Various types of items can be purchased on eBay, with some auctions bringing in thousands of dollars. When Marine veteran Chris Anderson logged onto the site in November 2017, he knew what he was looking for. What he didn’t expect to come across was the personal sword of a storied Marine general, which was being sold by a Maryland-based pawnshop.
Navy Cross recipient
To understand the importance of Anderson’s find, one must first learn about the military career of Lieutenant General Homer L. Litzenberg Jr. Liztenberg began his Marine Corps career as an enlisted Marine, and after graduating from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island in 1922 was deployed to Haiti, followed by a stint in Nicaragua. He later went on to serve in World War II, where he earned a Silver Star.
Following the outbreak of the Korean War, Litzenberg created and became commander of the 7th Marine Regiment at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. The regiment was deployed to Korea on September 1, 1950, where it participated in the battles of Inchon and Chosin Reservoir, the latter of which was a difficult defeat for the UN forces.
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir was a gruelling 17-day engagement between the UN forces (including the US) and the People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) of China. It was intended to the be the final battle of the war, but didn’t turn out as such.
The UN forces advanced along the eastern side of the Korean peninsula, toward the Yalu River, in the hopes of destroying the remaining units of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and reuniting the country under one government. On November 27, 1950, they were surprised by the PVA, and before they knew it, the 30,000 UN troops, under the command of Major General Oliver P. Smith, were surrounded by 120,000 Chinese soldiers.
The UN forces retreated to the port of Hungnam on December 13, having suffered heavy casualties.
Litzenberg’s leadership of the 7th Marine Regiment during the Battle of Chosin River resulted in him being awarded the Navy Cross. For his efforts during the war, he was also awarded two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Legion of Merit.
Where does the mameluke sword factor in?
Fast-forward to 2017. In Annapolis, Maryland, Chris Anderson and his fellow Marine veterans were excited to celebrate the service’s birthday on November 10. Anderson served in the Marine Corps from 1998 to 2002, and upon leaving had reached the rank of sergeant.
Realizing they didn’t have an officer’s mameluke sword to cut the cake, as was tradition, Anderson decided to look for one on eBay. While browsing through the listings, he found one with “Homer L. Litzenberg Jr.” inscribed on the blade. After conducting some research, he learned of Litzenberg’s actions during the Korean War, and immediately placed a winning bid of around $250.00.
Winning the 31.5-inch blade was a special moment for Anderson, who told the Capital Gazette in 2017, “That it belonged to a Navy Cross recipient, that’s huge, for me anyway, because of what it represents. This guy helped lead a regiment of Marines back home.”
Not wanting to risk the sword getting damaged during shipping, Anderson picked it up from the seller, a pawnshop in Aberdeen, Maryland. He was curious about its original owner, but due to privacy concerns, the manager was unable to disclose any information. He did, however, say it wasn’t unusual for the shop to receive military items, given its proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Working to authenticate the sword
Undeterred by the pawnshop owner’s response, Anderson continued to try and authenticate the sword. In December 2017, he wrote a letter to US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, describing the weapon and his hopes of possibly having it admitted to the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
“Maybe it’s just the Marine in me,” he said about his desire to give the sword a proper home. “This needs to be somewhere else. And if no one appreciates it, I appreciate it because of the story it told me about him and what he did.”
It’s currently unknown if Anderson was able to authenticate the sword – what we do know is there’s no better person who could have purchased it from the pawnshop.