Reviewing the situation of Doug Champlin in his attempt to assume ownership of a US military Navy TBD-1 Devastator World War II airplane, it is enlightening to better understand the tight lock that the government has on military property. Although Champlin spent $130,000 to recover the aircraft for his airplane museum in Arizona, the Navy asserts ownership and wants to place the plane at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola, Naval Air Station. Frustrating to Champlin is the fact that although he is willing to release the plane to the government, the Navy is resisting to pay him the recovery costs.
What would have been better for Champlin would have been having knowledge of the special legal considerations involved in purchasing or assuming abandoned military equipment. Special contracts that include government approval of new owners taking over the property rights of their previous possessions are vital for any consumer. Although Champlin may have felt as if he had rights to the found object, it is important to consider that military equipment is not the same as most property found at yard sales, warehouses, stores, or just stuff picked up along the way.
In attempting to secure the rights of previous military equipment, it is essential to have approval from Congress or another legal government authority, sealing and validating the contract in the transfer of ownership from the Navy or other military division to the new individual or company owner. There can be serious emotional and financial distress that arises from assuming government property without the approval of the military.
Even if a person is unsure who the true owner of military equipment may be, it is always good to double check with government officials. Although a person may have and attempt to sell an old military artifact, there is often no guarantee that the property is truly out of the hands of the military. Knowing the layout and constructs of a valid government contract which transfers rights and ownership is very important, and verifying the authenticity of these contracts is even better.
References Finders Weepers, Losers Keepers. (2000). The News Journal.