Chip Cifone: ESPN Technology Director’s WW2 Collection
For 15 years, Chip Cifone has worked for ESPN, where he is senior director of client technology services and support. ESPN brings viewers modern gladiatorial contests fought on gridirons, basketball courts and other sporting venues, but Chip Cifone also has a lifelong interest in the contests of history that pitted real armies of one side against those of another. When he was in his early teens, a family friend gave him a World War II German helmet. He began collecting memorabilia of the Second World War and today has a respectable collection in his "man cave."
His love of history has been passed on to his 12-year-old daughter, Julia, who talks with ACG in her own interview.
ArmchairGeneral.com: First of all, tell us a bit about your work at ESPN. What does the senior director of client tech services and support do there?
Chip Cifone: My team and I are responsible for working with our users and technical teams to provide and support end-computing devices that meet the diverse needs of our employees as well as the IT technical needs of our broadcast facilities.
ACG: Obviously, you have an interest in technology. Does that include the technology of warfare?
Chip Cifone: Yes, one of the things that interests me the most is how the tools of warfare as well as the doctrine matured leading up to and during the fighting of World War II—specifically, airborne warfare and battle implements designed to support vertical insertion.
ACG: Were you ever in the military?
Chip Cifone: No, but I wish I had served. I wasn’t good at following direction at that point in my life and my father suggested that it wouldn’t be a wise choice for me. My grandfather was in World War II (tanker) and my father served in the Marine Corps.
ACG: You started collecting World War II memorabilia when someone gave you a German helmet. What was it about holding and owning a piece of history that led you to begin what’s now a 30-year collection?
Chip Cifone: I was always fascinated by World War II, as early as I can recall. From growing up watching all the great movies that were out to spending hours in my grade school library pouring over pictures and books on the topic. After all the years of pictures, books and movies, receiving the helmet was the first tangible experience I had with this historical event. Once I became aware that it was possible to hold history in your hand, I was hooked.
ACG: Do you specialize in a certain nation or certain types of memorabilia?
Chip Cifone: Yes, I collect mostly Airborne from both the Allied and Axis armies. However, the majority of my collection is a focus on US Airborne, Army and Marine Corps.
ACG: What are some of your favorite items in your collection?
Chip Cifone: I have several items that I would consider favorites, ranging from a one-of-a-kind after-action document, to a reinforced jump jacket worn by a 502d officer during the battle of Normandy, to an unissued Para Marine 1st pattern jump smock.
Chip Cifone: I haven’t purchased many new items in the past few years but generally it’s through networking with other collectors and the occasional gun/military shows.
ACG: We understand you have a daughter who’s come to share your interest in history. What does she think of your collection?
Chip Cifone: She thinks it’s Cool—her exact words.
ACG: Do you think she might become a collector of historic memorabilia herself?
Chip Cifone: I think she will. She already is a bit of a pack rat so once she gets a bit older and fully understands the historical significance I believe she will be hooked as well.
ACG: Thanks for talking with us. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Chip Cifone: Just that I think it is important that we do not forget this important part of our history and the brave men who fought and many who died for this great country. These great men are leaving us at a growing pace and it is only through us and our children that their story will live on. I know it’s a bit of a cliché but I am a firm believer that if we don’t learn from our past we are destined to make the same mistakes.
Click here to read what 12-year-old Julia Cifone has to say about her interest in history and some of her favorite console games.