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From Rommel's Booze Collection


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Somehow this got donated to the museum. I'm sure some of you have heard the story of "Rommel's Liquor" but it was new to me. The bottles came in an obviously fake box, and had a photocopy of the pamphlet (in German) referred to below. Lesson of the story - when something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Apparently these sold for roughly $98 a bottle back in the 70's. I shamelessly copied this summary of the story from this Antique Bottles site.

 

"A LEGEND OF LOST LIQUOR
by
Colonel John M. Gaustad
United States Army (Retired)

We all enjoy a good war story, don't we? Especially if the legend recounts a little-known series of events which began during the early part of World War II and now, 65 years of so later, risks being lost in the shrouded mists of history. And even more especially if the legend has to do with the vaunted Afrika Korps of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

It seems that the Desert Fox and his elite Afrika Korps came across a vast wine and spirits cellar during one of their forays back and forth across North Africa. Perhaps the cellar was near Tripoli or Tobruk or even El Alamein. In any event, it included a million and a half liters of top quality Scotch whiskey, Jamaican rum, London gin and French cognac - all stored, so he story goes, in huge oak casks. This was a legitimate prize of war and the Afrika Korps promptly took advantage of the situation. The Field Marshal surely saw to it that every trooper of the Korps had the chance to wet his whistle a time or two with some of this superb liquor. Nevertheless, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, the remaining casks - still more than a million liters worth - were sent back to Italy in the empty holds of Axis supply ships. There they were warehoused in the seaside village of Nettuno, close by th Anzio beach resort area.

And so the situation remained for many months. Meanwhile, on 22 Jan 44, the United States VI Corps of Fifth Army assaulted the beach at Anzio, thereby gaining a firmer grip on its first foothold in continental Europe. As campaign reports on both sides so graphically tell us, it was very tough going. Finally, though, Allied forces prevailed and the breakout from the Anzio beachhead began, followed shortly by the race for Rome.

One of the early objectives in the breakout operation was the village of Nettuno.

Imagine the delight of those battle-toughened Allied tankers and riflemen when they discovered that their objective harbored an authentic war trophy amounting to some 250,000 gallons of best quality booze!

In due course the well know Delva Distillery was commissioned to bottle the liquor captured at Nettuno. Those were dark days for Italy and the Italians. There was a scarcity of everything, including bottles. The Delva Distillery solved that problem by providing the basic ingredients to locally available individual entrepreneurs in the glass trade. Within a few weeks a marvelous array of differently formed one-liter bottles was delivered. In that a liter is only slightly more in quantity than a US quart, this size selection was a happy one both for Delva and the US forces. Labels of extravagant format were printed by the Lit. P. Casseti Company of Rome.

Late in 1944 General Mark Clark, Commander of Fifth Army, presumably became the holder in escrow for Allied Forces Italy of perhaps 800,000 liters of Scotch whiskey, Jamaican rum, London gin and French cognac. All Bottles were labeled and packed neatly in wooden cases. A long -since forgotten Allied Military Government unit bearing the initials R.A.A.C. testified by separate special label on each bottle that chemical tests assured compliance with Allied military purity standards.

Following the May 1945 final Allied victory in Europe, a major redeployment of American troops was undertaken to get started on the occupation task. Some upper echelon headquarters and some very senior American military personnel were transferred from Italy to occupation duty in Austria.

No one available on the scene in 1977 was sure how or why, but before the end of 1945 a train arrived at the Linz, Austria rail depot bearing all that was left of the original stock of Afrika Korps liquor. Freight handlers of the time recall unloading easily more than half a million liters. Probably under the watchful eye of a steely US MP sergeant and his helpers, all of the hundreds of thousands of bottles were carefully laid down, every layer insulated in a bed of straw, deep within the central city wine caves of Linz. From time to time selected quantities were withdrawn for use in official US Military Government entertainment. Other bottles probably went to supplement the meager stocks of the US Army Class VI Agency's minuscule operation in support of US Forces Austria.

In 1947, for reasons known only to history, custody of the remaining several hundred thousand bottles in the city wine caves was transferred away from the Allied occupation forces. The Linz national customs office of the brand new post-war Austrian Republic became the new curator. Except for occasional losses to daring raids by Danube River pirates during the late 1940s and early 1950s, the remaining Afrika Korps liquor stock has slept peacefully ever since for all those years in the Linz city wine caves. Tests by officials of the Austrian Government in 1963 and again in 1974 established that all liquors of this stock which do not show evidence of leaking are fit for human consumption.

Then, early in 1976 senior business executives representing the legal owners of the remaining Afrika Korps liquor supply approached the US Army Europe Class VI Agency with a view toward selling certain quantities for resale by the Agency to its authorized customers. After careful evaluation of the Legend and examination of the stock at Linz by an Agency official, the proposal was discussed at a USAREUR Class VI Fund Council meeting. The decision was reached to purchase fro retail resale 18,000 one-liter bottles of French cognac and 18,000 one-liter bottles of Jamaican rum to be available within US Army Europe Class VI system during the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year holiday period. The suppliers have further agreed to make available, if a firm order is placed within six months, an additional 24,000 bottles each of Scotch whiskey, Jamaican rum, London gin and/or French cognac.

The above was copied from a small pamphlet that came with each bottle of Afrika Korps Liquor. It took some 30 years to be available for sale and has been another 30 years since that sale."

 

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I have a bottle of the cognac that looks just like the one pictured. I bought it at the Class VI store on baser when I was stationed in Germany from 1975-78. Somewhere I have the little booklet that came with it.

