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Press Release

United States Files Forfeiture Action for Historic Marksmanship Medals Taken From Springfield Armory

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts

BOSTON – The United States Attorney’s Office filed a civil forfeiture action against 24 marksmanship medals from the 1880s and 1890s believed to have been unlawfully removed from the Springfield Armory, a National Historic site, several decades ago. 

Marksmanship medals

The Springfield Armory, located in Springfield, Mass., is a National Historic site managed by the National Park Service. All of the artifacts in the Springfield Armory’s collection are property of the United States Government. 

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 a curator 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. 

“Massachusetts is the birthplace of the American Revolution, a war that gained our nation’s independence. Protecting and preserving artifacts of our Commonwealth’s history is of fundamental importance to this,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “My office is committed to combating the theft and sale of stolen historical property. The recovery of these important artifacts is the result of the excellent collaborative work between my office’s Asset Recovery Unit, the FBI, and the National Park Service.”

“These stolen medals that once belonged to world class marksmen and have been missing for almost 30 years are now one step closer to being returned to their rightful owner,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Their absence represented not just a physical and financial loss, but a loss to every visitor who missed out on viewing these significant artifacts of military history. The FBI is very proud to have recovered them.” 

Photograph of Milan Bull wearing stolen medals

The Springfield Armory was established in 1777 as a federal arsenal to supply the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. After the Revolutionary War, the Springfield Armory remained under control of the United States Army until 1974 when Congress designated it as a national historic landmark and transferred control to the National Park Service. The Springfield Armory began operating a museum on the premises in 1866, and from that time, it collected artifacts. 

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. 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.

U.S. Attorney Rollins and FBI SAC Bonavolonta made the announcement today. The civil forfeiture action is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol E. Head, Chief of Rollins’ Asset Recovery Unit. 

The details contained in the civil forfeiture complaint are allegations. 

Updated July 8, 2022

Asset Forfeiture