INFANTRY MUSEUM – OKLAHOMA CITY
I used to build a lot of models as a kid. Army models, tanks and half-tracks, planes and artillery from the likes of Revell and Monogram. On visit to the 45th Infantry Museum in Oklahoma City, a walk through the 15 Thunderbird Park outside the former armory which houses the museum, I felt like I had been shrunk down to miniature 1/16 scale and was among the full sized real versions of military vehicles, so familiar. The park features 60 different varieties of tracked vehicles from different conflict eras, from World War II Sherman Tanks, Korean Era Pattons, to M1 Abrams, tracked and stationary Howitzers and Armored Personnel Carriers, all marked by plaques and arranged along walkways through landscaped grounds lined with trees and shrubs as if an unseen enemy might be advancing on the far side of the river. But the outdoor large armaments display is only a signal of what is inside - one of the best military arms collections to be found anywhere.
Oklahoma based 45th Infantry has fascinating history, especially for
its major part in the battles of the European
theater of WWII.
The 45th Infantry Division was first created following WWI in 1923
Sill Oklahoma as a National Guard Unit by the National Defense Act,
covering four states Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
Before the outbreak
of the Secord World War, the division was called upon to maintain
order in times of disasters and keep peace during periods of political
during the depression and the days of the dust bowl. Curiously the
original insignia of the unit was a Native American symbol of a Swastika,
on red, actually the first military organization to use it. But when
the German Nazi Party adopted the same form and so associated with
it, the 45th had to find a new emblem. After a contest, the Native
symbol of the Thunderbird was adopted as identity insignia of the
Bill Mauldin’s Willy and Joe, mud-covered soldiers who represented the everyman in the war were inspired by Oklahoma boys in the 45th Infantry where Mauldin served in the press corps of the unit during the Invasion of Sicily and the Italian Campaign. He later roamed about the front for the Stars and Stripes, but never forgot his connection the 45th and donated his personal collection of cartoons, illustrations, photgraphs and letters, on display in their own dedicated section. Also in the museum among the amazing collection of arms from the Reaves Weapons Collection covering historical conflicts from the American Revolution, the Civil War, two World Wars and Korea, is the collection of Hitler and Nazi artifacts, brought back from Bavaria. There are more items which once belonged to Adolf in Oklahoma, than left in Europe.
the 45th Infantry Division Museum
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