Museums and Monuments
Updated On: 11/2/2012 12:17:13 PM
82nd AIRBORNE division MUSEUM
The 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum is one of the oldest and largest organizational museums in the Army system. With over 5,000 artifacts in the collection, and over one million photographs and documents in the archives, annual museum attendance exceeds 75,000. Visit the museum to learn 82nd history from World War I, including Sgt. Alvin York, to the present. You will see the uniforms of Generals Ridgway and Gavin, equipment and weapons from Troopers of America’s Guard of Honor from 1917 to the present, as well as captured foreign equipment and weapons. Learn the amazing history of America’s Strategic Response Force through exhibits, videos, pictures and documents on display to the public. The museum’s Airpark displays aircraft from various periods of airborne history, including a C-47, C-46, C-119, C-123, C-7 and C-130, as well as numerous artillery pieces. Outside there are a number of memorials and monuments, from the official Division Monument to the Global War on Terrorism Memorial, honoring the sacrifices and courage of our All Americans. The museum’s theater shows a 25-minute movie on 82nd history every hour. We invite you to view this first, then tour our main 5,000-foot gallery. Average recommended time to experience everything on site is about two hours. Still in its original location since 1957 on Ardennes Street, Building C-6841, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and federal holidays, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Gift shop hours of operation are the same. Attending the museum is free and we are open to the public. If you are in the area during Easter, Halloween and Christmas, check out our free, fun family-oriented activities. Group tours are welcomed and encouraged, please call (910) 432-3443 for more information and scheduling your group.
THE AIRBORNE AND SPECIAL OPERATIONS MUSEUM
The Airborne and Special Operations Museum provides an educational resource for active-duty Soldiers and civilians alike. Part of the Army Museum system, the 59,000 square-foot museum houses artifacts relating to airborne and special operations units from 1940 to present. In addition to the hundreds of personal items, uniforms and weapons, displays include a C-46 “Skytrain” airplane suspended from the ceiling, complete with a jumper in the door; an extremely rare, fully restored WWII CG-4A combat glider; two helicopters and a Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle. The ASOM offers a specially designed film in its 235-seat Yarborough-Bank Theater. The film, “Descending from the Clouds,” includes footage shot at several Army installations including Fort Bragg, and shows dramatic scenes of airborne and special operations Soldiers doing what they do best. The film is complemented by the 24-seat pitch, roll and yaw motion simulator, which allows visitors to join airborne and special operations Soldiers as they race across deserts, ski down snow-covered hills, free fall from an aircraft and fly at tree-top level.
Opportunities to become involved with the museum are always available. The Museum Friends program and engraved paving stones are available for purchase. The stones that line the ASOM’s Memorial Garden and go around Iron Mike are a fitting way to honor veterans and Family members, or to simply support the museum. Volunteers are always needed at the museum’s information desk and as docents helping to interpret the galleries to visitors. As an educational resource, military groups, schools and other groups are encouraged to visit the museum.
The museum is located at 100 Bragg Blvd., in downtown Fayetteville at the corner of Bragg Boulevard and Hay Street. The museum is easily accessible from Interstate 95 and centrally located on the East Coast. Hours of operations are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Though normally closed on Monday, the museum is open on federal holidays should they fall on a Monday. The museum is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. While always welcome, groups are encouraged to call ahead for planning purposes. Admission to the museum is free. Prices for “Descending from the Clouds” is $4 and the Motion Simulator is $5 or $8 for a combination ticket. Tickets are available in the museum gift shop, which has an outstanding selection of airborne and special operations books, prints, clothing, jewelry and other specialty items. For information, call (910) 643-2773 or visit the museum’s website at www.asomf.org.
JOHN F. KENNEDY SPECIAL WARFARE MUSEUM
The John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum, located at Ardennes and Reilly streets intersection, is the regimental museum for Special Forces, Military Information Support Operations and Civil Affairs units. Established in 1963, the museum collection is multifaceted, including many one-of-a-kind items. The collection includes numerous ethnographic items acquired by teams in Vietnam, Africa and Burma. The museum also has an extensive World War I and II propaganda poster collection. Visitors will find displays on such diverse units as the U.S. Army Indian Scouts in the 19th Century; and the Office of Strategic Services, 1st Special Service Force and Merrill’s Marauders in World War II. It also showcases the Airborne Ranger Companies, the United Nations Partisan Infantry Force and PsyWar units involvement in Korea, as well as Special Forces actions in Laos and Vietnam. A separate gallery highlights special operations forces participation in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Static exhibits, including a large piece of the World Trade Center given to the USAJFKSWCS from New York City as a reminder of why we train and fight, are located outside of the museum. Additionally, there is an static exhibit on A-camps in Vietnam. Adjacent to the Museum is the JFK Special Warfare Memorial Plaza where the statue of Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons predominates. The statue was donated to the U.S. Army by H. Ross Perot as a tribute to the ground force commander of the Son Tay Raid, a rescue attempt made in 1970 to rescue 64 American prisoners of war from a North Vietnam prisoner of war camp. The Special Forces Hall of Fame and a display of Medal of Honor recipients are located in COL Bank Hall, located at the corner of Ardennes and Merrill streets.
