Advertisement

California Weekend Getaway:History Lessons Learned at Military Museums

July 19, 2007|By CARY ORDWAY Of CaliforniaWeekend.com

As a boy growing up in a small Central Washington farming community, one of my first recollections was that soldier in the framed picture that hung above my father's roll-top desk. The helmet had four stars and the stern look on the soldier's face was anything but friendly. Yet, there it was, my father's prize possession, a photo he viewed so reverently that it maintained its prime location for several decades until my dad sold his newspaper and moved out of his office.

The man in the picture was General George S. Patton, someone that my generation knew little about until he was made famous by George C. Scott's portrayal of him in the 1970 movie classic, Patton. But my father knew. As a U.S. Army major, he had served with Patton in Europe and apparently held a high enough position to have regular contact with old Blood-and-Guts himself. He traveled with the Patton headquarters team as the Third Army moved across Europe in the final stages of World War II.

Advertisement

My father never had a bad word to say about Patton, a man he admired until the day my father died. In fact, two days before my dad's death, the last thing we did together as father and son was watch the movie Patton.

So it's probably not surprising that we recently made a point of stopping by the General Patton Memorial Museum at Chiriaco Summit. Located just off the Interstate 10 about 30 miles east of Indo, the museum is a testament to the man and also to his specific involvement with creating the Desert Training Center, a vast desert landscape set aside for tank training when U.S. troops needed to prepare for warfare in North Africa. While Patton only ran the center for four months when it opened in 1942, he was instrumental in choosing the site where it was located.

The museum tells the story of the training center, but it also is a collection of artifacts from several wars including World War II. It's not in a fancy building and doesn't compare, for example, with the World War II Museum in New Orleans, but it is a fascinating group of exhibits that brings visitors closer to the realities of war. Through its collection of photos and documents, the museum offers a historical account of Patton and his contributions to the U.S. military. There is a large assortment of items actually used in war, from German Lugar pistols to machine guns to gas masks to uniforms and gear worn by our troops in several past wars.

La Canada Valley Sun Articles La Canada Valley Sun Articles
|
|
|