Pssst -- wanna by a Republican Guard beret? Business in military souvenirs from the Persian Gulf War proves brisk.

October 28, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

For $35, a military surplus dealer in Mississippi is selling, straight from the battlefield and freshly deloused, Iraqi army shirts -- just like Saddam Hussein's. Toss in another $10 and he will mail out a genuine Republican Guard beret to match.

How about a captured Iraqi night vision telescope? A Michigan merchant is offering them at $2,000 each. He did have Iraqi compasses at $100 apiece, but they sold out within days.

Interested in a set of combat photographs, including shots of deadIraqi troops? Thirty-five dollars buys 35 photos from a military hobbyist in Florida.

Such are the souvenirs and spoils of war that have surfaced nationwide in the months following the vanquishing of Iraq.

While American ground troops may have spent little time actually fighting Iraqis, some soldiers apparently had ample opportunity afterward to scavenge enemy bunkers and trenches for personal remembrances, as well as profit.

Hundreds of pieces of Iraqi equipment brought home as trophies

have since made their way to military memorabilia dealers who hope to turn a fast buck and to collectors who are speculating that the value of Persian Gulf war booty, like fine wine, will mature with age.

"It's all supply and demand," said Michael Mesmer, 48, an engineer and avid military collector from Fort Myers, Fla. "There's a very big market for this kind of stuff and not a lot of it out there."

Among the scarcest items and, perhaps, in greatest demand are captured firearms. American troops were restricted from bringing home enemy rifles and pistols, and at least eight soldiers have been court-martialed thus far for attempting to smuggle enemy pistols and rifles into the United States.

Military surplus dealer Jack Brannon of Southaven, Miss., may not have any weapons from Iraq for sale these days, but he's offering just about everything else.

One of his former employees, a sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division, shipped Brannon 100 used Army food cartons crammed with 1,600 pounds of enemy equipment and uniforms, he said.

The sergeant, according to Brannon, sent back another 2,400 pounds of Iraqi souvenirs for himself and stashed it in his grandfather's barn south of Memphis, Tenn.

"When he gets out [of the Army] in 10 or 12 years," Brannon said, "it's gonna be worth a fortune."

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