VISIT

A STEAD­FAST MU­SEUM OF MIL­I­TARY HIS­TORY

Recoil - - Contents - BY PETER SUCIU

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.

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