JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – A stone’s throw from Interstate 5's mile marker 119 stands the historic Red Shield Inn, a white and black Swiss chalet-style structure flanked by gleaming brass cannons.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and surrounded by an acre of outdoor exhibits, which include armored military vehicles, various experimental vehicle prototypes and a UH-1 Huey Helicopter, the inn is home to the Lewis Army Museum on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
"The museum preserves and interprets historical artifacts relevant to Camp Lewis, Fort Lewis, JBLM and the role that the Army has played in the exploration, defense and development of the Pacific Northwest,” said Erik Flint, Lewis Army Museum director. “It’s our mission to educate and engage service members to better put history in their hands so that they may speak on the past and empower the future.”
The Lewis Army Museum is the only certified U.S. Army museum on the West Coast and is home to more than 6,000 artifacts including: weapons, uniform items, military tools and personal mementos.
“Along with our displays, we have a large collection of documents and photographs that provide incredible visual references to our history here,” said Heidi Pierson, Lewis Army Museum curator and archaeologist. “It’s an honor to preserve and showcase the history of diversity we have on base, especially during ethnic heritage months.”
In a large conference room on the second floor of the inn, visitors can find a large photo of the 2nd Infantry Division's 3rd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment from the summer of 1950, just before its deployment to Korea. The battalion is shown on parade through the 9th Infantry Regimental area along Watkins Field.
“The 3rd Battalion was one of only two all-black units in the division in 1950,” Flint said. “The other being the 503rd Artillery Battalion, of which the late member of Congress, Rep. Charlie Rangle, was a member. Though the division was still unofficially segregated when it went into combat in Korea, it soon integrated as causalities were replaced. Commanders stopped caring what color their Soldiers were.”
To further promote and mirror the diversity seen in Army ranks today, museum curators have adapted and improved their displays in a variety of ways.
“A great thing about the Army, and the military as a whole, is that it is comprised of so many different peoples and cultures,” Pierson said. “To highlight the diversity in the ranks, we have included displays of Soldiers and Airmen of color, servicewomen and many displays aimed at appealing to the younger service members and the next generation."
Although the museum is currently closed due to a complete replacement of its heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, most indoor exhibits are still viewable virtually.
“We’re happy to offer visitors a way to experience the museum online through virtual exhibits hosted on our website,” Pierson said. “The pandemic and renovation closure has given us a lot of time to inventory and update our displays in order to provide an excellent historical experience when we reopen later this year.”
The Lewis Army Museum is scheduled to reopen this summer.
To view the museum’s virtual exhibits, visit: https://lewisarmymuseum.com/virtual-exhibits/
Joint Base Lewis-McChord