Exceptional Naval and Polar Awards from the Collection of RC Witte

Exceptional Naval and Polar Awards from the Collection of RC Witte

Lieutenant Commander Richard C Witte, U.S. Naval Reserve (retired)

My interest in medals began at a young age when my Father gave me his U.S. Victory Medal from 1918 (no clasps). My Uncle Bill would show me his Victory Medal with four clasps for fighting in France -I have it now. My brother was in the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. I was fascinated by the British medals displayed by the actors in World War I movies about the R.F.C., R.N.A.S. and the R.A.F. A particular hero of mine was Basil Rathbone (1892-1967), who played the part of a pilot in the 1938 film Dawn Patrol sporting a M.C. ribbon, which he had every right to wear in real life as he received the decoration in June 1918 for gallantry in the trenches in France.

But the real catalyst came when I was in London on business in 1971. We stayed at the Cavendish Hotel in St James's and, while I was at a meeting, my dear wife Nancy discovered John Hayward's offices close by in Piccadilly Arcade. I quickly learnt that British medals were named and, surprise surprise, could be purchased! I bought a Military Cross group to a Royal Engineer and a D.S.O. group -and for the past 36 years I have been acquiring medals that have an interesting story to tell. I joined the O.M.R.S. and the O.M.S.A. and derived much pleasure in researching and writing not only my two books, Fringes of the Fleet and the Distinguished Service Cross, and Naval Double DSOs 7 97 4-7 920, but also a series of articles in the journals of the O.M.R.S. and the Life Saving Awards Research Society, beginning in 1978.

I joined the U.S. Naval ReseNe in 1948 and spent 39 months on active service in the destroyer USS Mullany as a gunnery officer between 1951 and 1954. The Mullany was regularly deployed to the Mediterranean, where we were engaged in joint American-British assignments at Trieste, Gibraltar, Taranto and Split. These assignments also encompassed periods spent in the Caribbean, and I well recall one occasion in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the officers of HMS Sheffield invited their counterparts on the Mullany to attend a party on the Sheffield's fantail. It was a thrill to be shown a piece of shrapnel from one of the Bismarck's shells displayed on the Sheffield officer's room mantelpiece.

After active service I received a degree from Indiana University School of Law in 1956. I joined Procter & Gamble as a patent lawyer that same year, retiring as a vice-president in 1992. I remain a practising lawyer in the Supreme Court of Ohio and in the Supreme Court of the United States.