Bloggers Note: This week I begin publishing my seven-post series on the California National Guard’s Fight with the California State Military Museum Foundation. The controversy surfaced in Sacramento Superior Court in September 2013, and was the subject of Sacramento, California-area news stories. In my series, I write about the dispute in detail, taking the reader back in time to Museum’s origins, its achievements, the political nature and habitat that festered dissension, and where the “Fight at the Museum” stands today. I will conclude with an epilogue of final thoughts and sidebars.
In the next seven posts, I take readers on the following journey:
- Chapter 1: The Treasure; An Ark and a Covenant; An Army for the Ark.
- Chapter 2: Cornerstone, Campaign to Buy a Building for the Museum; The Treasure Grows;
- Chapter 3: The Gathering Storm; Grandpa’s Guidon; Legislative Battles and Campaign Streamers;
- Chapter 4: A Dynasty Expands its Empire; The California State Military Reserve (CSMR) Civil War;
- Chapter 5: Feathering the Dynasty’s Bird Nest; The Smoking Guns;
- Chapter 6: Satire: The Ballad of the “Fight at the Museum,” written to the tune of “Ode to Billy Jack;” and
- Epilogue: Sidebars and my final thoughts
I begin this series with the beginnings of a dream of building a California State Military History Museum, and the California National Guardsmen who made that dream happen.
His father is the celebrated Nelson Story, Montana pioneer, cattle baron, miner, and vigilante, remembered as a Great Westerner at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Nelson Story’s legendary long horn cattle drives from Texas to Montana inspired Larry McMurty’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Lonesome Dove.”
The same rgged independence and audacity inherited by the Great Westerner’s son, Walter P. Story, remembered for blazing trails into the 40th Infantry Division and California National Guard history; and inspiriting the climb to the California State Military Museum.
Maj. Gen. Story, a member of the society of the Sons of the Revolution with family ancestral roots in the American Revolutionary Army, was a successful businessman when he enlisted as a private in the National Guard at the outbreak of World War I. He was commissioned as a lieutenant and used his business acumen to raise funds to build an armory and stables in Los Angeles, California, then recruited soldiers for Battery A, California Field Artillery–fathering today’s California National Guard, Battery A, 143rd Field Artillery. Story was discharged from the Army following the war.
Story’s business savvy came into play again when he returned to the California National Guard ranks as a captain of Infantry in 1920. Promoted to the rank of Major, Story organized a separate infantry company, which would later evolve into the 40th Infantry. For the next eight years, he spearheaded a business and legislative campaign to acquire Guard’s first “state-owned” Camp in 1928–Camp Merriam–named in honor a future California Governor for leading the fight in the state legislature to obtain the facility.
Subsequently renamed Camp San Luis Obispo, Story masterminded the inauguration of a U.S. Army-accredited Officer Candidate Schools (OCS), non-commissioned officer training schools, and a small museum and library that would one day evolve into the California State Military Museum and Walter P. Story Memorial Library and Research Center, feeding military history and civil support to civilian authority lessons learned to nerve centers in the California National Guard and U.S. Army.
It was a veteran’s treasure, to which Story, as the 40th Infantry Division Commander when the Cal Guard unit was mobilized for World War II, would later add his personal artifacts and memoirs from his private collections, and give from his personal treasure from beyond the grave, bequeathing $50,000 to the Museum in his Will and Testament; released following his wife, Ellen’s, death in 1981.
They were among the first gems in the treasure chest of military jewels that began as the California National Guard Citizen-Soldier Museum. A treasure chest into which future generations of California veterans, military leaders, and private citizens would place their own military keepsakes and cash donations; and into which the California State Legislature would funnel treasure troves of lost, or unclaimed, military treasures to the care of the California State Military Museum Foundation as that Citizen- Soldier Museum transformed into to the California State Military Museum in Old Sacramento, California.
An Ark and a Covenant
As the dark clouds of 1960s activism passed over California, vilifying soldiers fighting in Vietnam, and romanticizing violence of underground organizations’ protesting the War at home, the forces of Army Values were driving California’s National Guard veterans to find refuge for its citizen-soldier historical treasures.
Rumblings began to surface inside the California National Guard Headquarters to explore expanding both the capacity and network of that Story treasure tucked away within the confines of Camp San Luis Obispo. A May 14, 1965 United States Property and Fiscal Office (USPFO) bulletin, warned of the “dwindling number of historical artifacts associated with” California’s citizen soldiers, and advised a museum to preserve and “safe guard” this history.
