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November 7, 2012

Museum unveils new exhibits on Veterans Day

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

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Chris Causley, president of the Michigan Military Technical and Historical Society, stands in front of a new display, which will be unveiled to the public Nov. 11 at the military museum in Eastpointe.
The Michigan Military Museum, located on Stephens, just east of Gratiot, features dozens of displays chronicling the state’s involvement in and contribution to 20th century warfare.
 

EASTPOINTE — The Michigan Military Technical and Historical Society is unveiling phase two of the museum for their one-year anniversary from noon-5 p.m. Nov. 11.

Phase two includes a more detailed and personal account of the lives of Michigan soldiers and soldiers stationed in Michigan, as well as an expansion to the section on POW, or prisoner of war, camps in Michigan.

“We’re trying to tell the story of the POW camps here in Michigan that held German and Italian soldiers during World War II,” said Chris Causley, MMTHS president. “There were quite a few. There were a lot of satellite camps that didn’t have that many prisoners but were stationed throughout the state for reasons of agriculture. It’s a topic we are hoping to continue to go into deeper and have expanded on in phase two.”

Unlike many of the other displays at the museum, information on and artifacts from Michigan POW camps are hard to come by, so a complete display and in-depth history will take time to complete.

“We’re hoping that by adding to the display for the one-year anniversary, someone will see it and realize they might have some old artifacts of Grandpa’s in the attic or somewhere and come in and donate it to the museum for use in the exhibit.”

Causley is passionate about the topic and is in the process of trying to unite the topic’s few scholars   for a panel discussion to help create a more in-depth picture of what the camps were like. That’s just an idea right now, though; until it happens, he’ll continue trying to share as much of their story as he can through artifacts and information donated to the museum.

Although Causley himself and other MMTHS members have purchased and donated many of the artifacts that fill the display cases, donations from local families make up a good portion of the inventory on display in phase two.

The south-facing wall of the museum, once bare, is now lined with display cases featuring uniforms, field manuals, pictures, letters home and more.

“These two cases are the Michigan State Troops,” Causley said. “This area is civilians in service. Not everyone you see in pictures in uniform is a soldier; they had various field experts out in war zones — for instance, Ford Motor Company (experts) to check how the tank is running or something — but under the Geneva Convention, anyone captured in civilian clothing could be executed as a spy. So they were authorized to use the uniform, and they all had these little triangle patches to indicate they weren’t actually a soldier in the war.”

Moving on down the line of cases, Causley pointed out uniforms from World War I, World War II, the Cold War, Desert Storm and so on, telling as much of the stories as he could about the soldiers who wore the uniforms.

The city of Eastpointe made a donation to the museum for phase two, as well: the uniform worn by Eastpointe-native NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger. The uniform, along with artifacts, were previously on display at the old community center on Eight Mile, but the donation included a second uniform and multiple boxes of Linenger artifacts that were previously kept in storage. All of it will be part of a special display in the center of the museum’s main room.

Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane is a strong supporter of the museum. A self-proclaimed history buff, he finds the museum’s focus on the history of Michigan’s involvement in 20th century warfare interesting and unique, in a way that is very positive for the city.

“I always say it’s about creating a sense of place, and the military museum helps us do that,” Duchane said. “Who else has got one? This is a unique pride point for the city. The museum is a developing icon in the city and the stories it tells actually commemorate many people from Eastpointe and other cities around the state.”

The Michigan Military Museum is located at 16600 Stephens in Eastpointe. Phase two will be debuted to the public from noon to 5 p.m. on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Doughnuts and coffee will be served in celebration of the museum’s one-year anniversary. Admission for the event is by donation. For more information, call (586) 872-2581 or email www.mimths@mimths.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.