When I got the card, I scanned it at 1200 dpi and identified the unit from the placards on the side of the vehicles: 2nd Company, 1st Platoon. It was Lew’s father’s precise unit. I giggled at the idea of this card falling into my hands for $11.00. Rotten old bastard Lew could’ve driven the price through the roof, the way he had on so many other postcards.
I began examinging the faces. The man standing in the front truck, third from left, is Lew’s father. There’s no doubt.
My hair stood on end. Knowing when the 2nd Company fought, I figured out that this photo was taken minutes before the unit’s attack on the Dead Man, which left Lew’s father permanently disabled and unfit for flamethrower duty.
Look at some of those expressions. All the weapons are armed; this isn’t a practice photo. What are the odds that I found this image, and that nobody else even saw it?
There was only one thing to do. I contacted Lew, told him about the photo, and asked him if he wanted hi-resolution scans of it. He did. I burned them to a CD, sent them to him, and he thanked me. We never spoke again.
So it’s possible to give up vendettas. I ask again: What are the odds that this one photo among the millions on eBay became available to me, I bought it uncontested, and it arrived here safely?
If it was a test, I passed it. These days I stay away from the militaria world and its berserkery. I’d much rather photograph the sunset.
Followed soon after by the biggest moon of the year.
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