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Great Uncle's WW2 footlocker and a smaller version of it perhaps???


mmregsguy
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mmregsguy

I need some help. We have the World War 2 footlocker for my great uncle, S/Sgt. Merlyn Dale Rukes, who died in World War 2 and was a tail gunner on a B-17F of the 303rd Bomb Group. His plane along with the entire crew was lost on 3 January 1943 over St. Nazaire, France.  Please read this entire post for our questions related to it AND a very similar chest that we just found at a second-hand store.
 

In doing research on my great uncle's footlocker, it appears that he was issued what is called an "officer's" footlocker, although he clearly was not an officer. I have been lead to believe that this was not unusual in the early days of the air war, but I haven't been able to corroborate that claim. My great uncle voluntarily enlisted on 9 January 1942 (pretty quickly after Pearl Harbor was attacked) before being Killed in Action just a few days short of a year later, so he was in early.


I sadly don't have really good pictures of his footlocker handy. However, it is featured in at least three news stories which I am providing links for here. The first has perhaps the best image of the footlocker:

https://www.elrenotribune.com/index.php/news/roots-valor

 

https://www.news9.com/story/5e35d3475c62141fdee95e1f/remembering-the-44:-the-rededication-of-memorial-stadium (starting around the 1:30 mark)
 

https://www.news9.com/story/5e35d2835c62141fdee95b64/remembering-the-44:-family-members-speak-about-soldiers-honored-in-stadium-dedication (starting around the 0:30 mark)

 

We recently purchased a strikingly similar and yet significantly SMALLER chest / trunk (we're not sure exactly what to call it) that is almost identical in style to my (great) Uncle Dale's footlocker. However, it only measures about 8" x 8" x 19" (if I remember correctly). But the the entire chest and its hardware, particularly the corner pieces, are VERY similar to my great uncle's footlocker.  Both have the same thin metal covering on the entire footlocker (not just on the corners/edges), the same basic colors on that metal covering and the black edge bands (the corner hardware and latches are a different color but the same style), and more. Pictures are attached of the chest we found, which we plan to put all of the letters Dale wrote home (well over 200) in for safe keeping.
 

Were these smaller chests offered to officers during World War 2? What do you call these? An overnight case, perhaps? Were these something special that could be purchased by anyone at the PX, perhaps, just like my great uncle's Class A service cap which we still have?  Shown in the news pieces attached are some of the other things of his that we have in this grouping (his Purple Heart, Air Medal with oak leaf cluster, shaving kit bag, Bible, and his blue star service flag, to name just a few.

Where is there an authoritative source on World War 2 footlockers?  And why did my great uncle actually have an "officer's" footlocker?  Was it just because he was in so early, and perhaps the USAAC / USAAF (he was there right at the transition) possibly get those for everyone instead of the more basic all-wood lockers?

Dale footlocker question Pic 1.jpg

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Dale footlocker question Pic 5.jpg

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In the Army, officers buy all of their items, enlisted men get them issued. So, likely your Uncle just went out and either bought or traded for a better trunk. As for the small one, my guess is that it is for a piece of equipment, it has nothing to do with the larger version and I am not really even sure if its military at all. That said, it looks great to put the letters and such in and is in nice condition. I don't know of any real dedicated source for trunks and footlockers, this forum may have the best info available, you will just have to search in the base and bivouac items section. Hope this helps some.    Scott

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I don't think it's so much an "officer's foot locker" as a privately purchased foot locker or trunk.  As mentioned above, officers purchased most of their own equipment and were more likely to have a commercial trunk.  However, there was nothing preventing an enlisted man from doing the same.  It's also possible that early in the war the government contracted for commercial trunks to supplement the regulation pattern.

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dmar836

The photographed footlocker in the upper photo (the original) is fairly standard. Interestingly it appears to have been modified with shelf paper and crayon marks at some point.

The smaller trunk you recently bought, IMO, is not military spec and is only similar in that it is a reinforced, hinged box with an interestingly military-ish color scheme.

This was a common style of box for many uses - musical instruments, testing equipment, tools, records, sheet music, you name it. If the body paint was blue or red, we wouldn't likely be having this discussion. Green has always been a popular color and I think a coincidence in this case. The nickel hardware, keys, and lock aren't military spec and the plating would be an unnecessary expense.

Personally, I don't think it has any military connection and really doesn't bear much resemblance(other than color) to what your uncle would have used. Could have been privately purchased by a military person at some point in it's life but that would just be conjecture on my part. 

Great though for storing old letters, etc.

Just an opinion,

Dave

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dmar836

Great write up. I wonder if it was actually fighters or anti aircraft fire?

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Thanks to each of you for your replies.  It seems that the new case is quite probably NOT military, and is perhaps just a toolbox or some other sort of case.  Given how strikingly similar it is to my great uncle's footlocker, though, we are thrilled we found it, and we do indeed plan to use it to help better preserve his letters home and other letters that my great grandparents enchanged with the familes of the other men on his crew, correspondence from the military after his death, etc.


Thanks, again!

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