Fight at the Museum: Chapter 2

Bloggers Note: In The Fight at the Museum, Chapter 1, I introduced readers to Maj. Gen. Walter P. Story, the founding father of California’s Military  History Museum,  and how succeeding generations continued his dream to build a Citizen  Soldier  Museum.

In Chapter 2,  I recount how  the Charity of a generation of Guard leadership  made this dream a reality, and exceeded normal expectations

I begin with,  Operation Cornerstone…….

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Brig. Gen. Donald Mattson (Left) officiates at the Citizen Soldier Museums grand opening ceremony, November 1990. Brig. Gen. Robert Thrasher, the adjutant general (3rd from Left participates in ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Brig. Gen. Donald Mattson (Left) officiates at the Citizen Soldier Museums grand opening ceremony, November 1990. Brig. Gen. Robert Thrasher, the adjutant general (3rd from Left participates in ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Operation Cornerstone

National Guard Association of California (NGAC) president Donald I. New presents President Ronald Reagan with the NGAC's Man-of-the-ear Award for 1983 at a special White House ceremony. New also presented the Commander-in-Chief an Honorary NGAC Membership. (File Photo)
National Guard Association of California (NGAC) president Donald I. New presents President Ronald Reagan with the NGAC’s Man-of-the-year Award for 1983 at a special White House ceremony. New also presented the Commander-in-Chief an Honorary NGAC Membership for his support of Operation Cornerstone. (File Photo)

By April  1977, the California State Military Reserve (CSMR) finalized  its organizational charts for its new history Detachment. The California National Guard History Society  (CNGHS) blessed the volunteer manpower scheme, and Maj. Gen. Frank  J. Scober, the adjutant  general,  authorized the  CNGHS  use of National Guard facilities at Camp San Luis Obispo, Camp Roberts, Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos, and Sacramento, for branch museums.

It became apparent,  however, that museums on military  installations  limited the general public’s access, triggering the call for a centrally located, stand alone building for the Museum. It was incumbent upon the Historical  Society to raise the monies to  construct a building since the State Military Department/Cal Guard lacked legal authority to accept private, tax-deductible donations.

Maj. Gen. Willard Shank advised the CNGHS to team with the National Guard Association of California (NGAC), a designated non-profit  501(c) 19 veterans’  organization comprised of members of the  Guard.  Debate ensued as  to where to build  the museum.  Brig. Gen. (CA) Keith Lamb–a recipient of the “Distinguished Flying Cross” while flying B-17s with the “Bloody Hundredth” in WWII–advocated Los Angeles, the world’s entertainment mecca. Others wanted the  museum returned to  Camp San  Luis  Obispo. NGAC secretary reports  show that its  membership  promoted co-locating the association’s office with the  museum in Sacramento.

The Walter P. Story Estate apparently settled  the debate with Evelyn Story’s last request to locate the museum in Sacramento as a condition for  releasing the  $50,000 her  late  husband bequeathed. It was almost as if Mrs. Story had unleashed a spirit  of a “Lonesome Dove”  into the hearts of passionate museum advocates, who reverently bowed to her divine wishes for Sacramento.

According to 1983 NGAC secretary minutes, association  president, Lt. Col. Ernest Zuick, appointed a “Blue-Ribbon  Advisory Committee,” to research: revitalizing NGAC Chapters’ participation; rejuvenating the association’s group insurance  program; and surging a NGAC committee to launch a fund-raising campaign called, “Operation Cornerstone”–to construct a NGAC Headquarters/Citizen-Soldier  Museum in Sacramento.

Maj. Gen. Willard A.  Shank, the adjutant general, announced “Operation Cornerstone,” and its ambitious goal to raise $1 million to purchase a building for the Citizen Soldier Museum at the 1984 NGAC Conference in Disneyland. An announcement that came with President Ronald Reagan’s endorsement.

