Walnut Cove to War

Sharing an article written by one of the museums friends.

 

From Walnut Cove to War
By Mike Cinnamon

Photo of Edwin Murphy Hill as a new Army Recruit taken in 1943.

On 25 April and 8 May 2020, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of two historic events from WWII: the famous American-Soviet linkup between elements of the 69th Infantry Division and Soviet troops at the Elbe River in Germany and VE Day. Below is a story about one such soldier who contributed to the lead up to both historical events.

During World War II, 361,000 North Carolinians served in the armed forces that included 258,000 in the army. One such Tarheel was my maternal grandfather Edwin Murphy Hill from Walnut Cove NC. He served in the 271st Infantry Regiment, Company G, of the Fighting 69th Infantry Division earning a Combat Infantry Badge, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with two bronze service stars), the World War II Victory Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, and a Purple Heart.

I recently completed the yearlong project to transcribe nearly 300 letters my grandfather wrote between 19 April 1944 and 12 November 1945 to his girlfriend and eventual wife (my grandmother), Ms. Joy Jean Flynn of Walkertown NC. Through this intimate process, I learned how much the letters from home were an essential part of my grandfather’s existence and how the daily mail call routine would impact his psyche while marching his way through Camp Shelby for infantry training, Camp Kilmer where the 69th prepped for deployment overseas, through the hellish days fighting in the European Theater of Operations (ETO), recovery from hepatitis sickness in a British hospital, and his final convalescence period at the US Army’s Battey General Hospital located in Rome Georgia prior to his formal discharge on 17 November 1945 at Ft. Bragg NC.

Mail call at Camp Shelby was described as the following:

“But the best was mail call. Somebody would yell, “Mail” and at once be surrounded by a widening circle of expectant faces. Maybe you got a letter and maybe not. If you didn’t get one you would wait until the last letter was called and then look on the ground to see if possibly one had been dropped. You wanted mail—any kind of mail, anything from home. It could be a letter from the girl or your mother or the kid sister, or even a bill from some hometown store. Anything from home! And when you got it you went off into a little world of your own while you read it—a world far removed from this new harsh army world. Maybe you sat on your bunk to read it or you went off to an empty drill field and sat under a tree. First you opened it, and if you were like most soldiers, you had a special way of opening a letter. You didn’t rip it open; you went about it slowly, savoring every happy moment of it. You looked the outside over, slowly reading the postmark, the return address, noticing the color of the ink and the exact style of handwriting, and wondering just what was inside. And then, when you could wait no longer, you tore open the envelope and plunged into the words from home.”

When referring to the importance of mail delivery during WWII, Frank C. Walker, the then Postmaster General of the United States remarked “It is almost impossible to over-stress the importance of this mail. It is so essential to morale that army and navy officers of the highest rank list mail almost on a level with munitions and food.” Letters from home provided my grandfather a mental sustenance to cope with his wartime experience. He himself cited “morale” 54 times in his letters as either high or low depending on the results of the mail call—reinforcing the prescient statement of the Postmaster General. His need for mail from his “angel”, “sweetheart”, “honey”, “darling”, “Coves girl” and “pin up girl” along with the “home folks” in “dear old Carolina” was a central discussion of every letter he wrote and when he did not receive mail it was devastating. He used the term “blue” over 60 times when describing his emotional state when no letters arrived during mail call. Below are two excerpts from letters written in December 1944:

“Somewhere in England Sunday Nite Dec 3”
“Was a very blue day today cause we had a mail call and I didn’t get a line from a soul. Gosh it almost makes me sick cause when we heard that we would have a mail call my poor heart was really happy for I figured at least I’d hear one letter from you but when I didn’t hear my feelings were certainly blue. Honey I know you are writing but see our mail has to be handled and censored so much till it takes a long time for our letters to reach each other. Jean honey I’ve written you every day since I’ve been in England and just long as we aren’t in combat I’ll write every day unless something else comes in the way. There is nothing I’d rather do than sit down and talk to you by means of these letters and I feel so close to you while writing, it makes me feel good. That’s all right darling I’ll be looking forward to our next mail call with even more hopes. As long as you and I write every time we possibly can, everything will be all right with the mail.”
“England Dec 6th Wednesday Nite”