The museum gift shop offers mementos, souvenirs and books relating to the USASOC, Special Forces, and JFK Special Warfare Center and School. Their hours are the same as the museum: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to
4 p.m. Closed Mondays. Open Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Veteran’s Day. For more information on the JFK Special Warfare Museum, call (910) 432-4272/1533. The direct line to the gift shop is (910) 436-2366. The JFK Museum gift shop website is located at www.jfkwebstore.com
During the spring of 1960, Lt. Gen. Robert F. Sink, commander XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg sought a statue to honor the Airborne Soldier as Marines are honored by the Iwo Jima statue and infantry by the Follow Me statue at Fort Benning. Sink wanted a heroic statue not less than eight feet tall — an oversized monument to instill pride among current Soldiers and recall the great airborne deeds of past.
In early May 1960, Sink appointed Leah Hiebert, a sculptress trained in Europe and New York, to create a monument to the Airborne Soldier. She was here with her husband, deputy post chaplain, Lt. Col. Samuel Hiebert. Hiebert had taught art classes on post and did a bust of Sink.
Sink decided on the pose, uniform and gear that would be worn by the model. His original idea for the statue was to make it resemble the artwork from the cover of Ross Carter’s book, “Devils in Baggy Pants.” The statue was to represent a World War II paratrooper after jumping into battle.
Upon seeing the painting and learning how Sink wanted the statue to look, Col. Edward Whelems, XVIII Airborne Corps G1, told the general he had just the man for the job and sent for 1st Sgt. James L. Runyon. At the time, Runyon was the new first sergeant for C Company, 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg. Before coming to Fort Bragg, Whelems had been Runyon’s commander in 3rd Infantry, 7th Division. Runyon, a World War II veteran with over 18 years in the Army, bore an uncanny resemblance to the jumper depicted in the painting. Sink agreed and Runyon was selected as the model for the Airborne Trooper Statue. Runyon trained at Camp Mackall with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment during WWII and jumped in to Normandy on D-Day. He had another combat jump into Holland, as well.
From May to August 1960, Runyon posed for the five-foot clay model everyday for four hours, 20 minutes at a time, during which he was not allowed to move. He wore his own WWII uniform and all of the WWII equipment while he stood for the statue. He was 38 years old at the time. Photographs were taken of him from every angle and were put on the walls of the workshop for reference during later stages of the statue’s construction.
Before constructing the statue, six different clay models would be sculpted and Sink would select the winning version.
On May 16, Col. Earl Peterson, ordnance, became the project officer. The next day he started the search for an adequate shop in which to construct the tall statue — one with a high ceiling and large door to remove the completed work. Sink has instructed that it should be two to three times life size. After a day of searching the post for a shop, he found two possible locations: an abandoned 1918 boiler plant and an old parachute packing building in the Old Division area. Keeping an active pace, Peterson visited Fort Benning the next day to gather information on the construction of their infantryman statue. In June, the shop opened in the parachute packing building. Pfc. Zintars Zamelis, 82nd Airborne Division, Quartermaster Company, the Project Engineer, went to work to build the needed shop facilities, including stands, turntables and clay-mixing equipment. By the end of the month, artisan SP4 Janis Krisans, B Battery, 319th Artillery, 82nd Airborne Division and Zamelis had started shaping clay miniatures for Sink to view and select.
During July, Zamelis experimented with the glass fiber and epoxy composition designed for the final statue and discovered problems. A manufacturer’s representative visited Fort Bragg a couple times to find an answer to the difficulties. While Zamelis struggled with the fiberglass, Krisans continued with the clay miniatures. On July 18, Sink inspected the six miniatures and selected the one that became Iron Mike.
Immediately with the general’s selection, work started on the statue. A 4-foot-tall clay model served as a construction guide. The statue itself would become 15 feet tall with a steel beam and wire mesh structure. It had a covering of glass fiber, epoxy, hardener and bronze powder. The 15-foot statue sat on a 12-foot-tall pedestal and weighed 3,235 pounds. Iron Mike stood at 2.4 times his human model.
On June 30, 1960, Sink left for his next assignment as commander, United States Forces in Panama. On Sept. 14, the new XVIII Airborne Corps commander, Lt. Gen. J.H. Trapnell visited the shop and gave approval to continue with the project. The work progressed with the constructing of components such as the helmet, boots, hands and hand grenade. Later they were added to a main structure. By November the team was ready for the main armature. A full-time welder joined the effort in January, SP4 Kenneth LeClaire, 82nd Airborne Division Artillery and started assembling the steel structure.
