Not all soldiers like to talk about their experiences in battle. Some even carry their stories to the grave. But when this one World War Two veteran passed away, he left his long-time friend an intriguing container instead. And it would be up to that friend to use the bag’s contents to piece a tale together.
It all started when a man known by his Imgur username “VarmintGrease” posted a series of images online. He wrote, “I knew a WW2 vet my whole life. He never told stories, said he didn’t remember any.” And when the veteran passed away in April 2015, VarmintGrease thought that was the end of it.
However, not long after, he received a phone call. On the other end of the line was the veteran’s eldest son, who informed VarmintGrease that the old man had left something for him. That something was a mysterious satchel.
Up to that point, all he knew about the veteran was that he’d served as an artillery radioman and that he’d been there on D-Day. Indeed, he didn’t even know which side the man fought for. But when VarmintGrease opened the bag, everything changed. What he found inside was a treasure trove of military items from the Second World War.
Among the first things he noticed was a beautifully preserved Walther P38 pistol. The P38 was developed by Germany in the 1930s as a modern replacement for the aging and expensive Luger pistol. Moreover, the P38 was so reliable that whenever Allied soldiers found one they actually used it themselves in combat, instead of just collecting it as a trophy.
In addition to the pistol, VarmintGrease also discovered a bayonet. First introduced in the 17th century, bayonets were meant to be attached to the barrel of a rifle, allowing the gun to double as a spear in close-quarters combat. However, they largely fell out of use after the disastrous bayonet charges of World War One.
Another interesting item that VarmintGrease found in the bag was a helmet. Covered in tints of green, yellow and brown, this helmet was clearly used to provide not just protection but also camouflage. And while it did show signs of age and rusting, the colors still looked vibrant.
But the helmet also offered up one important clue. On its side it bore a Nazi eagle emblem. Much like the pistol, this helmet must have belonged to a German soldier, and further research confirmed that this color scheme matched the one used by German units in Normandy.
Meanwhile, in a side pocket, VarmintGrease found a lighter, coins and a gun cleaning kit. Interestingly enough, some of the coins were actually British, with the year 1940 clearly imprinted. Perhaps this German soldier acquired the coins during the 1940 Fall of France, which involved British forces.
And a deeper search revealed yet another unique coin. This one was from the Netherlands and was dated to 1942, which means it must have been produced during the period of German occupation. In addition, he found a strange plastic disc with a Nazi swastika in the center.
Next, he discovered yet another item that likely belonged to a German serviceman: a book. Given the red cross and the translation of the title – “official instruction book on first aid” – it was clear this was a military book on immediate medical treatment. But inside its pages lay more secrets.
Just behind the book’s cover, VarmintGrease found two photos of German soldiers, one of whom appears to be an officer. Did these items belong to one of these men? Considering the fact that everything he’d discovered so far was of German origin, this was very likely.
Some Imgur commenters even argued that this meant the deceased veteran may have been a German soldier himself. As one person proposed, “Nazi or did he just loot stuff, that is the question.” But it’s far more likely that he was an American serviceman who brought these items back to the States.
Indeed, as one popular comment on the story suggests, “A lot of American soldiers took home Nazi souvenirs. Doesn’t mean he was a Nazi, just means he took some stuff home.” After all, the looting of dead enemy soldiers – officers in particular – was commonplace.
Furthermore, there was one more piece of evidence that the veteran was not a German. Folded neatly under the bag’s contents was an American flag. What’s more, the flag appeared to have blood stains on it. Was this the veteran’s blood or a fellow soldier’s?
But perhaps the most significant find of all was the German writing that VarmintGrease discovered on the back of what appears to be a photo. As one of the commenters on the story graciously translated, it apparently reads, “Always stay with me. Stay what you are now. Your boy on the 2/7/44.”
Many soldiers carried photos and letters as mementos of their loved ones. As such, it’s quite likely that it was written by this German soldier’s family member. In fact, as one comment suggests, this may have been written by the son of the officer seen in the photo inside the book.
With all this information, we can now piece together a plausible theory. The original owner of the bag’s contents was a World War Two German officer, whose son also served in the armed forces. And at some point during the invasion of Normandy by the Allies, this officer was killed, perhaps by the same American soldier who ended up looting his belongings.
In any case, after the war, the U.S. soldier then brought the spoils back to the United States. Forever haunted by what he went through, however, the veteran never shared his experiences. Yet as a final gesture of goodwill to his long-time friend, he decided to pass on his war trophies after his death.
But the bag still doesn’t explain much about its American owner. As VarmintGrease wrote near the end of his post, “I wish he were here to explain it all.” Was he haunted by the death of his comrades? Or by the guilt of taking an enemy soldier’s life? Perhaps even the life of the same German officer we saw in the photo? Perhaps we’ll never know.