Man who bought Vietnam War helmet at charity auction to return it to American soldier's family

  • ITV Channel reporter Roisin Gauson follows the remarkable story of how a Vietnam War helmet ended up in a Guernsey charity shop

An amateur historian from Guernsey who bought a Vietnam War helmet has tracked down the American soldier who wore it and is planning to return it to his family.

Military enthusiast Hugo Booth acquired the M1 helmet from an auction on the island after it was found in a charity shop.

He noticed that the name 'Rupp' was written on the Kevlar insert, as well as the peace sign and the words 'Vote Nixon'.

Hugo linked the helmet to Private First Class Jeffrey Rupp of the 101st Airbourne Division in the US Army.

A 1969 telegram explained that Jeffrey was injured by shrapnel from a booby trap near the Cambodian border.

Hugo understands that the 20-year-old soldier died of his wounds on a hospital ship on 17 January 1969.

Jeffrey Rupp was born on 9 July 1948, growing up in Bay Village, Ohio. Credit: David Rupp

Hugo and his father Tony Booth eventually found David Rupp, Jeffery's nephew, through an online appeal and are planning to visit America to deliver the helmet personally to Wisconsin.

David says: "I'm not sure how my mum, my aunt and my uncles are going to handle that ... they didn't get to see the body so this is going to be the closest thing, it probably will be very emotional.

"The odds of this happening are absolutely incredible and I'm just glad it happened to us."

Tony adds: "It seems to have captured the hearts of the American people.

"Lots of Vietnam veterans have put comments on, praising Hugo for what he's trying to do and I'll support him all I can for that.

"Private Rupp's sister couldn't believe it and she very much wants the helmet back in her possession as a memento of her brother, what he achieved and what he suffered."

Hugo is fundraising for travel costs to America, with any extra money going to the Purple Heart Foundation and Vietnam Veterans of America. Credit: Hugo Booth

Hugo is still researching how Jeffrey's helmet made it thousands of miles to Guernsey.

He explains: "You start to get to know the person who owned the helmet and it becomes a lot more personal.

"It's nice to give back a piece of him as a way to be remembered by his family."

Jeffrey Jupp celebrating his birthday with family. Credit: David Rupp

Part of the helmet's journey saw it being used as a film prop and involved Hollywood star Oliver Reed.

It is understood that he gave the piece of military history to a friend in Guernsey before it made its way to the charity shop.

Oliver Reed, known for playing Bill Sykes in the 1968 film 'Oliver!', previously owned the helmet. Credit: PA

Tony and Hugo aim to travel over to America with the helmet this summer.

Tony adds: "This belongs to the family and to give that back to them will just be phenomenal, it's almost like repatriating it.

"It's closing a chapter for us and hopefully for them, it will be something they can keep forever."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our podcast to find out What You Need To Know...