 

This stuff flooded the Class VI stores for a while, and was dirt cheap. Lots of guys bought it to drink.

 

I think I paid about $3.00 for the cognac. I bought it because it was the cheapest.

 

I always intended to drink it on some special occasion, but somewhere in the intervening years, the cork failed, and there is only about an inch left in the bottom. I'm kind scared to drink that!

Collecting 3rd Armored Division items of all kinds from all eras, specializing in the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment.

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post-32632-0-06308600-1403292857.jpg Scotch label and booklet that came with each bottle. I wish I would have saved one of them. Only a callow yout would be so carefree as to drink them all!

"They'd rather be alive than free; poor dumb bastards."

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Thanks for the confirmation of "the legend!" The pamphlet that we have is not the one pictured, it is much larger and has a number of pictures. Also, it's in German :(. I think all it does is give more of a story about Rommel and the DAK for German buyers. I think I will try and convince the director that the best thing to do with this stuff is drink it.

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  • 1 month later...

I would love to find one. What is the going price now? Eltsoro, you looking to sell?

 

Mike

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  • 7 months later...

Oh, distilled liquor would still be good. Worst case scenario is that it might have evaporated some and change the taste.

 

A buddy of mine was showing me a site last night with quantities of mid-1800s Scotch and Cognac, and their prices ranged from $13,000 to over $100,000, depending on what it was.

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If their isn't, you can't go wrong with lagavulin, as long as he likes peat!!!

Looking for the following:

452nd and 447th Bomb Group items

Anything 12th Armored- especially uniforms

155th Assault Helicopter Company, Camp Coryell, or Ban Me Thuot Vietnam items[/center]


WWII US Navy Uniforms from the Battle Off Samar: USS Johnston DD-557, USS Hoel DD-553, USS Samuel B. Roberts DE-413, USS Heermann DD-532, USS Dennis DE-405, USS John C. Butler DE-339, USS Raymond DE-341, USS Fanshaw Bay St. Lo, White Plains, Kalinin Bay, Kitkun Bay and Gambier Bay...


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I have one of these bottles and the booklet, The Legend of Lost Liquor, that came with it. I bought it in the Class VI store on base in Germany somewhere from 1976-1979. They called it Rommels Rum and said it was tested and safe for human consumption. I can vouch that me and my buddies consumed it. I don't recall what I paid but it was nowhere near $98.00 a bottle.

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  • 3 years later...

I just saw an empty bottle of the Rhum and one of the Scotch. The bottles were priced at $35@. I also just saw a full bottle of the Gin, and one of Scotch. I think they were $150@

 

Keith

 

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I have a very similar story to that of some of the others who have posted. I had several of the bottles that I purchased in the late 70's at the class VI Store in Wiesbaden, Germany. I recall it the cost was somewhere in the $3-5 dollar range per bottle. AAFES (the PX system) was selling these all over the European class VI market. There was an interesting marketing campaign, history, a booklet old labels......, I even believe there were stories in the Stars and Stripes Newspaper and Off Post the free TV guide available to service men and women. None of the stuff I or my friends bought was drinkable, and there many have been some conjecture about "truth in advertising".

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The key is in how much it settles. My 1941 G&W Reserve was magical... if it is a fifth or whatever, and the liquid is above the label, go for it. If it is cloudy, i might not trust it...

 

I'm not an elite whiskey expert, but my buddy is... I found a 2oz distiller's sample at the antique store that was bottled between 1903 and 1919... we split it, tasted like honey.

Looking for the following:

452nd and 447th Bomb Group items

Anything 12th Armored- especially uniforms

155th Assault Helicopter Company, Camp Coryell, or Ban Me Thuot Vietnam items[/center]


WWII US Navy Uniforms from the Battle Off Samar: USS Johnston DD-557, USS Hoel DD-553, USS Samuel B. Roberts DE-413, USS Heermann DD-532, USS Dennis DE-405, USS John C. Butler DE-339, USS Raymond DE-341, USS Fanshaw Bay St. Lo, White Plains, Kalinin Bay, Kitkun Bay and Gambier Bay...


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Some say this liquor haul was captured from the British by Rommel, while others claim it was found inside caves in North Africa? The Labels are known reproductions which makes this story a total fabrication.

 

Found a original European Stars and Stripes dated 12 Sept 1977, page 9 has article about Rommel's Lost Liquor

 

The Newspaper Article Text (OCR) has the translation of the text towards the very bottom
CDub

 

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Gunslinger- I'm not sure I follow your reasoning. My cognac bottle has a sleeve with a reproduction of an original label on it. Beneath the sleeve is the original labelling. I can't locate the booklet at the moment, but as I recall, it tells the whole story - captured in North Africa, found in a cave in Italy, etc. but admits that the actual history is uncertain. For $3.00 a bottle, I didn't really care what the actual story is, and figured it was worth the investment - just in case it was all true, and this bottle would make me rich.

 

I'd be curious to know your sources for the claim it is all a total fabrication. For those of us that don't want to or don't care to sign up for that website, can you give a us a recap of the article, or perhaps cut & paste it?

Thanks!

 

Steve

Collecting 3rd Armored Division items of all kinds from all eras, specializing in the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment.

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I purchased a couple of the rum bottles in Germany back in 1977. They had reproduction labels because the original labels were mostly worn away. I was going to save one and bring it home but I wound up opening and drinking both. Very smooth.

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