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…….
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.