“Darling I only wrote two or three times on the boat coming over cause I was pretty sick, but I have written every day since I’ve been in England. Will do my very best to write everyday while I am away from you. Ok? If you love getting my mail as I do your precious letters, well I know how much they really mean to you. With my honey, when I get your letters, I am just thrilled to death. And then when we have mail calls and I don’t get one as the case was today, I am so darn blue, I could just cry if that would help me feel better. Am always looking forward to just get your mail for there is 99 9/10 of all my morale.”
When assessing the entire correspondence collection, I realized what made these letters so special was not gory details of battle or combat atmospherics but instead a remarkable narrative of a young man in love and who loved his family and friends dearly. His letters are a window into the soul of a youthful American boy who was certainly scared about his future but never admitted it. He was truly fixated on orchestrating his relationships with Jean, his parents, his siblings, and friends through each letter with a surprisingly upbeat, positive disposition. One way I could gauge his contentment was when he cited the word “jake” (used 2o times in his correspondence). This was a popular slang term that meant fine, good, well, or satisfactory. Typically, he would state “everything is jake” or “everything seems to be jake”. This optimism is what made my grandfather—like so many of his 69th brethren—part of the greatest generation who did much to faithfully fulfill his duty to country. He certainly endured hardship, saw dead and maimed bodies, and walked through scenes of horrific destruction but somehow his letters remained constant in expressing his love for Jean and “dreaming” of a future with her.

Ed and Jean at Chapel Hill NC in September 1944 enjoying his last furlough at home.

Many letters he wrote while he completed infantry training at Camp Shelby referred to the pressing military training as “problems” or “maneuvers” that were made more difficult by the “chiggers”, “mosquitos”, and the “terrific heat”. Despite the challenges, he still found time to play golf in Columbia or Hattiesburg and would also attend a dance or go to the movie theater for some well needed leisure time. He arrived at Camp Shelby in September 1943 with the rank of Corporal and by late August 1944 he was elevated from Assistant Squad Leader to Squad Leader. In late October 1944 Ed became a Sergeant just prior to his departure on the train ride to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey.

Ed playing golf while on a pass from Camp Shelby. Ed in full gear with fixed bayonet at Camp Shelby.

While he was courting my grandmother through these letters he also tried to keep up with his oldest brother, Byron, who served in the China Burma India Theater as a B-25 pilot eventually completing 59 missions and earning an Air Medal with one oak leaf cluster before returning to the U.S. in March 1945. While my grandfather wrote to Byron directly, he cited Byron 125 times in his letters often exchanging questions with my grandmother about his status. He also tried to keep up with his two younger brothers, Robert “Bobby”, who was stateside completing training to be a Navy pilot, and Charles “Chig” who was too young to enlist and remained home. His youngest sibling was his sister Sara Lou who he adored. While he certainly loved each of them Byron was always on his mind and since they were both serving overseas in different theaters and facing combat the concern of losing his older brother certainly weighed on his mind. My grandfather provided a unique and loving expression of his brother in a letter he wrote to Jean on October 2, 1944:

“Guess you always knew that he was the nearest brother to me by some humane blood or instinct. He just seems so close to me. Yes I love all the others just as much but its he (Byron) that I am always thinking? “Sure hope he is ok? And I can definitely say he has been wonderful to me since we grew up. I try to write him at least once a week!”

Ed and Byron (Pilot’s Crush Cap) and his wife Jane. Ed and Byron together at home. taken in September 1943.

