SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Springfield Armory National Historic Site has recovered 24 Marksmanship Medals from the 19th century. The return of the artifacts has done little to explain why they were stolen from a local community college campus decades ago.
Milan and Freeman Bull, two brothers that worked at the armory for more than 50 years, were awarded medals from marksmanship competitions across the world in the late 1800s. Milan and Freeman were part of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. In 1944, the medals were donated by Freeman’s daughter to the Springfield Armory, which is now located on the campus of Springfield Technical Community College.
Several decades ago, the medals were unlawfully taken and have been missing ever since. Then in October 2021, a private collector from Tennessee called the Springfield Armory about medals that he had recently acquired. It was discovered that those medals matched the description of the stolen medals.
The FBI assisted in recovering the medals and learned that the collector had purchased them from an individual from Massachusetts about six months earlier for about $4,500. That person had bought the medals at a gun show from a senior citizen who lived in Pennsylvania and that senior citizen purchased them from a collector in New Haven, Connecticut. The FBI says that’s as far as the investigation goes so far.
The FBI seized the medals in February 2022 from the collector and in July 2022, a civil forfeiture action was filed to return them to the right owner, the Springfield Armory. The FBI does not believe anyone that recently bought these medals knew at the time that they were stolen. A .31 caliber Colt revolver donated by a Springfield resident in 1939 that was also missing was recovered as well.
The Springfield Armory was the nation’s first federal armory and one of the first manufacturers of firearms. Since 1966, it has been redeveloped into a museum that displays the history of our country’s technological innovations in firearms. It was designated as a national historic landmark in 1974 by Congress.