A STEADFAST MUSEUM OF MILITARY HISTORY
4th Infantry Division Museum
At the 4th Infantry Division Museum at Fort Carson, Colorado, there’s a simple display of a fairly plain World War II officer’s uniform on a mannequin with a hand-painted sign nearby that says, “The War Starts Here.” The quote isn’t exactly what was said, but together this exhibit honors a man who had some big shoes to fill.
The display is of Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the son of President Teddy Roosevelt, the assistant commander of the 4th Infantry Division, who, at 56, was the oldest man to take part in the D-Day landings and the only general to land with the first wave of soldiers.
On June 6, 1944, the general truly would’ve made his more-famous father proud by going ashore with his men. Roosevelt, who had already reached a higher rank than his esteemed father, actually had to make multiple petitions to be on the first wave of Normandy landings at Utah Beach. As ADC or assistant commander of the 4th Infantry Division, he argued that his place was with his men, and, like his father, he didn’t want to command from a safe distance.
However, no one in the Allied high command wanted the son of a former president of the United States to be killed in action. Requests by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to be on one of the ships that made up the invasion fleet had already been denied, but Roosevelt was granted his wish and landed with his men.
It could be argued that he was the right man for the job, as the landing craft drifted almost a mile before making landfall. General Roosevelt
assessed the situation as only a commander in the field could do, and rather than try to lead his troops back to the original landing zone, he said instead, “We’ll start the war from right here!”
In many ways that statement and the fighting spirit could also sum up the 4th Infantry Division, whose motto remains “Steadfast and Loyal.” The unit’s story, from its foundation to the modern day, is told at the small but impressive museum that stands just outside the main gates at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs.
THE WORLD WARS TO THE MODERN DAY
The 4th Infantry Division was organized at Camp Greene, North Carolina, in December 1917 as part of the buildup of the American Expeditionary Force, which was soon to head to France and join the fighting on the Western Front in World War I. The unit took part in the brutal fighting during the St. Mihiel Offensive followed by the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, where it served with distinction.
The unit was reactivated in June 1940 and took part in the D-Day landings — with members of the
8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th ID claiming to be the first surface-borne Allied units to land in France on June 6, 1944. The unit later saw action in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.
After World War II, the 4th ID was the deployed in Germany as part of NATO operations. In 1966, it was sent to the Central Highlands in Vietnam. It saw intense fighting with the People’s Army of Vietnam along the Cambodian border. From 1970 to 1995, the unit was stationed at Fort Carson.
The 4th Infantry Division has played a substantial role in the Global War on Terror with units deployed in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Members of the unit’s 1st Brigade Combat Team participated with United States special operations forces in Operation Red Dawn in December 2003, and captured Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq.
In total, 20 men who served in the 4th Infantry Division, including Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., were awarded the Medal of Honor, proving again that this unit had some seriously hard chargers in its ranks. These men have a fitting place of honor in the museum as well.
THE MUSEUM COLLECTION
The 4th Infantry Division Museum chronicles the history of the hard-fighting unit with key pieces that date back to the First World War, including captured German small arms, helmets, and equipment. The bulk of the collection currently on display highlights the role the unit played in the D-Day landings as well as in the liberation of France, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
Many of the items have been donated by 4th Infantry Division veterans, and some are especially unique. These include a French bicycle from the 1940s, used in Vietnam by communist forces to move material down the Ho
Chi Minh Trail. It was donated to the museum by a Vietnam combat veteran, who managed to get it back to the United States. While photos show that hundreds of bicycles were employed by the Viet Cong, this is one of only a handful that’s believed to exist.
Another unusual piece is a common block of polystyrene foam, painted to resemble a concrete block, and used to conceal Saddam Hussein’s “spider hole,” where he hid from coalition forces after Operation Iraqi Freedom. At the time of his capture in December 2003, Hussein was found with $750,000 in U.S. currency and two fake gold bars. The museum currently has the original box, displayed with replica currency and the two “gold bars.” It isn’t clear if Hussein knew the bars were fakes, or if it was part of some ploy.
The gold plating on the Al Kadisa rifle — the Iraqi copy of the Soviet-designed SVD “Dragunov” sniper rifle — however, is very real. The rifle was reportedly a gift to Uday Hussein, Saddam’s eldest son, and was captured at one of Saddam’s palaces, later occupied by the 4th ID.
This museum is quite kid-friendly, featuring a number of hands-on items, including helmets and other gear that the younger (or even older) visitors can try on. For a compact museum, it’s filled with history of the hard-fighting unit.
The 4th Infantry Museum also features a notable “vehicle garden,” with several World War II and Cold War armored vehicles, as well as a current M1A1 Abrams tank on display. This serves to denote the lineage of tank companies within the unit throughout its distinguished history.
The 4th Infantry Division Museum at Fort Carson,Colorado. Left: Various equipment used by the 4th Infantry Division duringWorld War II — this includes the gaiters that were worn over low boots as well as the later war “double buckle boots” most soldiers favored. In addition, this exhibit features a late-war Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) with carrying handle, but with the bipod removed to reduce weight.
Top, right: The weapons and gear of the enemy! This exhibit includes aWaffen SS visor cap to an officer, a German Model 35 steel helmet, K-98 Mauser rifle, MG-42 machine gun, MP-40 submachine gun, and C-96 “Broomhandle” pistol.
Bottom, right: Among the small arms in the museum’s collection are a long-barreled German 9mm Luger and a Colt Model 1917 Revolver — the latter was produced due to shortages of the Colt Model 1911 pistol. Both Colt handguns fired a .45-caliber round.
A pair of capturedGerman “stahlhelms” (steel helmets) and a rare German gas mask are on display with an early “egg style” hand grenade. All of these items were donated to the museum.
Top: A gold-plated Al Kadisa rifle (the Iraqi copy of the Soviet-designedSVD “Dragunov” sniper rifle) that was reportedly given as a gift by Saddam Hussein to his eldest son, Uday Hussein. Middle: A French bicycle that was modified to move equipment down the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam. This was brought back circa 1970 by a veteran of the 4th Infantry Division.
Bottom: An M4 Carbine that was issued and carried by Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha, who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Kamdesh in 2009 in Afghanistan. Romesha has served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.