Obviously, soldiers are trained to kill but they often avoid talking or writing about wanting to kill another man and my grandfather was no different. He only used the word “kill” in a few letters. My grandfather like almost all the soldiers of the day were more fixated on the opposite sex even when trying to survive in combat conditions. In a March 12, 1945 letter, he provided an entertaining description of the local girl situation and the threat of U.S. soldiers being killed.
“Since have been in Germany have been in and near the combat action all the time, so you know we haven’t had a chance to look around. Have seen lots of very pretty German girls but it’s a “very strict” violation of the articles of war to even speak to a German girl much less to try and date one of them. Oh yes I did learn to speak a little French language and have picked up some of this German talk. As for the Belgians, they either speak French or German, they don’t have a native language. Lots of the boys are “souvenir” hunters but I don’t care to fool around with the captured eqpt. Because the Jerries love to “booby trap” the stuff they leave behind, and old Edd knows to keep hands off. Lots of the boys have been killed by fooling with their souvenirs.”

The only other mention of killing was where he discussed it as a reluctant action that he had to undertake to get back home. In a letter sent to Jean on January 15, 1945 from England—likely knowing he was a few days from entering France and one step closer to combat—he stated the following:

“Sure am hoping that old Byron gets home real soon cause I always worry about him and it would certainly be some good relief to learn he had been sent home and then should I go into combat I’d have a clear field to do nothing but think of my darling Jean (no. 1) and kill Germans, have always hated to think I would have to kill a man but once I am in the big show, its then “kill or be killed”. And sweetheart this old boy is going to do the killing. Cause I know a wonderful little lady who I trust and pray will be waiting for his return home.”

Corresponding during wartime also presented challenges to maintain a steady supply of stationery and rations while also monitoring your payments home. At times my grandfather had poor quality stationary or was without paper to write a letter. In a letter written on 25 Feb 1945 while fighting in Germany he suggested the following to avoid the shortage of stationary:

“Guess you either want to throw me out or jump at this new idea of mine. There is one thing certain, I can’t write on stationary unless I have stationary to write on. So I decided to start writing on the back of your letter then we will always have our letters after I get back. Sure hope you will like the idea cause by the time I hear an answer from you I’ll have written lots on your stationary-Ok?”

In a letter dated 7 June 1944 Ed provided a very detailed description of his salary and the allotments while completing his infantry training at Camp Shelby:
“Now honey in answer to a few questions that you ask me in some of your letters. One of the first things that I can think to answer is about the allotment money that goes home to mother! Now I have been a corporal for a long time my base pay is $66.00 per month. Now the army takes $22.00 out of my $66.00 leaving me $44.00 with that $22.00 they take from me they add $15.00 govt. money and mail mother a check for $37.00. When she receives the $37.00 she takes $15.00 for herself (that’s what the govt. gives her) and puts the other $22.00 in the bank in my name so now maby you can see that she doesn’t take a penny of my hard earned money.”

In a letter dated 27 Jan 1945, Ed provided a useful description of the allotments process and an interesting list of his rations while still in France:
“Gosh we have been having a heck of a time trying to learn to count all these new moneys. First the English with their pounds, shillings, and pence. Now the French with their Francs and we are expecting to have to learn the other types sometime in the future. But now don’t get me wrong about this money situation cause we don’t hardly draw any when our pay days do come. See all the boys have these allotments made out to their parents and wives, or rather have all their dough sent to their homes and then over here we stay broke all the time. But we don’t need money cause there is no place to spend it. All we need is enough to buy our weekly rations of from 5 to 7 packs of cigarettes, 4 bars of candy, 1 cake of soap and a few other articles we get once a month, such as a little stationary, ink, lighter fluid, and essential articles. We get enough of everything to make out with. The only essential we need from home is letters and a package occasionally.”
By 13 August 1945, Ed and Jean were married and he remained a Staff Sergeant. He provided Jean an update on his salary and allotment allocation:
“So when all this pay roll gets straight it will look like this—1 check to Jean F. Hill Walkertown for $50.00. 1 check to Louise M. Hill W. Cove for $37.00 and I’ll draw around $72.50 per mo.”

