For nearly seven decades, former 1st Sgt. Carl Green has been working to ensure that America never forgets World War II.
As the youngest of four brothers who served in the war, Green, now 88, and his wife, Merle, house a collection of artifacts and memorabilia in their Houston home that rivals any museum's.
The collection began after Green joined the Army and was deployed to Europe. He says he would ship “the stuff” back to his wife -- “stuff” that wound up including the original newspapers thrown from an airplane announcing that the war was over.
Most of the collection, Green said, came from the post-war period when he was part of the Army of Occupation, trekking through Germany to confiscate anything related to the war. “Civilians weren’t allowed to keep guns or anything that was related to those regimes; we shipped them home in boxes and my wife kept them until I got home in 1945,” he said.
As a 1st sergeant, Green had a roster of the 200 men that he loaded onto a ship to take them overseas, a list he still has in his possession today.
He also has the wristwatch given to him from the first man killed in his regiment, a soldier who received the Distinguished Service Medal. Green says he tried after the war to return the watch to the soldier's family, but he gave up after learning that the soldier’s parents died and no siblings came forward to claim it.
“I still have the watch here in my home and it will be staying in the archives wherever it goes,” Green said.
The collection has garnered the attention of many collectors, and the Greens have received many offers to buy it, but it “was too personal to give away,” Green said. They have no idea how much the collection is worth, but they are not concerned with the value. Any location that they have been shown for a possible museum display has been too small, and Green says he and his wife want to keep it in the family.
The collection has been made available to the public several times -- at a church function in Houston and at many reunions of his regiment. Out of 31 reunions, he and his wife have attended 16, often driving and bringing pieces of the collection with him. They are also responsible for communication between the attendees, writing hundreds of newsletters over the years to keep the servicemen in touch.
This year's reunion was in the Greens' hometown of Houston, meaning they could display the entire collection -- including pictures, letters, Nazi flags, a Nazi fly suit, weapons and articles.
Only five out of the estimated 175 veterans to come back from the war were able to attend. In total, 24 veterans from the company are able to remain in contact today.
The collection does attract attention, and it has been disturbed twice by robberies. Green said the break-ins occurred when silver was valuable, and that it was just “a money thing for the crooks.” “It’s still a mystery that German rifles have not been stolen,” he said.