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Marine’s sword lands in museum
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
A World War I ceremonial sword, whose former owner is a footnote in Marine Corps history, turned up in a Fredericksburg store and is now being restored by the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico.
The sword is inscribed with the name of Col. Frank Goettge, who is known for leading the ill-fated “Lost Patrol” in August 1942 on Guadalcanal, an island in the Pacific where bitter fighting took place between Americans and Japanese in World War II.
Goettge was also known for his skills on the football field.
He was known as “The Great Goettge” throughout the region when he played on the football team at Quantico as a fullback, according to the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame.
He was recruited to play for the New York Giants, but he turned down the offer in order to remain in the Marine Corps. He was inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class of 2001.
The Goettge Memorial Field at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was named in his honor.
Goettge’s story became well-known in military circles, but Graham Coble, the owner of Corky’s on Caroline Street, didn’t immediately recognize the sword when it arrived in his store.
The family that brought it in often brings in items from their late father’s collection, which included various odds and ends, including many military items, Coble said.
“We bought it all, not knowing what the sword was,” he said.
He said it was one of the most unusual and interesting items anyone has brought into the store.
Coble cleaned the sword, which he said was in rough shape, and discovered an engraved name. He began piecing the letters of the name together.
He said he could tell it was an unusual name. So he started putting possible names into Google.
“It took a little while to get it right,” he said.
Goettge’s name and story popped up, which he immediately recognized.
“I remembered the story,” he said. “That was exciting to learn that it was one of the guys who never came back.”
Coble has a friend at the museum who happened to be in town when the sword turned up at the store.
He asked him to come in and look at it. Eventually, the museum purchased it.
The sword is being professionally restored, said Al Houde, the weapons curator for the museum, in an email.
He said restoration will include removal of corrosion, repair of the grip handles and stabilization to prevent further deterioration.
The sword is slated for display in the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame gallery as part of the final-phase gallery project set to open in 2016, he said.
According to the museum, Goettge led a patrol on Guadalcanal to find Japanese soldiers who, they were told, were sick and willing to surrender.
Goettge and his patrol landed in the pitch black in the wrong place, where they were warned not to go because there would be a heavy concentration of Japanese soldiers.
After they landed, the Japanese decimated the patrol, and the first shots killed Goettge. All but three members of the patrol lost their lives.
Goettge’s remains were never recovered.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413