Despite the daily challenge of carrying on like a good soldier even when no mail came or he had no stationary to write, my grandfather still maintained his sense of humor and surprisingly never offered many details about his daily military situation once he entered the ETO in November 1944—honoring the US Army’s censorship restrictions. The 69th entered Le Havre France by 23 January 1945 and gradually moved through the country before a quick transit through Belgium before my grandfather entered Germany on or before 13 February 1945 for the push towards Berlin. In early March, my grandfather suffered a shrapnel wound to one of his legs in fighting “at the Siegfried line” earning him a Purple Heart that he sent home and by the end of the month he earned the rank of Staff Sergeant.
In the first few weeks of April 1945 my grandfather continued his soldier duties while also enduring an unknown illness to him until he officially went on sick call by late 17 or 18 April. His last letter from Germany was dated 16 April. His next letter was dated 3 May from a hospital in England after being flown from Germany to Paris and then onward to London. There he was officially diagnosed with hepatitis. He would spend the remainder of his time in Manchester England until mid-June when he returned to Staten Island on board the SS Santa Rosa. He spent several days at the Halloran General Hospital in New Jersey before being sent on a train to the US Army’s Battey General Hospital located in Rome Georgia. He enjoyed a lengthy furlough in July that included his marriage to Jean on 14 July 1945 followed by a brief honeymoon. He would return to Battey General Hospital where he remained until being sent to Fort Oglethorpe Georgia in early November 1945 which served as a redistribution center that processed GI’s to new assignments and to assist in discharging other servicemen. He departed Fort Oglethorpe on 13 November and arrived at Fort Bragg NC on 14 November where he was officially discharged on 17 November 1945.

Ed appeared in the July 1 1945 Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel newspaper. He was likely wearing a maroon bath robe over maroon pajamas which was “regulation issue of the Medical Corps for convalescents” based on The New Yorker article “The Boys in Maroon” by Philip Hamburger September 25, 1943.
From start to finish my grandfather had one primary goal to survive and return home to marry his sweetheart Jean. Like most of his generation he enlisted as a patriotic American who valued his freedom. He was selfless and motivated to be a good soldier–not obsessed about rank promotions—ready to sacrifice his life at all costs to protect the “home folks”. The below description from a November 29, 1944 letter sent to Jean from England is probably the best example where he expressed himself on this topic:

“Darling after reading those very very sweet letters I can’t help but think how fortunate we are even though we are so far apart. What makes me feel so good is just that I know that all my home folks are getting along fine and that the war is being fought over here, not over there. Yes the people of England have really had to take it on the chin where as all our families in America are free from all scare and don’t have to worry about bombs from the air or anything if that (matters?). That’s why I am willing to fight to know that it’s for a very clear cause and for you and my family I’d be glad to take what ever I have to in this war”

Ed and Jean married on 14 July 1945 and remained so for over 50 years.

This April 25 and May 8 are dates we as Americans will once again be reminded of the many sacrifices the greatest generation undertook to ensure our freedom. My grandfather played a heroic role like so many in helping guarantee an American victory in WWII. Fortunately, his story had a fairytale ending and now serves as an inspiration to our family’s history and to our nation’s ongoing patriotic narrative. As a grandson who always enjoyed time with his grandfather and loved him dearly, I have been extremely blessed by undertaking this project. I am so thankful that my grandparents guarded these letters in an old suitcase!

Map depicting where the 69th Infantry Division and Russian troops met at Torgau on the Elbe River Germany. This was saved in the scrapbook kept by my grandfather’s mother during the war. (Writing reads as “This was Edwin’s 69th Division where he was in service.”)

Author’s Note: For anyone interested in researching a relative who served in the 69th Infantry Division consider visiting the website http://www.69th-infantry-division.com/ that contains excellent content to include photos, articles, and archived Fighting 69th Infantry Division Association Bulletins from 1952-2013. Each edition contains testimonials of many of the soldiers. Another useful source is Guido Rossi’s StoryMap titled “A World War II Infantry Recruit’s Journey through Camp Shelby” link: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=10919ce3b4724cb68b9ec1c1312dd57c

 

1 Source: NC Museum of History website

2 Source: The Fighting 69th Infantry Division Association Bulletin, Inc. Vol. 49 No. 3 May-Aug-1996; page 31

3 Source: Wartime Postmaster Details the Work of Mail Delivery in WWII posted on 2 April 2012 by Kurt Greenbaum

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WWII Veteran Beats the Coronavirus

In his 100 years, Lloyd Falk has seen and accomplished a lot.  To that list we can add beating the Coronavirus.

