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Mini German Panzer division on permanent display at Alliance museum

The scope of the German Army during World War II can be seen inside a room at the World War History & Art Museum in Alliance.

What visitors to the museum that opened two years ago will find is an entire German Panzer division plus more in miniature.

It took Bob Parkinson 15 years to complete what is on display in glass cases.

A total of 15,000 pieces in the HO scale size include soldiers, tanks, trucks and other equipment.

The collection of tiny tanks, trucks and soldiers from the German Army was donated by the family of Parkinson, who died in 1991, to the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox, Ky., in 1992.

The entire Panzer -- meaning armor or tank in German -- division was on display for the July 4 weekend at the Kentucky museum in 1993 and then painstakingly taken down.

The collection was never put up again.

When Joel Parkinson, owner of the Stark County museum and son of Bob Parkinson, opened his museum two years ago, he was able to get a temporary loan of his father's collection that was then the property of the National Armor and Cavalry Museum at Fort Benning, Ga.

In March of this year, the Georgia museum made the loan permanent and contributed the Panzer collection to the Alliance museum.

Bob Parkinson, his son said, was a circus historian at Circus World Museum in Wisconsin. He started putting his Panzer division collection together in the evenings after work in 1965.

Joel Parkinson, now 53, grew up as his father purchased soldiers and vehicles from Roco, an Austrian company, and painted and converted many of them to make up his collection.

"He had no idea what he was getting into," when he started, Joel Parkinson said.

"It took him 15 years to research it, build it and paint it."

What is on display is a replica model of the Wehrmacht 2nd Panzer Division on the eve of D-Day in June 1944.

To put that division in perspective, Joel Parkinson said, at the time, the entire German Army was made up of about 210 divisions.

According to the museum, Panzer divisions spearheaded German Blitzkrieg campaigns during the war "and provided the main punch of the Third Reich's offensive power throughout the war."

His father, who was born in 1923, decided to make a German division rather than an American division, because there was more variety in the types of equipment used.

Along with the Panzer division, also on display is a battalion of German Tiger tanks.

Other than Fort Knox, the Panzer division miniatures were on display for a day or two at several locations before 1991. The collection was filmed for a CBS News segment with Walter Cronkite and was on display at the University of Illinois, Illinois Eastern College, the University of New Hampshire, Cobo Hall in Detroit and several other locations.

His collection includes 223 tanks, 4,000 vehicles and thousands of soldiers.

"He considered this an educational tool," said Joel Parkinson. "Being a historian and an amateur World War II historian, he knew no one had a good idea visually what any division, much less a Panzer division, entailed," he said.

"Even a veteran from World War II never would have seen an entire division assembled in one place."

Robert Parkinson, 18, son of the owner of the museum and grandson of Bob Parkinson, said his father would take all the bristles off a paintbrush but one or two in order to paint detail on the soldier figures.

"I like this as a grand scheme because people don't really get the scale of it until they see it," he said.

He said he personally lined up the vehicles and soldiers in the display.

"Three generations of Parkinsons have literally had their fingerprints in everything of this exhibit," he said.

The museum features exhibits on the outbreak of World War I in 1914, plus 325 original paintings and drawings by the troops of World War I, aviation art by pilots and airmen of WWII, tank warfare in World War II, women in World War II and others.

The 9,000-square-foot museum located in College Plaza at 1300 East State Street in Alliance is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students and children 6 and under are free.

More information is online or call 330-829-3911.

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