“I am pleased that plans are underway to build a new NGAC Headquarters and Heritage Center Building in Old Sacramento,” Reagan told the conference attendees via videotape. “It’ll be a welcome addition to the State Capital and a well-deserved tribute to the California National Guard.”

Gov. George Deukmajian , Operation Cornerstone’s honorary chairman, emulated the President’s leadership.

“California’s history is directly linked to the evolution of our state’s military forces, and I can think of no better way to honor this legacy than by locating a museum facility in Old Sacramento,” said Dukmajian. “Such a facility, serving also as a headquarters for  the NGAC, will be a welcome and existing addition to  our historic Capitol.”

The blue-ribbon panel reported back to incoming NGAC President, Col. Donald New following the 1984 NGAC conference,  launching  both the Federal and  State Commander-in-Chief’s vision for a Citizen-Soldier Museum. New  appointed Lamb to chair the NGAC’s “[museum] building committee,” and a board  consisting of Shank, Zuick, Marshall Watel, Brig. Gen. (CA) Art Dublirer, and Brigadier Generals Harry O. Nicholson, Norman Stirm,  and his  wife Mavis.

As though the Building Committee had held a séance conjuring up apparitions of Story’s acts of charity, they paralleled his “beyond the  grave” gifts of  personal treasure, coughing up dough from their personal  coffers. Shank, Brigadier Generals Robert C. Thrasher,  James  Delk, Stirm, Nicolson and Zuick, and Watel each donated $1,000, 1984 NGAC minutes  show. Dozens more leaders, including those who joined the infant CSMR, forked out matching $1,000 pledges in months  to  come.

Their charity kick-started a series of Building Committee fund-raising events. The committee sold more than $5,000  worth of Cornerstone Belt Buckles at $100 apiece, according to NGAC records.  The NGAC’s 78 chapters sponsored numerous  fundraising drives, to raise additional funds. Dublirer, who  served in the Hawaiian Ant-Aircraft Command during World War II, hosted a wine  tasting  party  at  his home, drawing more than 400  people, and generating more  than $7,000 in  donations,  according  to  Sacramento-area television and print media covering the event.

Phantom brigades consisting of  California’s Ghosts of Military Service past,  seemed to mystically materialize, lifting Operation Cornerstone upon the shoulders of their formations. At least, that’s how I perceive the California Military Academy (CMA) Officer Candidate  School (OCS)  630-mile roundtrip relay from  Roseville, CA  to Camp San Luis Obispo that I covered in my capacity  as a military journalist in  May  1985.

Senior Cadet Robert Bradley took charge of the academy’s annual relay run, doubling the distance, motivating cadets to solicit pledges for each mile run,  trudging out coins for each mile covered. Perhaps the fog of time has misted my memory, but I seem to recall  feeling the presence  of a thousand Ghost battalions, beneath the wings of  that OCS formation, buoying their spirits, as they air-borne shuffled into the Roseville Fair Grounds, donned in running shirts  with  a CMA/Cornerstone logo. The cadets brought an additional $3,000 to help build this home for California’s brave.

After nearly a decade of fund-raising efforts, nearly $400,000 was available through Cornerstone to purchase four lots in the vicinity  of 1100-1125 block on second street, in Old Sacramento Historic Park. True to their covenant, that CNGHS Ark remained intimately involved in the building’s design,  ensuring the new Museum’s vaults, facility displays, and security  systems met Army specifications for museums.

In what might be considered “life imitating Faith,” Cornerstone broke ground the day following the annual feast of the Dedication of the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran,–the Cathedral Church of Rome, and ecclesiastical seat of the Roman Pontiff.  And like that Cathedral within the City of Rome but  outside the boundaries of Vatican City, California’s Citizen-Soldier  Museum was just across the street from the 1840s California State Militia Headquarters in the Pacific Stables, just inside Old Sacramento  Historic Park.

