FORT KNOX, Ky. – A window into Fort Knox history has reopened as part of the General George Patton Museum.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held May 8 for the museum’s newest exhibit, housed inside an original World War II-era barracks.
“I think what’s really amazing about it is that this it is not a re-creation,” said Patton Foundation creative director Michael Cusimano. “This is an actual historical World War II barracks from the early 1940s. When people come in here, they’re actually walking on the floorboards that World War II trainees did, and for generations afterward too because these types of barracks stayed in use for decades.”
According to fundraising and operations director Mike Martin, the grand opening is only the beginning.
“This is going to continue to grow with time,” said Martin. “We’re going to start doing additions that will honor all those other generations. It was built for World War II, but you’ll start to see some changes over time with additions of exhibits that will cover those other generations.”
While the timeline for completion is still to be determined, Martin explained the plan is to separate and transform the barracks beds to represent each era of Soldiers who slept in them. He said the exhibit wouldn’t have been possible without the many volunteers and donors who contributed.
“This was a project 10 years in the making,” said Martin. “Without the local fundraising and the local community, this would have been torn down.”
Though there were numerous hands involved in making the project possible, Cusimano said one man’s efforts truly stood out: retired Col. Mike Weaver.
“He was the leader who organized the volunteers, got this thing moved across post, got it restored to its historical condition,” said Cusimano, “and this is to honor him and the work that he and his team did.”
Weaver spoke at the event about the years of hard work and dedication that went into getting the exhibit put together. He highlighted the efforts of everyone involved in the project, but even more so what it means to the thousands of Soldiers who have lived in this type of barracks.
“When a veteran visits the barracks, in all probability he or she will remember it as a significant part of their past,” said Weaver.
Upon close inspection inside the barracks, visitors will notice many indicators of the past – from the original floorboards to the authentic latrine, and a unique aspect of the stairs.
“Those steps tell a story,” said Weaver. “The steps are square on the right and left edges, but worn in the middle. The molding of these steps was not from sanding or shaving, but by combat boots.”
The building itself is considered an extension of the museum and not a special exhibit, according to Martin.
“From this point forward whenever the museum is open, [the barracks] will be open,” said Martin. “You don’t have to have an appointment; you don’t have to have a tour guide.”
The museum also announced new hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information about COVID restrictions and making donations, visit generalpatton.org.
Cusimano said he is anxious to expand on the exhibit, and hopes the public will enjoy the extraordinary look back into history.
“You’re getting the real experience of how generations of Soldiers from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf Wars and beyond really lived and trained,” said Cusimano. “You’re truly walking in the footsteps of real Soldiers who fought for our country.”