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BOSTON – Earlier today, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, the Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Park Service held a ceremony to mark the return of the late-19th century marksmanship medals that went missing from the Springfield Armory, a national historic site located in Springfield, Mass., in the 1990s.
“The medals you see before you are a part of Massachusetts history that should be preserved for the benefit of the public. Today, we return the 24 marksmanship medals that were unlawfully removed from the Springfield Armory many years ago,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “This recovery would not have been possible without the efforts between the FBI, the National Park Service, and my office’s Asset Recovery Unit – whose collaboration is an example of our commitment toward the protection and preservation of our Commonwealth’s history. We are proud to say that these artifacts have returned to their rightful home.”
“As we return these treasured medals, we do so with the purpose of preserving history. Their absence represented not just a physical and financial loss, but a loss to every visitor who missed out on viewing these significant pieces of military history, and our nation’s heritage. The FBI is honored to be able to return them to their rightful owner,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Combating the theft and sale of stolen historical property is a top priority of the FBI’s art crime team, and we’re grateful for the partnerships in this case that allowed us to recover, protect, and preserve these historic artifacts.”
“Thanks to the efforts of federal law enforcement officers the National Park Service is happy to have these medals returned to their rightful owners, the American people,” said Kirsten Talken-Spaulding, Deputy Regional Director of the National Park Service. “These medals are returned to Springfield Armory, where federal employees have the expertise to preserve them for future generations to appreciate.”
The medals were awarded to Milan Bull and Freeman Bull, members of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia in the late 1800s. The daughter and niece of Freeman Bull and Milan Bull donated the medals to the Springfield Armory in 1944.
In October 2021, a collector contacted Curator Alex MacKenzie at the Springfield Armory inquiring about the marksmanship medals. Based on the information provided by the collector, the Springfield Armory was able to determine that numerous items matching the collector’s items were missing from the Armory’s collection since the 1990s.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation subsequently seized the medals. It is a violation of federal law to embezzle, steal, purloin, or knowingly convert, or, without authority, to sell, convey or dispose of government property.
In July 2022, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts filed a civil forfeiture action against the medals. A civil forfeiture action allows third parties to assert claims to property, which must be resolved before the property can be forfeited to the United States and returned to victims. After the conclusion of the forfeiture case, the Department of Justice granted the National Park Service’s petition for remission to return the medals.
U.S. Attorney Rollins, FBI SAC Bonavolonta and NPS Deputy Regional Director Talken-Spauling made the announcement today. The civil forfeiture action was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol E. Head, Chief of Rollins’ Asset Recovery Unit.
ABOUT THE PARK: Springfield Armory National Historic Site is the location of the nation’s first armory (1794 – 1968) and was established by George Washington. The site includes historic grounds, buildings, and the world’s largest historic American military firearms collection. For updates and further information call (413) 734-8551, check the website at www.nps.gov/spar or go to www.facebook.com/sparnhs.