 

 

 

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Angels Above Angels Below. Now with Thunderbirds too!!!

 

About a week ago, the U.S. Navy Thunderbirds and the U.S. Air Force Blue Angels flew over the Washington DC area in a salute to all Americans on the frontline of our war against the COVID-19 virus. My wife and I traveled to a high point of ground, selected a spot that was more than 6 feet from anybody else and settled in for the flyover. It was a great sunny April day here in DC.

 

We noticed people of all ages trickling onto this patch of ground. Soon three Fairfax County Police Officers were joining everybody too. We could hear the chatter amongst the spectators; all were just concentrating on showing their support to the T-Birds and Blues as a way of supporting all Americans fighting for our health and our nation.

 

I heard one father talking to his son and daughter about airplanes and how what they would soon see would be thrilling and to remember it forever. Heads were on a swivel trying to be the first to spot the T-Birds and the Blue Angels. Although the flyover was last minute and without much word on the news, more and more people set up cameras to capture the moment. I spotted numerous hats on men and women highlighting their branch of service, or which war they were a Veteran of. Soon, over 100 people were scattered in the grass.

 

Suddenly, on the horizon I spotted several flyspecks. Just as I thrust my arm out to point out the fighter aircraft, the Blue Angels popped smoke and a white trail streamed behind them. They got closer and closer, flying low and slow. Both the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds were nose on, but you could count 13 aircraft. A distinctive roar came from the northeast sky; the unmistakable whine of a military jet engine. And the crowd started clapping—none of them spoke of why, but deep in our hearts, we knew why.

 

Veterans saluted. Ball caps were doffed and placed over the heart. As expected, the formation turned hard left just before reaching us. We had a great side-on view of the Blue Angels in a wedge formation, with the Thunderbirds echeloned high and right. Above them all, flew Angel 7—a single F-16 in a solitary salute and photographing the event for America. The entire formation slowly flew to the southwest. Heads followed their entire flight as they disappeared over the horizon.

 

In that moment, Americans came together once again. As we have before, as we will again. By turning out to see the flyover, we all wanted to show support for those on the frontline of the COVID-19 fight. As we chatted about in our last blog post, this is a long slog with respect to COVID-19. A different kind of war. We are all tired of being under lockdown. And the restrictions on our local businesses. But we are all in this together and must continue to social distance, wash our hands, and take other precautions as recommended by local, state, federal, and international leaders. But just as our predecessors made sacrifices, so must we.

 

The Americans in Wartime Museum continues to plan for our Open House at the end of August. We also are working with the Voices of Freedom to record and preserve the stories of Americans in War. All Americans. Facing all threats. Anywhere on the Globe. We are being safe in our tank restoration and museum planning—we ask that you do the same because we want to see you all at the next Open House and when the Museum opens!

 

Michael

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Tough Times

American is at War                                      

 

The Americans in Wartime Museum will chronicle all aspects of how our people respond during a time of war. And right now, America is at war. With an unseen, microscopic enemy called COVID-19.

 

Our heroes not only wear OCP camouflage, but sometimes they wear green scrubs. Right now, the doctors, nurses, and clinicians are on the front line of our war on COVID-19. They risk their lives daily, exposing themselves to a virus that we know little about. But they kiss their family goodbye in the morning and commute to work, knowing they are putting themselves in danger. That is bravery and courage.

 

But that is what Americans do for each other. And what we all must do for each other. Americans put aside their differences, and do what is right—what is needed to be done. I am amazed as each day shows how the spirit of America will conquer this latest threat. From high school students turning out new forms of medical personal protective equipment on the 3-D printer, to children holding rallies to collect money for those temporarily out of a job. To my neighbors waving and cheering on the sanitation people as they keep our neighborhood clean and safe.

