By Jim Morando
My uncle Sal was attached to the Engineer Division that built the temporary bridge Patton stood on in that famous photo when he christened it by urinating in the Rhine. Mr. White was a high ranking aide to General Patton who happened to live next door.
Growing up I always thought Mr. White was poor because his jeans were patched and his go-to belt was a piece of rope. But looking back, I missed a few material clues; the big car, the Long Island mini-estate on three acres, etc. He was the nicest guy in the world, and my uncle had no issue if I planted extra flowers in his beds or went across the property line with the tractor to give him a head start on cutting his lawn.
One day Mr. White asked me to help him get something out of his basement. He was missing a finger and had a hard time gripping heavy things. I thought his basement would be like ours; relatively empty. Instead, it was full of WWII K-98 Mausers, Lugers, dress daggers, and hundreds of other items piled haphazardly on hand-made benches. He told me at the end of the war the Germans rushed to American lines to avoid the Russians. The US surrender process began with the Germans dropping their weapons in a pile. Mr. White shipped a bunch of this loot home.
After that, every once in a while he would show me another section of his collection. And I would be overwhelmed because he had so much down there it was hard to focus. His wife, who was not nearly as nice as he was, would always make an appearance on the stairs to keep an eye on things.
One day he took me over to an old wood filing cabinet. He said this was where he kept the good items from high ranking officers, apparently including at least one Nazi Field Marshall. In the top drawer was a cigarette pack-sized object wrapped in a small Nazi automobile flag. It was a blocky piece of metal adorned with silver and gold. He told me he wanted me to have it, and in that second his wife shouted: “He can’t have that, you shot your finger off with that damn thing!”
Just like that, his gracious gesture was undone. I had no idea what I was looking at and never made another trip to the basement after that. I guess he felt bad about what happened as a week later he gave me a Model 12 shotgun that he snuck out of the house in an old pair of jeans.
Three years later, I was going through a stack of gun magazines, and on the cover of one was a picture of that same blocky metal hunk that was almost given to me in the basement. Turns out, it was a belt buckle pistol. The article said Himmler commissioned just seven of them—one for each of his Field Marshalls. In the event of capture, they were to hit a secret button to deploy the barrel and use the concealed trigger to shoot their guard and escape. From memory, the article said the one on the cover was one of only two known to exist. It sold for some crazy price at auction.
After my initial dismay, I thought it was probably for the best: I still have all my fingers.
*Editor’s Note: In 2014, the Rock Island Auction company sold a Koppelschlosspistole for $16,100. What’s more, author Jim Morando is the proprietor of African Sporting Creations where he actually makes very useful products with his hands. So yea, Jim, it’s probably not worth shooting your finger off, because we love those hand-made shooting sticks.