On Nov. 10, 1990, Maj. Gen. Robert C. Thrasher, the adjutant  general, with  CNGHS,  CSMR, and NGAC representatives, participated in  grand-opening, and ribbon-cutting ceremonies, to open the doors of  this military Cathedral, of sorts, with its 1840s “Old Sacramento” façade.

With its Diocese  of Branch  Museums in-place, that Schober authorized in 1977 , the Citizen  Soldier museum  system was poised to become the United States Army  Center of Military History’s Cornerstone for its West Coast museum  network, in  the  aftermath  of Base Closure and Realignment Commission’s (BRAC)  shutdowns of museums at Presidio of San Francisco, and  Ft. Ord.

(Left) Pacific Stables and Sutter Rifle Armory, Sacramento, California, Headquarters of the California Militia during the Civil War. (Right) More than a Century later, Operation Cornerstone purchased lots, across the street from this Civil War-era Armory, and built the California Citizen Soldier Museum, renamed the California Military Museum in 2000 by California Legislative mandate.
(Left) Pacific Stables and Sutter Rifle Armory, Sacramento, California, Headquarters of the California Militia during the Civil War. (Right) More than a Century later, Operation Cornerstone purchased lots, across the street from this Civil War-era Armory, and built the California Citizen Soldier Museum, renamed the California Military Museum in 2000 by California Legislative mandate.

The Mystical Treasure Beneath Cornerstone

Within the shadows of the California’ Militia Civil War Headquarters, Gov. Pete Wilson and his wife Gayle,  entered the California Citizen-Soldier Museum, on Nov. 10,  1992, and consecrated the Maj. Gen. Walter P. Story Memorial Library and Research Center.

The State Military  History Detachment rapidly transitioned  into  the California Center for Military History (CCMH) to expand  the California National Guard Historical Society (CNGHS) manpower to manage the anticipated onslaught of  donations. CCMH Commander, Brig. Gen. Donald E. Mattson, cultivated a religious sort of mystique for this Cathedral and its branch of diocese chapels at Camp Roberts, San Luis Obispo,  and Los Alamitos. Army Regulation (AR) 870-5 became the CCMH’s Training Doctrine, and  AR 870-20 became their bible.

Faithful that the CCMH staff was prepared to handle military artifacts in accordance to  the Smithsonian-standards in AR 870-20, Military  Historical donors started loaning priceless artifacts and treasured heirlooms. Maj. Curtis T. Hall family  permitted NGAC to display his  collection of Revolutionary  War, Civil War, Spanish-American  War,  and  World  War  I era  long guns with  bayonets as the Museum’s keystone  exhibit. California’s Daughters of Veterans of the Civil War and Civil War Roundtable gifted invaluable Civil War Paintings, confident the CCMH would  adhere to curation scriptures in AR 870-20, so as time would  not flake its paints, and age the art.

From the Civil War Roundtable flowed vintage Civil War photos, uniforms, hats,  weapons, letters, and diaries. Donations from which the CCMH started reconstructing accounts of Californians in the Civil War: Col. Edward D. Baker’s California  Brigade, and  their roles at Bull’s Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg; their presence at Gettysburg’s infamous “Picket’s Charge;” tales of  17,000 California Volunteers defending the Oregon Overland and Santa Fe Trails, vital for the eastward flow of  California gold to finance the war; and  an anecdote of reconciliation with California  being the  only U.S. State to ever appoint a former Confederate General, Maj. Gen. George B. Crosby,  as its adjutant general from 1882-87.

Perhaps the  spirit of a Lonesome  Dove, swooped down  from the  heavens, beckoning the experiences of veterans from  all spiritual  planes and earth’s physical spheres. From the land  marched articles and  keepsakes of California’s pre-World War I veterans. The First California Volunteer  Infantry’s action during the  capture of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American  War, signaling the end Spanish  Colonialism in the Western Hemisphere. The cadence of L Company, California National  Guard on the Mexican  Border Campaign following Gen. John J. “Blackjack” Pershing into  Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa.