 

Not only are our medical professionals on the front lines, valor can be in police blue or firefighter’s red. The cap of a long-haul trucker delivering food or supplies symbolizes that America will not be deterred. Essential workers wearing coveralls to keep our water, electricity and sewage systems running—they too are worthy of mention.

 

The Tank Farm is doing its part. We are self-isolating all staff and volunteers at this time. Where possible, planning and meetings are occurring via telecommuting. We are looking for tank parts and planning for our next Open House.

 

We are following CDC guidelines and practicing social distancing. You should too. The Americans in Wartime Museum WANTS TO SEE YOU in 2020. So please self-isolate, check on the elderly, call friends, play games, order delivery from local restaurants, from wineries , from breweries and cook great food. And we all will conquer this enemy.

 

Be Safe

Michael

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National Museum of Americans in Wartime

 

The Americans in Wartime Museum is a not-for-profit cultural and educational institution dedicated to honoring those who have served in all branches of the United States military and on the home front, from World War I to the present. The Museum serves to educate the public, especially young people, by telling individual stories of personal experience, realities of war, and sacrifices made by Americans striving to preserve our freedoms. The Museum inspires visitors by enabling them to experience military vehicles, explore artifacts, and participate in reenactments and special programs in a dynamic, interactive environment.

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It Was My Great Adventure

Jim Sawicki at the Tank Farm Open House holding a captured Nazi flag.

Approximately 2 million Americans served their country, and the world, during World War II.  Europe is free today, in part, because of the selfless sacrifices of ordinary Americans asked to do extraordinary things.   Among them was Jim Sawicki who served in the United States Army and fought with the “Red Bulls” at Anzio during the Battle of the Bulge.  Speaking of his experience during the war, Jim stated, “It was my great adventure.”

It was Jim Sawicki, who lived less than a mile from the future home of the Americans in Wartime Museum in Dale City, VA, who inspired the Voices of Freedom Project.  Our mission is to capture and preserve the stories of Americans in Wartime, Americans like Jim Sawicki.

2020 marks the 10 year for the VOF.  In that time, we have met, and had the pleasure of capturing the stories of over 450 Americans who served their country during wartime, or who have been involved in, or witness to events related to war.  These Americans include veterans such as Air Force Col. Charles McGee (now General McGee) who fought during WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War amassing over 400 combat sorties.  Army Air Force veteran William Bonelli who survived the Pearl Harbor Attack and went on to pilot a B17 over Italy.  Angela White who served in the Army during Operation Desert Storm and again during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Tom McAllister.  Tom’s medic unit was first on scene at the Pentagon after Islamic terrorist flew a plane into it on September 11th, 2001.  He lived what most only witnessed on television.  His story, like so many others is one of courage and sacrifice, and of tragedy and triumph.

These stories and many more need to be told, and need to be heard; now, and decades into the future.  These Americans are witnesses to history, and their perspectives on the events for which countless books have been written, and movies and documentaries made, are unique and important to the overall understanding of America’s involvement in wars and conflicts around the world.  Wars and conflicts that have shaped the course of history.  The stories are also important because in many instances, wartime experiences are the defining moments in a persons life.  For better or worse, nobody is ever the same afterwards.

Your story is important to you, to us, and to your family.  We want to help you tell your story and preserve it for future generations.  Click on the link below to learn more, and help us continue to fulfill the museums mission to honor, educate and inspire.

 

Click here to find out how we can help you preserve your story.

 

 

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The Twelve Tanks of Christmas

The Twelve Tanks of Christmas

The Christmas Classic…..Americans in Wartime Style.  Taking a cue from the 1780 song, we have a short paragraph on several of our vehicles.

On the First Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me—a Model 1917 tank.  This little US copy of the French M1917 tank is one of the Museum’s marquee restorations.  Just finding the correct engine took years.  Wrenching off the rusted bolts holding the suspension together resulted in many a skinned knuckle.  But the staff and volunteers persevered and she made her debut at the Open House several years ago.

