SAN FRANCISCO -- Days after the end of World War II, a U.S. soldier entering the wreckage of Adolf Hitler's mountain stronghold found that fierce Allied bombing had left it largely in ruins.
Hitler was dead, and other soldiers had looted his belongings, even stripping the leather from furniture. Nearly everything of value was gone -- except for the Führer's globe.
"Literally, the place is all bombed out, and here this globe is sitting there on the desk," said Oakland resident John Barsamian, now 91.
Barsamian is putting the artifact up for auction, along with the military paperwork that allowed him to bring it back to the United States, including a certificate that reads "1 Global Map, German, Hitler's Eagle Nest."
Other globes presumed to have been owned by Hitler have been extensively researched for authenticity. But there is no uncertainty about the origin of Barsamian's wartime trophy.
"This is probably the most airtight documentation I've run across in some time," said Greg Martin, proprietor of the auction house that will handle the sale. "We have pictures of the guy there at the time, standing in the ruins holding the globe like a newborn baby. The guy is a meticulous record keeper."
Barsamian found the globe in May 1945 in the sprawling complex that also was the location of the Berghof, Hitler's home in the Bavarian Alps town of Berchtesgaden. He boxed it up with a few other keepsakes, including a pistol and a dagger, and shipped them home.
For more than 60 years, he kept the globe at his home in Oakland. It wasn't displayed prominently, and he only told its story when close friends would ask.
"Hardly anyone knew I had it," Barsamian said.
Today, the globe rests on a plain wooden pedestal and wouldn't seem out of place in a grade-school classroom. A weathered ribbon of transparent tape encircles the globe at its equator.
For Barsamian, it evokes memories of another era, when he was a 28-year-old chief warrant officer.
Running his finger across a World War II-era map of Europe, he described his division's advance into Nazi territory and recalls every battle.
"This is where we cleaned out the enemy," Barsamian said, tracing a line east from Normandy.
But the war also was a painful time. "I lost those years," he said. "Those years with my father and mother and brothers are gone."
After beating cancer and burying his wife, Viola, in 2004, Barsamian is ready to part with the globe. He's selling it while he's still alive so he can tell the story behind it and share his experience in the war, said his son, Barry.
The globe to expected to attract bids of $15,000 to $20,000 when it is auctioned Nov. 13 in San Francisco.