A Soldier’s Footlocker

by Jill Holt, Curator of Textiles

As more and more veterans of World War II military service pass away, we are receiving donations of items pertaining to their service including uniforms, insignia, documents, and footlockers. I recently accessioned a footlocker and its contents that were found in a house in Duncan, Oklahoma. The donor, Craig Lowe, had purchased the house from the family of Gabriel W. Ostroot and the footlocker had been left behind. It was an incredible collection of memorabilia. Lt. Gabriel W. Ostroot served with the 63rd Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division during World War II. Inside his footlocker were multiple guide books for the South Seas islands, East Indies, Solomon Islands, and New Guinea as well as maps for those areas. Other items included officer’s pay receipts, Japanese currency, collar insignia, and a certificate from the United States Navy Domain of the Neptunus Rex, Ruler of the Raging Main acknowledging that Gabriel W. Ostroot had been initiated into the “Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep” in the South Sea Islands. This certificate was awarded when crossing the equator for the first time.

The ultimate find in this footlocker was the photograph album documenting Ostroot’s entire military service career. It begins with photos taken at basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and shows young men laughing and joking. From basic training, the photographs transition to military maneuvers held in Louisiana. The next series of photographs were taken in the South Pacific and include images of natives in New Guinea. The album concludes with photographs taken in Luzon, the Philippines. These images are the most graphic and show dead Japanese soldiers and destroyed tanks.

The stark reality of viewing these young recruits becoming battle weary soldiers was dramatic and very moving. I hope you will join me in giving thanks to these brave men who defended our country.

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