On the Second Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me—an M50 Super Sherman.  This tank was originally a Sherman in US service.  Then it made its way to Israel, who gave it to the South Lebanese Army.  It was returned to America and the Museum staff completed her top-to-bottom restoration in time for this year’s Open House.  She gleamed from her fresh coat of paint.

On the Third Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me—an M4A1 Sherman.  Sister to the Super Sherman of day 2, the M4A1 is epitome of a cast-hull, 75mm armed Sherman from WW2.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me—an M4A3 Sherman.  Another cousin in the Sherman family, our M4A3 has a 75mm movie star reputation.  She starred in Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of our Fathers.”

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me—an LVT4 Amtrak.  Just like our M4A3, our LVT4 is a movie star, helping Clint visualize the beach assault scenes in “Flags of our Fathers” by taking him out to sea and giving him a unique cinematic viewpoint.  She can be seen below.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, my True love gave to me—an East German T-72.  This diesel-powered beast is low-slung, lean and feast.  Sporting the biggest cannon in our collection, a 125mm rifle—the T-72 represents the other side of the Cold War.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, my True love gave to me—a Swedish Stridsvagin 103 aka S-103C.  This uniquely shaped vehicle turns heads every time the Museum displays her as Mar can make her dance and bow to the audience due to its unique suspension system.

One the Seventh Day of Christmas, my True love gave to me—a Czech OT-810 half-track.  After WW2, the Czechs made copies of the German  Sdkfz 251 half track for use in their Armed Forces.  Our OT-810 is regularly on display during Open House, typically hiding in the tree line as a backdrop for some of our living historians.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—a Swiss Centurion MK 7.  Probably the heaviest tank in the museum’s collection, the Centurion makes the ground rumble when she rolls by during Open House.  She handles like a sweetheart, but does have a voracious thirst for fuel, so we always have to keep her filled before she makes a run.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—a Valentine MK III.  Made in 1943, the MKIII still ported the 2-pounder as its main armament.  Designed as an infantry tank, she is slow, but heavily armored for its time.  Listen next time she putters along during a display, her engine is based on a London diesel bus engine.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—a Soviet PT-76 light tank.  Sometimes mistakenly called an APC, the PT-76 is actually a light tank.  She is amphibious and very mobile.  The PT-76 was used by Vietnamese forces in 1968 to assault the U.S. Special Forces camp at Lang Vei—marking their first use of armor in that war.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—a U.S. High Mobility Multi-purpose wheeled vehicle, more commonly known as the HUMMER.  The Museum has several variants, both hard and soft top.  Typically you might see them during Open House being used as a general utility vehicle, or to transport our elderly guests around in comfort.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my True love gave to me—a British FV432.  This boxy APC may be mistaken for the U.S. M113 APC, but she runs on diesel, not gasoline.  She can be seen during Open House, giving rides to the winners of the Museum new member’s lottery.  Come join up and maybe you too can feel the speed and power of an armored vehicle.

If the above inspires you to adopt one as YOUR favorite vehicle, drop us a line and tell us why.  We appreciate it.  Perhaps a donation to “Keep ‘Em Rolling”, not only during Christmas, but throughout the year.

Happy Holidays

Michael

 

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First Snow

First Snow

Last week, the fine folks of northern Virginia were treated to their first snowflakes of the season.  As the weather forecasters say, it was a conversational snow.  And it occurred mid-day, so it didn’t screw up traffic….always important around here.

Folks gathered up at the windows and pointed to the flakes.  There were a few gasps as the wind whipped it sideways at times.  But in general, everybody took it as a marker of the Holiday season to come.

Holiday season, a time to come out of the cold and enjoy good food, good wine, and warmth of company.  People gather at family and friends, and at the work place.  Suddenly, those ugly sweaters that are only worn during the Holidays are dug out.  Bright red ties make their appearance.  Some may even have a blinking red light or two!

Voices rise and fall as toasts are made.  Stories about past gatherings are swapped.  Folks catch up on the latest news.  A fire generally crackles in the fireplace as the smell of turkey, ham, and fresh bread blooms out of the kitchen and throughout the house.

