Two dozen medals were donated by Freeman and Milan Bull to the Springfield Armory National Historic Site in Massachusetts. Decades ago, thieves took away the National Park Service site’s 19th-century marksmanship medals. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the brothers participated in target shooting events around the United States and won gold. They were a part of the forerunner to the current Massachusetts National Guard, the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. Freeman Bull’s daughter donated the medals to the armory in 1944. Joseph Bonavolonta, head of the FBI’s Boston office, confirmed that the stolen medals were recovered late last year and had passed through several collectors before returning to the armory.
Built in 1777 to supply the Continental Army, the Springfield Armory is now a national historic site. It continued making weapons until the late 1960s and now it’s a national historic landmark operated by the National Park Service, showcasing the world’s largest historic collection of US military small arms.
Kirsten Talken-Spaulding, the National Park Service’s deputy regional director, hailed the return of these marksmanship medals, noting that they help to fill the gaps in our knowledge of the past. “The return of these marksmanship medals helps fill in a little bit of that mosaic of that picture of who we are,” she said at a news conference in Springfield on Wednesday.
Bonavolonta stressed that the FBI’s thorough investigation targeting the missing medals could have made all the difference in returning them unscathed and in the same original condition. “The medals are significant pieces of military history and our nation’s heritage,” Bonavolonta said, adding that the collection’s intactness is remarkable given that some of the medals are made of gold and were easily able to be scrapped or pawned. Alexander Mackenzie said he was stunned at how quickly the excellent condition of the collection was evident.