Museum exhibiting new items
April 25, 2013
One of the question marks of moving the Armor School to Fort Benning, Ga., due to then President George Bush W. approving the recommendations of 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Committee, was the Patton Museum.
Some of the museum's artifacts moved to Fort Benning, but Gen. George Patton's private collection remained at Fort Knox. Chris Kolakowski, the museum's director, said people sometimes forget that Army museums are more than exhibits; they are also used for training.
He pointed out that when the museum has its reopening on the Army's birthday, June 14, there will be a few items that have never been on display at the museum.
"We talk (about) humanizing Gen. Patton, many of the items humanize Patton," said Kolakowski.
He added there are items such as a bottle opener. He said when many think of Patton, they see the formidable general, they don't think about how he opened his sodas.
Kolakowski said one of the most provocative pieces in the collection is a Patton baby shoe from 1886 when the general was about nine months old.
"Gen. Patton saved everything and he usually marked it," he explained. "(The baby shoe will be) displayed in a wall piece next to the Cadillac… the car he was fatally injured in.
"This museum is not just about George Patton; it's a museum about Army leadership (which spans from) 1775 to the present. We will cast that over a very broad net."
On first appearance, one of the items appear to be a cap from the Civil War, but Kolakowski said it a hat that the Soldiers from the 29th Infantry wore during the Philippine insurrection period.
"One of the things we are talking about here is (Gen. John) Pershing's campaign against the Moros in the southern Philippines, (which was) seen as something of a restive operation today," explained Kolakowski.
He said the items from this era tell the story of Pershing's leadership and how he was able to use his knowledge and understanding of a situation and pick the best plan. Pershing was also able to pacify the Moros.
"In fact, he was the only nonwhite Moro chief--ever," Kolakowski said.
Another item on display is the patch from the 814th Pioneer Infantry Regiment Soldiers who trained in Louisville at Camp Zachary Taylor. The homemade patch was from an African-American-only unit which was led by white officers. Kolakowski said this patch is more than just about the military, it's also about the value of diversity and the value of using all of your resources.
"We have the full collection of the uniform and insignia of one of the white officers in the unit of African-Americans (who) were employed throughout history as a representative sample dating from World War I."
He said the patch has never been on display and it was a donation from a regionally-based donor.
Kolakowski pointed out that many people aren't aware there was a Camp Zachary in Louisville. He said Fort Knox was created as a training facility to Camp Taylor.
"When they started bringing big units, (the) units needed artillery and firing ranges, so they brought it to Fort Knox," said Kolakowski.
A helmet from a tank crewman from the 301st Heavy Tank Battalion that served on the Western front in 1918 will be on display. He noted this unit wasn't one of Patton's; he commanded the 304th. But Patton's tie to the helmet and a patch was as the designer. The patch was Patton's prototype for the tanks corps in 1918. Over the years the patch was made proportional and it has evolved into the current patch for armor and 1st Armored Division Soldiers.
He said the information from some of these exhibits tells the story of the evolution of the technology of tank training.
"These men training at the tank school that Patton founded, using the doctrine that Patton wrote," he said.
Some of the other pieces include a sword, Patton's swagger stick and a spur which he wore while training in France at the French Cavalry School. He carried his swagger stick ashore in North Africa on Nov. 8, 1942.
His toy sword will also be on display. When Patton was a young lieutenant he used the sword to break the ice while he was in training with senior officers. Kolakowski said Patton became the first master of the sword at Fort Riley, Kan., in 1915.
"He pulls this sword out of a box one day to break the tension and whips it out over his head and said, 'I've been the master of the sword for many years,'" explained Kolakowski, "after that everybody chuckles."
Some of the new items are available because Kolakowski said Patton knew there was going to be a biographer or the equivalent, so he saved things.
"You will see markers on maps," said Kolakowski. "He knew someone would want to research his life at some point and he wanted to just make it a little easier."