In what may be thought of as a Historical version of “no man left behind,” the CCMH launched  “research and discovery” expeditions for narratives of  Californians in WWI’s  “Lost Battalion,” recovering stories, and accounts of personal heroism such as Medal  of  Honor Recipient Lt. Nelson M. Holderman, and his rescue of two wounded men under  intense fire in the Argonne Forests.

Japanese Forces, Seoul, Korea, surrender to Col Roy A. Green, Commander, 184th Infantry Regiment.
Japanese Forces, Seoul, Korea, surrender to Col Roy A. Green, Commander, 184th Infantry Regiment.

The museum’s researchers heard the  cries of  abandonment,  “No  Mama, no  Papa, and no  Uncle  Sam,” resonating  from History’s time tunnel, reaching out to  the 4oth Infantry, Company C, 194th’s,”Battling Bastards of Bataan;” and displaying  their fearless last stand tank battle against overwhelming Japanese  invaders near the entrance of  Camp San Luis Obispo. Resuscitating their acts of defiance during the brutal Bataan Death March,  and archiving their recollections of enemy failure to break their loyalty to their country, despite savage torture and sadistic deprivation, during their  imprisonment. Marching their stories into the Walter P. Story Library with the  dignity that perhaps a Bataan Death March survivor appreciates better than anyone else–under  their  own power.

California Governor Earl Warren visits troops of the 40th Division in Korea in 1952
California Governor Earl Warren visits troops of the 40th Division in Korea in 1952

They captured the Cal Guard’s 40th Infantry Division’s action in American’s Forgotten War, documenting their roles  at Heartbreak Ridge and the Punch Bowl. Sharing the story  of the 40th’s compassion, of how each  man in the Division donated $15 to build a 10-room school at Gapyeong  in  South  Korea,  then adopting the school  at War’s end.  At the Citizen-Soldier Museum, Californians learned that Gapyeong High School, Korea never forgot the 40th Infantry Division,  making it a story always  remembered in the  California  Military History Museum.

The CCMH kept  the Museum abreast  of  History Unfolding. Recording Californians facing down evil aggression in the Persian Gulf War, and attritting evil’s  safe havens in Iraq and Afghanistan, protecting America’s safe haven under God, in the Global Wart on terrorism (GWOT). Memorializing Californians  killed in the GWOT on a “Traveling Wall,” laboriously tracking more than 5,700 Californians killed, to keep them alive in Californians hearts.

From the air, accounts of  the risks California Guardsmen Eugene Ely assumed when  he made the first-ever landing on a makeshift  aircraft carrier in  March 1911, landing safely in the Story Library archives. The Cal Guard’s 115th Observation Squadron’s daring air reconnaissance missions over Burma in WWII; and their spotting, and interdicting a Japanese submarine  off near Catalina  Island, off California’s shoreline on August  15, 1942, making Californians conscious of, perhaps, the less visible missions their military undertakes in  defense of their country.

From the sea, the CCMH surfaced accounts  of Californians onboard World War II submarines, and the  transition  to  nuclear submarines during the Cold War. Their endurance in cramped  living quarters, and  close  encounters  with nuclear-torpedo warfare with  Soviet  subs. The CCMH became a historian light house, shining its research  beacon lights upon  the California’s Naval Militia History: its activation in 1891;  its provision of U.S. Navy with Naval Militiamen officers and sailors during the 1898 War with  Spain; and  its journey  into San Francisco Bay, steaming manpower  and supplies in relief of San Franciscans marooned by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Guiding  their  stories  into  safe harbor inside the Story Library  and Research Center.

The Citizen-Soldier Museum’s collection baskets, in a manner of speaking, overflowed, compelling the California Legislature to enact a law broadening the  scope of the CNGHS, making  them  the California State Military Museum on Dec. 29  200o–the  official Military Museum not only for the Citizen Soldier, but all Golden State citizens who served in the  United  States  Military. Changing a California  National  Guard  Historical  Society, into a California State  Military Foundation to embrace all the state’s military history.

