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It’s been a very interesting year at Miles Franklin.  Our sales exceeded last year and we launched our very successful storage program with Brinks in Montreal.  Oh yes, we hired Bill Holter and Bill is a diamond in the rough.  Paired with Ranting Andy Hoffman, I have two of the best writers in the business and that allows me to take it easy, from time to time.  Hey, I turned 70 this year and most people my age, if they have the means, have already retired.  I figure I’m still good at least until gold hits its peak around 2016-2017.

Before I get started, here is a recap of gold and silver for the past decade-long bull market by our Marketing Director, Andy Hoffman.  Viewed with this perspective, the metals have done just fine, much better in fact than 2001 and 2008.

THIS is what the PMs have done despite the most intensive SUPPRESSION in financial market history…

I don’t own PHYSICAL PMs to “make money”; but to PROTECT myself against inflation, which thus far I have done well.  Once the Cartel loses control, $2500 will just be for starters.  But then again, methinks you might not be as happy with the world you live in, no matter how high PMs go.

Today, I want to finish the year off with a few “non-market” comments from my favorite writer, Richard Russell and then I’ll add my own personal touch to his comments. It is my favorite piece of the year.  I hope you enjoy it.

On Wednesday, Russell wrote:

December 26, 2012

Reminisces: It was May 7, 1945. I was in Senigallia (an Air Force base near Ancona, Italy), during World War II. I was a bombardier flying with the 321st Bomb Group of the Twelfth Air Force. My job was to crouch over and operate the top secret Norden bombsight, located in the nose of a B-25 Mitchell bomber. On every mission, we would lose at least one plane. We were supposed to fly a total of 50 missions. It didn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out my odds on being shot down before my 50 missions were up. Actually, it was almost guaranteed that if I continued to fly, I would be shot down before my 50 missions were up.

That ominous math continued to haunt me. In fact, I toyed with the idea of telling my CO the very next day that I’d “had it.” I was through flying. The worst that could happen to me was that I might be court-martialed or I might be put in section 8 as a brain-shattered nut case. I thought and rethought about whether I should actually go ahead with my fantasy-plan. Daylight turned to dusk and dusk turned to scary, rat-filled night. I tossed in my blanket roll in a quandary and in a sweat.

Morning came. Should I carry out my mad plan? I woke up to the sound of cheering and shouting. It was May 8, 1945. I staggered out of my tent, and asked the nearest officer, “What the hell is going on?” He was waving a bottle of spumante and spraying it all over himself, “Didn’t you hear, the War is over! Germany has surrendered!” I couldn’t believe my ears. The thought went through my brain like a knife. “Saved by the bell.” I felt that God had given me a ticket to stay alive.

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In the past I have written about my passion for WWII (I was a history major in college and specialized in 20th Century Europe and WWII) and my rather recent interest in aviation art.  It was Robert Taylor’s amazing oil paintings of WWII that eventually led me to Aventura, Florida.  I purchased 22 paintings, mostly by Taylor with two Gil Cohens, four Nicholas Trudgeons and two John Shaws thrown in for good measure.  All but one came from the world’s foremost collector of aviation art, Gene Eisenberg, who lives in the penthouse of my building.  A year and a half ago, Gene told me that there was a unit available, three floors below his unit, and Susan and I flew down from Minneapolis to check it out.  I bought it on the spot.

Moving on, here in Aventura I know a collector of WWII “stuff,” – well, I call it stuff because he has over one million dollars worth of every possible thing a collector of WWII items could want – including two original Norden bombsights – like the one Russell operated over Italy and North Africa.  He doesn’t collect the oil paintings that I collect or the WWII firearms that I collect, but he has just about everything else imaginable.

Why I collect original WWII aviation oil paintings – and WWII firearms and rare artifacts:

Simply put, I want THINGS, not dollars.  The paintings and firearms I collect are things that appreciate along with gold and silver – but I can look at them and enjoy them – and also sidestep the horrors of hyperinflation.  They are wonderful things to pass on to my kids.  If they don’t want them, they can be easily sold and turned into cash.  But the gold and silver came first.  Only after first acquiring a strong portfolio in the metals, did I decide to add world-class collectibles – and ocean front real estate.

Recently, I acquired a very interesting addition to go along with my aviation art collection.  It is a presentation Luftwaffe sword awarded to Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert.  Russell is fortunate he never encountered Reinert (and they did fly in the same arena at the same time), because Reinert was one of the most successful aces in the Luftwaffe.  Here is the history on the Sword.  I also found a signed color photo of Reinert, with his signature to go along with it.

