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Julius Milla's Box
By Eric Tobey


The following was taken from the Die Neue Feldpost newsletter & was done so with permission of the publisher.  We would like to thank him for his generosity as well as thank all those who have contributed to this article.  It is with their efforts, we are able to share this valuable research with the rest of you.

Occasionally the researcher or collector is fortunate to find a small grouping of personal effects which can be attributed to a single individual; a sort of "time capsule" if you will, in which the significance of the individual items is supplemented by the relationships of the contents as a whole.  Groupings like the one examined in this article also identify items as WWII German personal effects which would otherwise be classified at best as "of the period".

The grouping in question was souvenired by a GI and now resides in the collection of Barry Smith.  It is contained in a typical German "Feldpost" box which measures 5¼" x 3¾" x 1" (see illustration "A").  The label on the box bears the soldier's name and fieldpost-number in pencil: "Sold. Julius Milla" and "02014D".  There are no cancellations or receipt stamps and the return address, if there ever was one, has been obliterated.  There is evidence, however, that there was nothing in the return address space except some geometric doodles; some of which remains in the obliterated area.

      There are many items still in this box.  When opened, the first noticeable item is a very small wound dressing which is shown in illus. "B".  The packet (manufactured in Troisdorf) is made of a very dark green rubberized cloth and is sealed along three edges.  The overall dimensions of this bandage are 2¼" x 3" x ½".  The label which is printed in black describes the contents as a compress which is 50mm x 80mm in size.  Instructions are printed on the other side of the packet.
 

The box is littered with the flakes of a large cigar; this cigar looks a lot like one of the common "Kantinezigarren" (PX cigars), which were sold individually.  The largest part of the cigar still remains a gold and reddish-orange band.  Although the original dimensions of this item are impossible to determine with certainty, especially the original length, the thickness was about 5/8" x 1/2".  See illustration "C".

The item shown in illustration "D" is a small orange-painted, hinged tin box with the black lettering which identifies its contents as "Earplugs for those with injured ear drums".  The material for the plugs is in the form of small flat tiles of some disgusting waxy substance.  The tiles are about 3/4" square and 1/8" thick, and are separated by squares of waxed paper.  The instructions printed inside the lid say to throw away the paper and roll the material into a "bullet" and stick them in your ears, no later than when the gas mask is put on in an emergency.  The box itself measures 1-1/8" x 2-5/8" x 3/8" deep.

     

Items "E" and "F" are both soft-metal tubes of different creams, covered with plastic screw caps.  The tube shown in illus. "E" measures about 1" in diameter and 4" overall length.  It is silver in color with the inscription "skin protection salve" printed in light orange.

The smaller tube measures about 1/2" in diameter and about 3" in overall length.  It is also a silvery color with the label "boric acid salve" in black.  The note near the end of the tube instructs the owner to save the empty tube.

     

The water decontamination tablet tube illustrated in "G" is quite small: about 3/8" in diameter and 1-1/2" long including the metal screw-top.  The tube itself is aluminum with a black-white-green printed label.  The tube contains 10 tablets, and still contains its packing material under the lid.  Unlike American cotton drug packing (like that found under the lid of aspirin bottles), this container uses wool waste.  The manufacturer was the Heyden chemical works in Dresden.

One of the most interesting items in the box is shown in illustration "H".  It is a World War II German can opener, appropriately enough called "der Kamerad"!!  It is noticeably larger than the American version and has its lanyard hole in the opposite end of the handle.  Other than these two differences, it is the same old GI "P-38" can opener.  We already know that the American military copied many other articles from the Wehrmacht: folding shovels, and eventually even helmets.  I wonder...

  
Now comes the interesting part.  What is the story of this box?  Here are the clues: first, that it was brought home by a GI.  That at least puts it in the 1944-1945 time frame.  Now the box itself: it doesn't have a return address and no post-office cancellations or military unit receipt stamp.  Therefore it was never mailed.  The soldier probably put his own name on the box and whimsically doodled in the return address space.  The feldpost number identifies the soldier as a member of the 4th Company of Reserve Grenadier Battalion 209, which was stationed in Denmark and was used as a training unit for Wehrkreis 10 recruits (northwest Germany, including Hamburg) as well as for occupation duty.       

The situation of this soldier must have been similar to that of Wolfgang Klünner , or the veteran August Weber who was also trained in Denmark. The 4th Company of these units was a heavy machine-gun training company, so perhaps this explains the earplugs!  None of the items appears to be standard issue for enlisted men, although on the other hand, some items (like the boric acid salve from Wehrkreis Medical Depot XX) were probably not available in stores back home.  Therefore, the soldier probably bought these items himself from the unit's Kantine (PX).  As for the items themselves, we can sum them up best in a fictitious letter:

Liebe Mutti!
     Our training here is almost over so I went down to the Kantine to buy a few things.  I can't tell you where I am, but I will tell you that it is pretty easy to save money here because everything outside the Kaserne is much cheaper that in the Fatherland!  Anyway, I picked up a little can opener because much of the food we get comes in cans and I think it is very inefficient to mangle the cans with one's bayonet.  I don't know where they will send me next, but the water might be bad so I bought some water purification tablets too.  I've already got a million small cuts and scrapes, and will undoubtedly get more in the field, so I found some boric acid salve for antiseptic.  You know how tender my delicate Aryan skin is too, Mutti, so I couldn't resist buying some skin cream.  We are issued these wound dressings if we get hurt, but the wound better be a good one because we are accountable for the bandages.  It's such a hassle, so I bought a small one of my own which I can use at my own discretion.  I wanted to buy a pair of earplugs but most of them were sort of expensive so I settled for a box of  "roll your own".  They were definitely cheap, but mein Gott, they look like they are made out of real ear wax!  I hope you are not eating right now, sorry.  But thunderation, are the machine guns we use load!  You can't believe the hammering of these "saws": the sound in the movie theaters cannot compare!!  I'll be as deaf as Grosspapa by the time the war is won.
      One more thing, I had a few Pfennig left over, so I bought a big Kantinezigarre.  I don't even smoke cigars, I don't know what got into me.  I also bought a little box to put it all in.
      Oh well, enough for now.  See you when I get some leave.
                                                                                          Julius

 


Sources:
1.   Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht u. Waffen SS by G. Tessin
2.   The collection of
: Barry Smith

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