Dedication of the Sullivan Brother's Iowa Veterans Museum. Brother's story told through exhibit.
Thursday, January 31, 2008 1:36 PM CST
The human face of war
Grout addition tells the story of Iowans from every conflict we’ve fought in or supported
WATERLOO — The home movies show a young soldier boarding a jet plane leaving the Cedar Rapids Airport. There are shots with family. The clothes and hair styles indicate the movies were shot in the 1960s.
The presentation moves ahead to scenes “in country” of Vietnam. The soldier clowns around with friends, shares Rice Krispie bars sent in a coffee can from a loved one at home. It also shows pictures of Huey helicopters transporting troops to a landing zone, presumably into combat, and riding on a heavily armed swift boat up the Mekong River, probing the shoreline for the enemy.
At the end of the film, the soldier’s smiling face is gone., replaced by his memorial marker and the spot where his name is engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The home movies are those Sgt. Stanley Ross of Mount Pleasant, who served in the U.S. Army’s 199th Light Infantry Brigade. He was killed in combat Oct. 20, 1969. His home movie camera was sent home with his personal effects.
Those home movies, and a final shot of his memorial and spot on the Vietnam wall, are among the items that will be on display at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum addition to the Grout Museum, now under construction and scheduled to open Nov. 15.
Bob Neymeyer of the Grout, who interviewed numerous veterans of various wars for the project, said the Sgt. Ross’ movies are being used with the family’s permission. They want his story told.
The home movies were shown to a group of veterans of various wars. “It generated a great deal of emotion,” Neymeyer said. “One or two just got up and left.
“It’s a good example of what we’re trying to do, to go beyond just the traditional printed word, the artifacts,” and historic information about weapons and tactics, Neymeyer said. “It brings back the real human side of the war and the experiences that people had.
“This, indeed, is about people,” he said.
And it is people that have made the museum. Long before construction began and the addition’s prominent zinc facade began to rise over the intersection of West Park Avenue and Washington Street, the public, including veterans and their families, have been contributing artifacts and memorabilia like old uniforms.
Veterans and those who served on the home front in defense industries are sharing their stories and recollections in videotaped interviews. Some families have provided soldiers’ correspondence from throughout a war.
Neymeyer has conducted more than 500 interviews to collect oral histories from veterans and civilians who worked in local plants manufacturing war materiel.
The museum, in words, pictures, video and interactive exhibits, will chronicle Iowans’ involvement in all major U.S. wars, from the Civil War through Iraq.
It is named for Waterloo’s five Sullivan brothers who died together while serving aboard the USS Juneau during World War II.
The building will be full of restored or replica historic and interactive exhibits, including:
–- A World War II P-51 Mustang fighter plane, now assembled and hanging where the addition’s entrance will be.
–- A nearly life-size re-creation of the bow of the USS Juneau.
–- Re-created Civil War era rail boxcars like the ones in which freshly recruited Union Army troops from Iowa were transported to areas of battle.
–- A re-created World War I battlefield infantry trench, compete with periscopes through which one could view the panorama of “no man’s land” without being subjected to enemy fire.
–- A tropical Spanish-American War-style tent, similar to what U.S. troops may have used in Cuba during the war.
–- A cutaway section of a Korean War-era F-86 Sabre Jet fighter plane, where visitors may actually sit in the cockpit.
–- A life-size re-created M-4 Sherman tank.
–- A re-created war room of an aircraft carrier serving in the Pacific theater.
–- A Persian Gulf War-era tent, representing Middle East conflicts from 1991 on up through Iraq and Afghanistan.
Space within the museum also will be available for community events and receptions, Sweeney said. McHone also said the museum is in discussion with several military reunion groups about gathering in Waterloo to see the museum.
The project also will include new office space and renovation of existing museum space when the expansion is complete.
The 32,000-square-foot, $11.5 million expansion is anticipated to be structurally complete in June. It will take several more months, up to the anticipated Nov. 15 opening, to put in place all the museum’s interactive exhibits and historic displays.
The expansion will attempt to capture the emotions of wartime as well as the history. Anticipating some exhibits’ potential emotional impact on visitors, Grout officials have included a contemplative area for visitors to spend quiet moments if they feel so moved.
Contact Pat Kinney at (319) 291-1484 or pat.kinney.wcfcourier.com.