But there are moments in our past where the first snow was not the  happy memory for some.  It wasn’t the first snow, it was one of many.  And instead of being inside a warm house, they were frozen.  They didn’t argue over the merits of cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly….because they didn’t have any food.

These were the men and women serving in the front lines, defending America against her enemies.  From the iconic General Washington at Valley Forge, to Willie and Joe at the Battle of the Bulge and the Devil Dogs of the U.S. Marine Corps at the Chosin Reservoir.

Today, there are men and women serving in snowy and frozen spots around the globe.  Without family by their sides or a crackling fireplace to keep them warm, they are already tired of snow and dreading the next months.

So as you raise a glass, or try and catch a snowflake on your tongue, think about why you are able to enjoy these simple pleasures.  Remember our service members.  We at the Americans in Wartime Museum do.

That is why we are out in the cold turning wrenches.  Our breathe hanging heavy in the air.  We know what the first snow can mean.  We want to preserve that history and honor it.  Continue the dream by visiting the website and joining our wonderful supporters so we can “Keep ‘em Rolling” in the snow.

 

Michael

 

Click here to make a donation and support our work.

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The Big Reveal

On Saturday of the 2019 version of the Open House, the Americans in Wartime Museum demonstrated once again why it is an international leader in the restoration and display of armored vehicles.  It did something that literally no other museum across the globe could do…….  Intrigued?  Good, read on.

That day was the culmination of years of planning, and thousands of hours of hard work, sweat, and tears by the staff and volunteers.

Saturday was glorious in terms of weather, and, visitors for the Open House.  The field was crammed with vehicles, living historians, and our wonderful fans.  But as 11:00 am approached, there was a buzz across the display area.

Our incredible announcer, Richard, spoke into the microphone and asked the crowd if they wanted a surprise.  A chorus of “YES” boomed from the audience.  Behind the scenes, the tank mechanics were scurrying around, making everything ready for the Big Reveal.

The driver settled down into his cocoon.  He fiddled with his switches, running his fingers over their familiar shape.  Switches, buttons, and levers that his and other hands had stripped down, restored, repainted, and re-installed over the past year.

The excited crowd gathered near the shop doors.  Inside the driver waited as Richard counted down till 11:00.  Other museum volunteers stood by the shop doors and made a corridor through the crowd.  At 11:00, Richard made the announcement.  The shop doors were flung upward, and the driver flipped his switches.  The air reverberated with the roar of a tank engine coming to life.

As the old shop door traveled upward, a familiar hull shape started to be revealed in the sunshine.  The shape of that hull could only be a SHERMAN!  The crowd murmured in anticipation.  The door kept on its journey upward.  Meanwhile, the driver revved the engine.  And suddenly a very different shape came into focus….that turret and gun was unlike any the crowd had seen before.  It was not a U.S. 75mm or U.S. 76mm….what was it?

Then the tactical markings completed the story; Hebrew.  It could only be an M50 Super Sherman.  Yes, the Americans in Wartime Museum had restored its M50 to full running condition.  The paint gleamed.  Every accessory was in its place.  The fenders were so clean you could eat of them.

The driver threw the transmission into first gear and the massive tracks crunched forward on the gravel.  Museum ground guides moved the M50 from the shop out to the battle area.

Suddenly, the tank sped up and plumes of dust streamed behind!  Was this the deserts of the Middle East, or Northern Virginia?  After two proud laps around the battle area with thousands of photos now stored on visitor cameras, the M50 was parked.

But that was not the end of it.  Later in the day, the Museum ran an M4A1 and an M4A3 Sherman.  Not only had the Americans in Wartime museum restored the M50 to running condition, they ran two additional Shermans for the crowd.

There are less than five running M50s in the world as far as we know at this time.  But no other collection, private or government, has running examples of an M4A1, M4A3, and M50, according to our research.

This is but one more example of why the Americans in Wartime Museum is setting new standards for what a museum should be.  Continue the dream by making a donation and joining our wonderful supporters so we can “Keep ‘em Rolling”.

Michael

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