1st ID’s transfer to Kansas leaves one military museum in Europe — but the cavalry may be riding to the rescue
Stars and Stripes May 19, 2008
HEIDELBERG, Germany — The 1st Infantry Division museum in Würzburg was a place where soldiers and their families could revisit their division’s past battles, hardships and glories, all the way from the trenches of World War I to the sands of Iraq.
U.S. Army Europe curator Gabriele Torony explained that like some 50 other U.S. military museums, the museum was designed to develop pride and esprit de corps. "And also to educate the soldiers," she said.
But the 1st Infantry’s move from Germany to Fort Riley, Kan., meant that its facility — which won an award for best Army museum, beating out heavyweights like West Point and the Patton museum — would have to go, too. That leaves one other military museum in USAREUR’s domain, the 1st Armored Division museum in Baumholder, Germany.
Torony, who had been the 1st ID museum curator, closed it down in 2006. "She shipped an enormous amount of stuff to Fort Riley," said Andrew Morris, USAREUR deputy historian.
"There were 18 tanks on display — they all went to Fort Riley," Torony said. All had to be thoroughly cleaned then packed off encased in microbe-deterring salt. "It was a humongous project," she said.
She hated to see it go. "It was a state-of-the art building," she said, with capabilities for interactive, interpretive displays — not just artifacts in a case. "It was the nicest building on post," she said.
"We traced the history of the 1st ID — Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, the Balkans. We had an Iraq exhibit … One soldier brought his family in, and he told his wife, ‘I couldn’t tell you what I did — but you can see it.’ "
Now she’s a curator with a warehouse instead of a museum, helping U.S.-bound units properly return historical property and keeping track of artifacts.
Yet another museum could be established in Germany, with the help of some funding. The 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, which can trace its lineage back to the early part of the 19th century and is the longest active serving cavalry regiment in the U.S. Army, has moved from Fort Lewis, Wash., to Vilsek. Its artifacts followed.
"They got here and they had no slot for a curator and no place to put the stuff," Morris said. "We’ve got a building for them. We’ve got a plan for renovation."
What they don’t have, though, is the funds. Any actual museum would be a couple of years in the future, at best. In the meantime, the unit is deployed in Iraq.
"I think they deserve a museum to come back to and to have their story told," Torony said.