In a July 3, 1967 Disposition Form (DF) [informal communication between military staffs and their headquarters], Lt. Col. Robert P. Nimmo, a WW II vet who flew missions over France and Germany, proposed establishing a museum. On Sept. 12, 1967, Korean War Veteran, Brig. Gen. Thomas K. Turnage, responded, conveying Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Glenn C. Ames’ guidance to assemble a committee to explore forming a military history program. That exploration resulted in a recommendation to establish a non-profit corporation historical society: register it with the Secretary of State in order to legally accept the pending Story Estate and other citizen cash donations; and locate the Museum at Camp San Luis Obispo-“The Original Home of the California National Guard.”
Recommendation accepted, the California National Guard Historical Society (CNGHS) became official. Ames was selected president of its board of directors, Turnage its vice president, and together with that first board of directors consisting of Sgt. Maj. Emery R. Frank, James T. Brewer, Lt. Col. Nimmo, and Col. William L. Shaw filed Articles of Incorporation with California Secretary of State Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown in December 1972, making it legal.
The CNGHS was a private enterprise, separate from the California National Guard, with the mission to promote and extend knowledge of the history and achievements of the California Army National Guard, and the United States Army since the creation of California in 1850.”
The registration officially sanctioned Camp San Luis Obispo Museum with its new name, Ames Hall, named in honor of the adjutant general and World War II veteran was selected as the building to initially house the museum; this move legitimized the ongoing transfer of unit guide-ons to the Museum initiated in 1969, and authorized the first inventory of the museum’s federal and private donations under the direction of Brig. Gen. Willard A. Shank.
Col. Anthony Palumbo, Cal Guard’s chief of staff, monitored the transfer of the federal inventory to the CNGHS. He decided which National Guard property was declared an historical artifact, proclaimed them “historical holdings,” and negotiated the initial memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the CNGHS. That MOU protected the Adjutant General and the State Military Department from being complicit in owning any “historical holdings” in violation of the National Historical Preservation Act, and from coming into possession of personal property donated to a California Secretary of State-and Internal Revenue Service-sanctioned non profit organization. The CNGHS would later include the adjutant general oversight by adding him, or his designated representative, as an Ex-officio, voting member of its board of directors to keep abreast of Museum activities.
The CNGHS, figuratively speaking, had become the Ark for housing those artifacts in California’s Military treasures chest, and the MOU was the covenant, for preserving and safeguarding the Golden State’s military treasures for posterity.
An Army for the Ark
For posterity’s sake, the Cal Guard and the CNGHS had to clear one last legal hurdle. The CNGHS required manpower for a museum staff, and maintenance personnel to maintain, and restore these military artifacts. Under both Federal and State laws, the California National Guard was precluded from subsidizing the CNGHS fiscally or with in-kind Cal Guard manpower.
Providence would intervene in 1975. Incoming Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Frank J. Schober, a Vietnam veteran, designated an imaginative young officer as the California National Guard’s Historical Officer. Maj. William Hamilton labored tirelessly on behalf of the State Military Department, to creatively resolve this issue by resurrecting California’s State Military Reserve (CSMR). Congress made this possible in 1956 when they enacted Title 32, section 109 of the United States Codes, authorizing a peacetime state defense force.
Gov. Ronald Reagan activated the CSMR Command Headquarters and History Detachment in 1976 for the purpose of providing the CNGHS with a qualified source of manpower separate from the Cal Guard to manage the Federal historical property. Col (CA) Donald E. Mattson assumed command of the CSMR headquarters and coordinated with Hamilton to: restate the National Historic Preservation Act mission for the History Detachment; formulate this mission into policy consistent with Federal and state laws governing SDFs and the CNGHS bylaws; structure a History Detachment to carry out the mission, and recruit unpaid volunteers with skills needed for the history mission laid out in policy.
On July 4, 1979, Gov. Ronald Reagan activated California State Military Reserve History Detachment, mobilizing that Army, so to speak, to carry that Ark, under a Military Department covenant, to “preserve” and “safeguard” that military treasure chest that Maj. Gen. Walter P. Story started accumulating so long ago.
Chapter 2 tells how the California Historical Society Collaborated with the National Guard Association of California (NGAC) to raise moneys to purchase a building, breaking ground in “Old Sacramento,” and the CSMR History Detachment’s mission accomplishments.