Published: August 11, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Soulis Auctioneers
LONE JACK, MO. — Before a single lot crossed the block, auctioneer Dirk Soulis said that the collection of author and retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel Jack Angolia arguably rivals any World War II collection of any great institution.
The collection itself was sort of an institution in itself, as Angolia had organized it all together in an exhibition-style setting in his home. He would give tours to interested parties and teach the history behind the objects and uniforms, much of which had been sourced directly from the families of the soldiers.
Angolia has been a militaria collector since 1944 and wrote 38 books on various aspects of militaria and collecting. In an interview with Military Trader, he said, “For years I’ve been telling people that I don’t collect ‘things,’ but rather peoples’ history.” Angolia knew much of what he owned, not just the year it was made and its material, but who it was presented to, for what actions, and the story behind that individual. He began collecting World War II pieces in the 1980s following a trip to Normandy.
The sale, which grossed approximately $165,000, was split between a 150-lot timed online auction that ran July 10 to July 24 and a 283-lot live sale that Soulis held under a tent in Lone Jack on August 1.
“There were a lot of people that seemed to know him, that made a difference,” auctioneer Dirk Soulis said. “When they called to ask about something, a lot of them wanted to let us know how they knew him. Some had seen the collection before and they were happy to get a chance to bid on it.”
Leading the sale at $47,460 was Admiral John S. “Slew” McCain’s (1884-1945) uniform, medals, citations, certificates and extensive archive. The lot comprised of more than 100 items. McCain was grandfather to the Arizona Senator John S. McCain III, who passed away in 2018.
Among medals, the lot came with his Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal with gold star, American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal with Escort Bar, World War II Victory Medal, Mexican Campaign Medal, USN Service Medal, Peruvian Cross 1st Class for Aviation, Order of the Sun of Peru and more. Documents in the lot include his commissions signed by President Truman, an appointment signed by President Roosevelt, and others signed by fleet admiral William Halsey Jr and general Douglas MacArthur.
Materials from the Tuskegee Airmen were represented. The Tuskegee Airmen were the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group in World War II. As the 332nd, they formed the first black flying group, which deployed to Italy in 1944. One of the sale’s top billed lots, a 75-item archive belonging to Tuskegee Airman William Powell, did not find a buyer, but an archive from Tuskegee Airmen Major Turner did as it sold for $2,486. It included an assortment of medals, instrument books, official personnel records, autograph books, personal ephemera and his prayer book. Turner was a P-51 pilot who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with four oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, ETO Medal with four battle stars, and the World War II Victory Medal, all of which were included in the lot.
Jackets were represented at the top by a $2,260 result for an A-2 bomber jacket with painted leather insignia and wings owned by 2nd Lieutenant Carl H. Holt of the USAAF 448th Bombardment Squadron, 8th AAF European Theatre. Holt was a pilot on the B-24 Smokey City and flew missions over Germany and France in World War II. Sergeant Joseph C. Kanter’s jacket, from the 246th ASAF Base Unit, sold for $1,017. His unit was based in Pratt, Kansas at the Army Air Field and provided combat training to the B-29 crews.
Selling for $4,319 was T. Sgt. William H. Dragon’s Ike uniform with a jacket with all insignia, shirt pants, belt, tie and garrison cap, portrait photo, cased Purple Heart with original box and more. Dragon served in the HQ Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd PIR, 1st Airborne Division.
A Soviet Army officer’s dress dagger presented to Angolia in February of 1968 sold for $1,808. Angolia received the dagger from LTC Anthony Socha, Deputy Military Attache, Czechoslovakia, shortly before the fall of the Dubchek Government in return for “an on-going year-long intelligence operation on [Socha’s] part that failed.”
A group lot with the military effects of Captain Walter R. Ross, USAAF, Fifth Bombardment Squadron, Ninth Bombardment Group, sold for $735. Ross was one of the first Americans to witness the devastation caused by the Atomic Bomb at Hiroshima. His B-29 was shot down over Japan two weeks before the end of the war and was a prisoner of war held in a civilian jail when the bomb was dropped. The American POWs at the time were made to walk the streets and witness the damage. Ross’ effects included his cased Purple Heart, cased Air Medal; POW Medal, uniform, dog tags, a wood model of his B-29, flight diaries, orders and 36 folders with World War II history. Also among them was Ross’ Caterpillar Club document, an informal association of soldiers who had successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft.
Soulis said that interest in Angolia’s collection came from all corners of the United States, but also Australia, France and the Netherlands.
On what was popular, Soulis said, “Airborne things were popular and named items carry the most weight. The medals that are engraved to the veterans, uniforms that are named, and the more provenance the better. Even a named uniform might bring twice as much.”
Soulis said all of his sales will be held outside under a tent for the foreseeable future. He hopes to have a drive-in no-contact option for his next sale, where bidders will park around the tent and bid online from their cars.
All prices reported include buyer’s premium. For additional information, 816-697-3830 or www.dirksoulisauctions.com.
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