Talks and new exhibits planned at military museum

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published December 9, 2015

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EASTPOINTE — A variety of lectures and events are coming up at the Michigan Military Technical & Historical Museum in Eastpointe after the new year, with topics ranging from World War I-era Detroit to pieces of World War II history.

The museum, located at 16600 Stephens Road, currently has five talks lined up between January and May, according to the museum’s president, Chris Causley. The museum also has a book and media sale scheduled for March 19-20.

The first talk, called “Amphibious Warfare in the Pacific during WWII,” is set for 2 p.m. Jan. 17. During the talk, Oakland University professor Bruce Zellers will discuss the “island hopping” strategy that the U.S. employed against the Japanese in the Pacific.

Military rations throughout the 20th century will be the focus of the Feb. 21 talk. Historian Phil Naud will talk about the development and evolution of those rations throughout the century, according to a museum press release.

Wayne State University archivist and author Elizabeth Clemens has scheduled a book signing and talk at the museum March 6. Her topic will be Detroit during World War I. In her book, Clemens writes about Detroit’s economic, industrial and population booms during the war, and how the changes wrought by the war helped shape the city as it is today.

Michigan State University librarian Michael Unsworth is scheduled to talk about Japanese balloon bombs and Michigan during WWII on April 3. Balloon bombs involved tying explosives to balloons and setting them loose on the winds to start fires in the U.S.; Unsworth’s talk will be about whether or not any of these bombs actually hit their marks and, more specifically, if any reached Michigan.

Finally, on May 15, author and military vehicle expert David Doyle is scheduled to talk about Dodge trucks and the military — how the military trucks were developed and deployed, particularly during World War II. Doyle will have copies of his book for sale, and the museum is asking people to register by Feb. 15 if they are interested in a copy of the book.

“The Dodge lecture by David Doyle is our first attempt at bringing in a national author,” Causley said. “We are paying to bring him up to Michigan for this book signing, so we hope for a good turnout, and we are seeking sponsors for this event to help offset the cost.”

Other speakers are people Causley already knows, though he said Unsworth and Zellers approached the museum about their talks. All events are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., with admission being a donation.

Beyond those talks, Causley said the museum staff is working on a “few exhibit changes” and new displays that should go up sometime after New Year’s Day, though he had no information about a firm date. The museum did acquire a prototype military vehicle model that should be on display next year, he added.

“We have acquired a Ford engineering model of the XM151E1 from the mid-1950s,” Causley said in an email. “The M151 was the replacement for the jeep and saw service from 1959 through the late 1990s. The XM151E1 was the prototype selected by the Army for production, so the model is an important part of the vehicle story.”

The model is about 2 feet long and an estimated 1/6 scale when compared to the real thing, Causley said. The museum purchased it from a man who found it at an estate sale inside a wooden box that had been screwed shut.

Causley said he ran into the seller at an event at the Packard Proving Grounds this spring and was able to negotiate a sale for it. He added that he believes it is a one-of-a-kind item and called it a “great piece” of history for light utility vehicles — the same type of vehicle as Chrysler’s brand-name Jeeps.

Wendy Richardson, who works with the museum, said the museum recently put together an exhibit showing how a mass-produced vehicle grille is different from an older, handmade one.

“You can see the differences between the handmade individual (grille) and the type of engineering Henry Ford championed; that is, making them in bulk and that type of thing,” Richardson said. “It’s interesting to see side-by-side for the same vehicle.”

She said the museum recently purchased a camera to record the lectures and talks at the museum.

Richardson said museum officials want to make the recordings available to museum members, senior centers and the Eastpointe Memorial Library eventually so that people who missed the lectures can see them.

The military museum likely will host local Girl Scout troops and special board game events for war-gaming enthusiasts, though Richardson said she did not have specific dates for those yet.

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