quiet Potter Street, across from Stilwell Field in historic Fort Douglas,
is a small but illuminating treasure the Fort Douglas Military
Museum. Founded in 1974, this site offers a fascinating foray into the
military history of Utah and of the United States.
little musty, as any museum of this type is wont to be, the facility
is filled with treasures dating back to the earliest days of the Utah
Territory. The first display one sees depicts the Nauvoo Legion
a precursor to the Mormon pioneers and the valley's first body of military
defense. Little-known facts about Utah's participation in the Spanish-American
War are detailed here. Nearby is a diorama of the early Camp Douglas
village, with its sparse buildings and dusty roads. And around another
turn is an authentic handcart used as a mode of transportation around
the camp and as a "garbage truck."
In the Navy room, entered
through a transplanted ship's door, are photographs of the bombed battleship
USS Utah, documenting its gradual sinking at Pearl Harbor. There
is also a model of the cruiser USS Salt Lake City, with memorabilia
taken from that ship.
of uniforms, guns, ammunition, and decorations bring the historic conflicts
to life, from the earliest days of the Nauvoo Legion through the two
world wars, the Korean conflict, and Viet Nam. Honor rolls and Walls
of Honor, recognizing men and women killed in these conflicts, make
the history personal. The Pearl Harbor Room contains a magnificent array
of modelsbattleships, cruisers, and destroyers-many of which were crafted
by Merv Brewer, a member of the Salt Lake Plastic Modelers Club.
The grounds around the 1875
sandstone building also harbor museum artifacts. Art Gogan, Navy master
chief and machinist mate (ret.), is the museum's armament specialist
and keeps the equipment in good repair.
Nielsen, museum curator, in a M151-A2 utility truck.
He points out the Sherman
tank from WWII, the Sheridan tank from the end of the Korean conflict,
and the Patton tank M47 M48 used after the Korean War. There is an armored
personnel carrier with a rocket launcher. The imposing Cobra and Huey
helicopters conjure up images of jungle rescues and rushed landings,
and the Loach helicopter has meaning for those who were in reconnaissance.
A dusty Jeep M151 that saw action in Viet Nam and Desert Storm sits
next to the intimidating cannon field with its well-marked specimens,
ranging from the Civil and Indian Wars to WWI, Korea, and Viet Nam.
Col. (Ret.) Robert S. Voyles,
director of the museum, is anxious for people to know about and appreciate
the museum. "Thirty to 40 percent of our visitors are veterans,"
he says. "And they bring their families." Many of the items
displayed in the museum come from these veterans and their families. "We
are now in the process of working on a major expansion of the museum,"
he explains. "We have so many stories to tell." He details plans
for expansion of the Marge Riley Memorial Library, a valuable source for
research, and for construction of a small theater where short films telling
the story of the fort can be screened. There will also be a larger theater
and a visitors' center that will house exhibits about the fort and a gift
shop, among other things.
A visitor to the museum
should not fail to ask about Clem, the resident ghost, who has been
seen wearing a Civil War uniform. Or come to the museum on Halloween
night when the stories are told and ghostly pictures shown. You may
leave having caught a glimpse of Clem.
BA'59 is editorial assistant for Continuum.