SMF production, with a 28 1/4″ straight single fuller blade. Aged fittings with brass “sunwheel” pattern swastikas on the guard and pommel, oak leaf engraving around the pommel and wire wrapped blue leather grip. With a blue leather covered sheath, engraved on the throat with a pair of palm trees over “Unscren/ Leutnant/ Ernst-Wilhelm/ Reinert/ Ein dreifaches/ “Hoch”/ z.150 Luftsieg/ uber Wustensand”, roughly a commemoration of 150 air victories over the “desert sands”, in this case the Sahara Desert. Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert was a Luftwaffe fighter ace, who scored 174 confirmed air kills, 103 of those on the Eastern Front, also seeing action in Africa, Italy and the Western Front, and would become a member of JG7, the world’s first operational jet fighter wing. Surviving the war, Reinert spent some time in business before joining the West German Bundeswehr, where he would serve until his retirement in the 1970s.

I own several Robert Taylor original oil paintings with Reinert’s signature on the back of the canvass, including Hunters in the Desert, (below) a painting that depicts Hans-Joachim Marseille’s jubilant low pass as he returns to his desert airstrip in Libya, having just achieved his 100th victory.  Reinert flew combat missions in a ME-109 with this group.

Reinert also flew the amazing ME262 JET in 1945.  His group, JG7 was comprised of the top surviving Luftwaffe aces and the ME262 had no peer at the end of the war.  They were the first jets to hit the sky and the forerunner of today’s aircraft.  They could attain speeds of 150 miles per hour more than the best American fighters of the time, the P-51 Mustang and the P-47s.

Below is another one of my Taylor oil paintings, Combat Over the Reich, featuring the very advanced ME-262 that Reinert flew.  His signature is on the back of the canvass, along with four other ME262 aces.

Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert first saw combat with 4./JG-77 on the Eastern Front, achieving his first victory on August 8, 1941. By the end of 1942 he had achieved over 100 air victories. He was posted to Tunisia in January 1943 where he became the most successful Luftwaffe Ace in North Africa during that period. After campaigning through Italy and a succession of commands, he was back flying Me109s. On January 2, 1945, he was given the leadership of IV./JG-27. In March he transferred to III./JG-7 flying the Me262. In his 715 missions Reinert scored 174 aerial victories. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves.

Whether German, British or American, these flyers were courageous warriors fighting for their country.  Air battles were a very personal experience – no computers, no rockets, just conventional armament and in such close quarters they could often see the face of the opponent in the dogfight.  I have read Gunther Rall’s autobiography and it is quite a story.  In fact, the cover of his autobiography is John Shaw’s painting of Warrior and the Wolfpack, which I won, and is pictured below.  Rall was the third leading ace of all-time, racking up 275 victories.  Like most of the surviving Luftwaffe pilots, he was shot down many times.  Rall suffered a broken back and many other assorted injuries but kept returning to combat.

In the painting, Gunther Rall is being jumped by Hub Zempke’s Wolfpack and Rall was shot down by Shorty Rankin who is on his tail.  Rall lost his left thumb in the encounter.  After the war, the two men became close friends.  This was not uncommon.

The German pilots flew until they were killed or could no longer fly.  Many of their aces flew up to 1000 missions and most were shot down a dozen times or more.  They were patched up and sent back to the front.  Less than 10% of the Luftwaffe pilots survived.  Of those that did, a couple became NATO generals (including Rall) and several befriended American airmen after the war.  There was, believe it or not, camaraderie between the combatants, something that did not happen on the ground.  The pilots had a high level of respect for their adversaries.  They were focused on destroying the planes, not killing the opposing pilots. (See N.Y. Post article for a moving story on this topic)

Another part of my Reinert “display” in my office is a very rare Luftwaffe Issue M30 Survival Drilling, complete with case and accessories.  These drillings had three barrels – two 12-gauge shotgun barrels on top and a large caliber 9.3 X 74R rifle barrel below. They were of the highest commercial quality, manufactured by the renowned German firm (still in business), J.P.Sauer. The M30 Drilling was standard issue to Luftwaffe bomber crews in North Africa and the Mediterranean Theater from 1941-43 that provided them with a high quality survival rifle in the event of a forced landing. Since nearly 100% of the planes were shot down, very few of these Survival Drillings survived the war.  Over the years, I have owned three of them.  I estimate that there are only a few dozen in existence, worldwide.  Below is my current M30, complete with manual, sling, cleaning tools and two original boxes of ammunition.  It is very rare to find one, let alone in mint condition and with all of the accessories.

Sunday, December 9th, the New York Post featured an article that goes a long way toward explaining my fascination with WWII aviation art.

My good friend, Jim Cook owns the John Shaw painting, featured in the article.  I own its companion piece, Shaw’s original pencil drawing, Return of the Pub, that went with the oil painting.

This drawing depicts the final leg of the “Pub’s” journey over the English Channel, after its encounter with Franz Stigler’s ME-109.