Trapnell continued to follow the project and in a June 13, 1961, letter to Gen. Adams, wrote the statue “will contribute greatly to morale and pride of the soldiers of this post and all airborne troops.” By this time the statue neared completion and had taken on the name “Devil in Baggy Pants.” This name came from a World War II incident when American troops found in a German officer’s pocket an unfinished letter home describing the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment as devils in baggy pants that kept coming and could not be stopped. The plaque at the statue could relate this story. However, XVIII Airborne Corps staff noted that this might be considered restricted to the 504th PIR. A wider interpretation would be more appropriate. Suggestions for the plaque covered a wide range of themes and consideration was given to enlisting a famous writer such as Carl Sandburg, the great American poet, but he was unavailable. The simple course proved best, using straightforward language recalling the heroic actions of the Airborne Soldier.
A new name emerged, the “Airborne Trooper,” memorializing all past, present and future airborne. Now with a decision on the plaque and statue name, picking a site required attention in June. A most important criterion was to see it from a distance, given its height. Suggestions included the main post parade field, beside the Corps Headquarters, in front of the Reilly Road Post Exchange and the intersection of Bragg Boulevard and Knox Street. The Bragg Boulevard site, at the entrance to Fort Bragg, excelled over the others. Here, many could see the statue, and room existed for landscaping. With site location identified the concluding statue work took place for an Aug. 29 unveiling. Then, Exercise Swift Strike required the post’s attention. The unveiling ceremony was scheduled for Sept. 23, 1961.
The Airborne Trooper was moved to its location just over one week before the unveiling. It depicted an Airborne Trooper who has at the moment completed a combat jump into battle. He is resting his weapon on his hip, but still has his finger on the trigger, ready as usual. His left foot is on a pile of rubble in a readiness stance. Looking at his face, we see tiredness, determination and yet the American characteristic of compassion. The tilted helmet, hanging chin straps and relaxed appearance is another sign of the American attitude: casual, but tough. Mrs. William C. Lee — widow of Maj. Gen. Willam C. Lee, father of the Airborne — and Trapnell pulled off the cover together.
The statue soon became the Fort Bragg icon, was featured on many official publications, and small statues were given as gifts to soldiers and visitors.
The Airborne Trooper statue was not named for any one person; he represents all paratroopers, past present and future. Over the years he earned the nickname “Iron Mike.” This nickname has been given to many statues, athletes and military figures in the United States. In 1979, due to acts of vandalism, the statue was moved from Bragg Boulevard to its present location in the traffic circle between the officers club and Post Headquarters.
On Sept. 23, 2005, a more permanent bronze statue replaced the original statue. The replacement was an exact copy and was moved to the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, N.C., where he greets visitors to
the museum in a position of honor at the front entrance.
Special Warfare Memorial Statue
The Special Warfare Memorial Statue, also known as “Bronze Bruce,” was the first Vietnam memorial in the United States and was dedicated in 1969. Since then, the statue has become the centerpiece of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Memorial Plaza at Fort Bragg, N.C., and is symbolic of all the command’s Soldiers. A Special Forces Soldier was chosen as the model for the statue since nearly all Army special operations Soldiers killed in Vietnam were Green Berets.
The 12-foot statue stands upon a rare green granite pedestal that brings the total height of the statue to 22 feet tall. It is representative of a Special Forces noncommissioned officer, wearing the rank of a sergeant first class, and is a powerful image of what U.S. Army Special Forces Soldiers stand for. The Soldier is dressed in the jungle fatigues worn in Vietnam by U.S. troops.
He carries the M-16 rifle, a tool of his profession, in his right hand. His finger is not placed on the trigger of his weapon, but is “at the ready” in preparation for any threat. His stance upon a rocky ledge with one foot crushing the snake is symbolic of tyranny in the world and the threats and dangers that will instantly bring him to action. While possessing power and extraordinary capabilities, he offers a gentle hand of friendship to the unseen oppressed of the world. He is fully able to exercise his training when it is needed, and he is also fully willing to help those in need.
He is the perfect warrior from the past, a healer, a teacher and an opponent of evil. He serves all over the world today and willingly faces any mission. His is the standard to which all Army special operations Soldiers aspire. Inside the base of the statue is a time capsule containing an Special Forces uniform, a green beret, a bust of John F. Kennedy and Kennedy’s speech presenting the green beret to Special Forces Soldiers.
The cost of the statue in 1969 was $100,000. John Wayne, co-director and star of the 1968 movie “The Green Berets,” and Barry Sadler, composer of the song, “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” each donated $5,000 toward the creation of the statue as a symbol of the “Quiet Professionals.” Robert McNamara, the secretary of defense at the time, donated $1,000. Special Forces Soldiers from all over the world donated the remaining money needed to build the statue.
In late November 2011, Fort Bragg inaugurated an Eternal Flame to recognize the sacrifices made by Fort Bragg’s service members in support of the nation’s defense. It is made from stone transported from the site of the former World War II paratrooper training facility, Camp Toccoa, Ga., and steel recovered from the World Trade Center after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Eternal Flame is situated in a place of honor near the flagpole on the post’s Main Post Parade Field.