Fight at the Museum: Chapter 1

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.


The Treasure

Walter P. Story
Walter P. Story

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.

Maj. Gen. Glen C. Ames. Ames was California's 42 adjutant general and proponent for a Military History Museum with a chain of command separate from the Cal Guard. He was also a WWII vet, pictured right in northern Australia tilting his glass up to his mouth to drink. (Glenn Charles Ames Website.)
Maj. Gen. Glen C. Ames. Ames was California’s 42nd adjutant general and proponent for a Military Museum with a chain of command separate from the Cal Guard. He was also a WWII vet, pictured right in northern Australia tilting his glass up to his mouth to drink. (Glenn Charles Ames Website.)

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 

Left Photo: Headquarters-State Military Reserve newly activated in 1977 with mandate to establish the California Center for Military History (CCMH) Command for purpose of providing manpower to operate the California National Guard Citizen-Soldier Museum. COL (CA) Donald E. Mattson, first row, second from left, helped establish the CCMH and was its first commander. Right Photo: Gov. Ronald Reagan attends the State Military Reserve reactivation ceremony for the mission of supporting the California National Guard History Society. (File Photos)
Left Photo: Headquarters-California State Military Reserve (CSMR) newly activated in 1976 with the mandate to organize,  and command,  the SMR History Detachment–the manpower and staff for the California National Guard Historical Society  (CNGHS) to operate the California Citizen-Solider Museum and its network of branch museums in Sacramento, Camp San Luis Obispo, Camp Roberts, and Los Alamitos. Right Photo: Gov. Ronald Reagan attends ceremonies reactivating the  CSMR.  (File Photos)


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.


Personal Note: Chapter 1 efforts dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo, patron saint of learning and the arts, whose unselfish contributions toward Catholic  Church reform inspired me.  I credit St. Charles for sustaining me  through countless, monotonous,  hours of sifting through volumes of California National Guard correspondence and archives; helping me interpret, and share, the imagination and  unique organizational accomplishments of  generations of California  National Guardsmen in this chapter.


  1. I wish more people would read this, especially soldiers, and be outraged about what has happened to the CCMH. The corruption in the Military Department reaches deep into the ranks of the CSMR. Promotions are given to a favored few, the criterion for promotion is constantly changing, and the favored few are promoted without even having to apply through this bankrupt system. There are two officers in SMR serving at CSLO who were promoted without even so much as filling out one piece of paperwork. I know I will never get promoted because I am on the “wrong” side of the museum debate. Again, I hope your article will open eyes to the severe dysfunction of this organization. I want to be fair though, some people serve without hassle: The ones who keep their mouth shut and play the game…

  2. Lee, this is not a reflection on the CSMR as a whole. If your tiny little history unit is so horrible, put in a Form 10 to any of the other units who actually support soldiers in preparation for real-world missions. There are many other places where you can put your time and talents to work, and where promotions are earned through a Boarding process and all documents are in place and inspectable. Also go where respect is earned and soldiers are comrades. Look into the 2nd BDE at JFTB or San Diego. Or the Air Component at March ARB. Or the 3rd BN at JFTB. Lots of good soldiers & airmen out there doing good work. Hell, even the local Burger King has favoritism – don’t like it? Find another franchise that suits your taste and talents. If it’s really all that bad, contact JAG and file a formal grievance. Instead of just venting and airing dirty laundry, DO something.

    1. Dave,

      You’re correct, this is not a reflection on the CSMR at all. It’s a reflection of poor California National Guard State Military/State Defense Force Policy. The 2014 DoD IG report makes it clear that your “real world” missions only exist in the civilian world, not the military world. The CSMR, a statedefense force, is neither part of the Defense Support to Civilian Authorities (DSCA) nor the Dual Status Command.

      And as much as you want to believe the CSMR’s other 10 commands “actually support soldiers in preparation for real-world missions,” this only wishful policy with no footprint in federal law, or federal policy. In fact, DoD policy specifically excludes state defense forces from “real world” DSCA missions in DoD policy and regulation. The exception was the California Center for Military History (CCMH) whose mission does have footprint in federal statute and DoD policy.

      The DoD IG acknowledges the value of SDFs and their contributions to real live “state missions,” but say they are a “state entity,” separate from the National Guard. As far as Lee, why would he go to a JAG? The UCMJ and the Armed Forces processes are not applicable to the CSMR or state defense forces, they apply to the organized militia only.

      I would be concerned about this, if I were you. With the current discussion of permitting CSMR to bring concealed weapons to drill in the wake of the San Bernardino attacks, do you think you are going to be entitled UCMJ due processes afforded Title 32 or Title 10 troops if something goes drastically wrong? The federal government requires training, rules of engagement, etc to mitigate mishaps and consequences. Similar policies are not being discussed for CSMR concealed weapons.

      The state is going to be liable, CSMR will be prosecuted by the state, the Cal Guard will most likely disavow any knowledge, and the press will most likely portray the CSMR as “warrior wannabes.”

      This would be a good cause for the State Guard Association of the United States (SGAUS) to take up in 2016. It would be in the best interests of its membership, the SDF image, and the citizens of the United States. I would think the DoD might even support a campaign to convince the Secretary of Defense for Policy and the National Guard Bureau to adopt policies and initiatives recommended in its 2014 Evaluation of State Defense Forces.

      I agree that favoritism exists in any system, including Burger King. In the CSMR and State Defense Force case, however, the issue is “no oversight, policy, or enforcement; allowing favoritism to run rampant. I have great respect for the majority of the CSMR. I would sure like to see them have meaningful missions that actually support the state security, DSCA, and other state missions such as Military History Preservation.

      In my opinion, the Youth Programs would be better, and more effective, as a state defense/CSMR mission where it would not detract from National Guard readiness and siphon off Defense Budget funds desperately needed by Active Guard units. Gov. Brown has shown that Californians can generate $3.5 million annual funding from the Oakland Military Institute (OMI). Wouldn’t it be better for the taxpayer to have the CSMR/SDF run Youth Programs under the command of a nonprofit state francize with State Defense Force volunteers, similar the California Military History Foundation (CMHF) instead of taking federal funds and desecrating the SDF mission?

      The more I think about, the more I think California has treasure trove of issues for SGAUS causes in 2016.

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