The volume  of  literature  in the MG Walter  P. Story Memorial Library  and  Research  Center became a magnet for  prominent historians and national Libraries. UC Northridge History  Professor  and  History Channel consultant Roger McGrath became President and chairman  of  the  Foundation’s Board  of  Directors. The  Library of Congress integrated the  MG Walter P. Story Memorial  Library and Research  Center into its World War II Oral History Project;  grabbing the California Legislature’s attention with a WWII oral history  appropriation for the  Foundation to purchase digital recording equipment, sending the CCMH on missions to find, and record the  experiences of California’s WWII veterans. A resource Home Box Office (HBO) tapped into when filming the mini-series, “Band of Brothers.”

Military Support to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, picture above, was one of the many military support to civilian authorities (MSCA) historical accounts available to the United States Army Military History Center, and the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) for historical policy analysis. (CNG Grizzly Magazine photo).
Guardsmen federalized for the ’92 L.A. riots: Part of the hundreds of California State Military Museum documents that, at one time, was   available to Army and Civilian  leader  policy makers.

The MG Walter P. Story Memorial Library and Research Center grew into a valuable resource for Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL), and was recognized as part of the United States Army Center for Military History (USACMH) museum network from which  they could reference for its mission to advise the Army  on historical matters–to  include Military  Support to Civilian Authorities–and civilian leaders  on foreign policy that leaves no soldier behind. In a 2003 USACMH Army History Center (AHC) certification report, Brig. Gen. John S. Brown,  Chief  of Military  History wrote:

“The Army is very dependent upon the (Heritage) Museum to help preserve and communicate the heritage of our soldiers and our Army in a state that does not have a major Army installation with historians and a museum system under the purview of the U.S. Army Center of Military History.”

According to  the 2002 “Gold Rush” National Guard Association of United States (NGAUS) annual conference magazine, the Walter  P.  Story Library and  Research  Center  had  accumulated more than 10,000 books and historical works. The museum had more than 30,000 artifacts and 30 extensive  exhibits depicting–borrowing  from a Gen. Douglas MacArthur quote–“the greatest act of religious training: sacrifice.”

Preciously  that Cathedral-type mystique Mattson envisioned. “It should be noted that museums like  ours are not here to glorify war…but instead to remind this, and future generations, of the sacrifices” made to keep our State and Country free,” Mattson  said.

And like disciples of Mattson, ordained with MacArthur religious training, the CCMH resurrected these sacrifices; mining the lessons of war and peace, cradling them through research rockers, trapping the residues of fiction, and allowing nuggets of truth to fill aquifers of riches beneath that Operation Cornerstone.

Aquifers overflowing into an underground reservoir of a mystical  treasure, radiating its mystique to above, allowing the nearly 30,000  people, including  1,500 school children from 40 California school districts, to subconsciously experience its mystical power of Faith, brewing from beneath the Cornerstone.

Presentation of Colors. Colors return to California, Nov. 11,1946, commemorating the return of the California National Guard from WWII. One of the 30,000 artifacts the State Military Department confiscated in 2014, now speculated, deteriorating in a Guard warehouse somewhere in California.
Presentation of Colors. Colors return to California, Nov. 11,1946, commemorating the return of the California National Guard from WWII. One of the 30,000 artifacts the State Military Department confiscated in 2014, now speculated, deteriorating
in a Guard warehouse somewhere in California.

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In Chapter 3, I write about my  perception of  the  consequences of  an internal  Cal Guard generational war and its influence upon the legislative battle over the California State Military Museum. 

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Personal Note: This Chapter dedicated to St. Martin of Tours, who as a military  officer, performed numerous acts  of  charity during military service. He once encountered a half-naked vagrant, cut  his  heavy officers cloak  in half, giving half to the  beggar. The charity President Ronald  Reagan and the 1980s Cal  Guard leaders, for me, epitomize Charity to build a museum, symbolizes  their generosity for California’s military community.

 

 

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