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January 29, 2014

New exhibits, World War I remembrance on tap for military museum

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

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New exhibits, World War I remembrance on tap for military museum
Patrick PJ Norton, of Wayne, faces off with Mike Monczunski, of Lincoln Park, in the World War II-themed Advanced Squad Leader during the Michigan Military & Technical Museum’s Wargaming Weekend Jan. 18. It is one of several events the museum has going on this year.

EASTPOINTE — With 2014 underway, the Michigan Military and Technical Museum is assembling its list of special events, activities and new exhibits for the upcoming months.

Chris Causley, president of the Michigan Military and Technical Society, said that the museum just finished hosting the three-times-a-year Wargaming Weekend Jan. 17-18, where fans of tabletop wargames — like Advanced Squad Leader or Warhammer 40k — were able to play with other enthusiasts for more than a day straight.

He said the meets used to be held at a gaming store in metro Detroit until it closed in the mortgage crash a few years ago. The group of players there ended up moving to the museum.

“Basically, people into that kind of gaming show up here and play their games,” Causley said. “If they find someone to play against, they’ll start a game. Some guys preschedule their games, so they meet here and use the front meeting room and play all through the night.”

While the whole year has not been planned out, Causley said the museum is still going to be continuing with its World War II roundtable discussions. The next one is at 4 p.m. Feb. 1 and features a presentation by a man, Bill Krul, whose father was killed in World War II.

Causley said Krul made a movie about his father and his unit, the 103rd Infantry, so the plan is to show the film at the very least, and he hopes to get veterans from the 103rd and the 160th infantries to talk about the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Northwind, a part of the battle that occurred in January of 1945.

Further out, roundtable events are still more in flux. Causley said the March roundtable does not have any speakers set yet, though the April roundtable will hopefully have a group of German women on hand to talk about growing up there during World War II.

Steve Mrozek, a member of the World War II Roundtable of Detroit that co-runs the events, said similar roundtables throughout the country usually feature historians, veterans and authors talking about a variety of aspects of that period in world history. He said the roundtable is hoping to get German veterans from the conflict to speak this year about their WWII experiences.

“We have made an effort to provide a balance in regards to the topics and have been open to suggestions,” Mrozek said. “The Michigan Military Museum in Eastpointe has been a logical location for the programs, essentially because of the historical emphasis and purpose.”

Causley added that the museum’s programs are heavily weighted toward World War II, though he would like to see more programs for other conflicts in the 20th century, up to the Gulf War. One non-WWII program set for 2 p.m. Feb. 9 will see local shortwave radio enthusiast Jerry Begel talking about 20th century military and radio communication.

“We look for something that has a local connection,” he said. “We’re trying to get more Korean War and Vietnam-era speakers signed up. We’re working on a Vietnam presentation for the end of March. I don’t have all the details on that one yet, but we’d like to.”

As far as the museum exhibits go, while Causley said they have not received any new large items, small donations continually are arriving, and some exhibits are going to be changed out for fresh ones, such as one on 1943 riot gear being swapped for one on World War II rationing. The building’s library is also being relocated in anticipation of a new exhibit area.

“We plan on turning the old library into a rotating gallery and exhibit space for putting in larger exhibits on a rotational basis,” Causley said. “We hope to have it up and running by the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I in August. We want to do the (exhibit) “Guns of August: 100 years of World War I.”

The museum currently is taking donations to help finance the reconstruction of that space for exhibits, he said, such as lumber, tape and other supplies. The staff also is always seeking material donations for the museum itself.

“As far as artifacts go, (we look for) things with a direct connection to the state of Michigan, and military items from the 20th century,” Causley said. “As far as equipment goes, we’re always looking for newer computer equipment, as a lot of ours is very outdated.”

The museum needs volunteers more than anything, Causley said, and those interested can get in touch with the museum.

The museum is located at 16600 Stephens Road in Eastpointe. For more information, call (586) 872-2581.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kevin Bunch at kbunch@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.