War trophy restrictions affect all Airmen, Soldiers

Roger Kolkena
2nd Air Postal Squadron

Throughout history, Soldiers have come home with souvenirs from battle.
Many of these war-related items end up on display in museums and showcases.

Although it’s tempting to bring back reminders of service in a military campaign, with few exceptions, taking or retaining individual souvenirs or trophies is prohibited. 

“It is against the law to take certain souvenirs from a war zone,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Ignash, 2nd Air Postal Squadron postal operations flight commander. “You can go to jail for mailing an illegal object.”

It is important for military personnel to understand there are strict guidelines regarding the transportation of war trophies.

Shipping weapons as personal property is an offense punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, he said. War trophies, defined as enemy weapons, ammunition, explosives or items of equipment, are not mailable. This includes live or spent rounds, pistols, machine guns, weapons magazines and anti-personnel mines. 

Most munitions and military articles of equipment may not be mailed; however, war trophies that obviously pose no safety risk, such as enemy uniform items and flags, may be mailed, said Lieutenant Ignash. 

“If you’re unsure whether an item can be legally imported, don’t try to mail it,” said Tech. Sgt. Craig Thomas, 2nd AIRPS command postal manager. “Ask your postmaster to clarify the rules, follow the regulations as written and there should be no problem.”

Almost all parcels move as cargo on commercial airliners, said Sergeant Thomas. 

Mailing war trophies can cause mail delays, bomb evacuations and confiscation of parcels, which occurs when mail containing a war trophy is X-rayed by foreign governments and airline carriers.

People should not mail items that are made from weapons parts or articles that resemble weapons as they may cause flight delays, mail stoppage, and bomb scares, said Steve Waller, 2nd AIRPS command official mail manager.

“If an X-ray could show that it may be dangerous to the passengers of a plane, it shouldn’t be mailed,” Mr. Waller said. “Foreign countries could stop military mail flow through their country altogether if they believe that military parcels threaten their aircraft.

“Mailing weapons, even non-functional replicas, is an unsafe and illegal practice,” he continued. “For example, shell casing or bullet belt buckles, hand grenade paperweights, pistols mounted on plaques and so on could cause an international incident, delay the mail and could even put the mailer in a foreign jail.”

Airmen with questions about what can be mailed should contact their post office, customs office or legal office.