Donations coming in for Military Museum

March 31, 2010 at midnight
Updated March 30, 2010 at 10:31 p.m.

We already have several nice items donated or pledged for a possible small museum at the American Legion.

These items would also fit very nicely into the large military museum dreamed about being formed by the Victoria County Veterans Council.

These donated items would form a nice core collection for a significant military museum.

One of the earliest collections is a series of pictures from Fern Byrne from her husband, James "Jack" Byrne, who flew over the Hump in the China-Burma-India theater. He was a waist gunner in a B-24.

The collection includes 17 pictures of so-called nose art on the B-24 planes of his squadron.

He also had two pictures of Chinese soldiers marching along a road near their base. One picture shows hundreds of Chinese coolies pulling a huge stone roller by hand during the construction of a runway at one of our air bases.

Other pictures show portions of the famous Burma Road where supplies were also trucked over the Himalayas to the National Chinese troops in Chengdu, Sichuan Provence, China.

Another picture shows the flyby of a B-29 Super Fortress in China during 1943. One always associates this plane as the atomic bomb dropper in 1945, but on checking, they initially were assigned and went into action in China. From there, they conducted the first air-raid against Japan since the Doolittle raid in 1942.

Another rare collection was supplied by a fellow member at the First United Methodist Church, Bill Farmer. He approached me one day saying that he had rescued a scrapbook of pictures from a Navy man in his neighborhood who was just throwing them away.

On looking at the pictures I recognized about 20 of them as being from a city in Japan that had been destroyed by an atomic bomb. The choice is only of two cities, Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Well one of them has a sign saying "Red Cross Canteen Hiroshima." So that identifies the city without any doubt. I am sure these are a rare collection of never before published original pictures.

Other post-war pictures in the collection show many fascinating scenes of the post-war activities of Japanese civilians as well as military subjects, both American and Japanese.

These almost destroyed pictures highlight one of our fears. As our veteran population ages and passes on we fear that many things of value will not be recognized as such by family and might be destroyed, not in anger but because of ignorance of their value. If you have any items connected with your military service please, please save them. Try to identify them, record how you came to have them, record how the items were used, and how you acquired them.

At present the VCVC does not have any storage space but we urge you to register such items with us and just hang on to them until such time that we get a green light to develop the museum.

We would then have the storage space and would be able to properly handle any donated items. If you want to maintain ownership we would be glad to use them on a permanent or temporary loan basis or return them to your family when you pass. We would eagerly work with you in that area when necessary.

Thomas Janota has been very good at donating items from the veterans in his family. One treasure is of a WW I dog tag of his Uncle Edward bearing No. 1,495,565. He also gave some uniforms from the Texas 36th Division in WW I, as well as a wonderful panoramic view of the unloading of our troops after the war at dock in Newport News, Virginia.

This column is a research project of Dr. Peter B. Riesz. Contact Riesz at or 361-575-4600.



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