Welcome to our virtual exhibits page!
We will be posting online exhibits here. Rather than exactly replicating our exhibits, we will focus on exhibit highlights and using many images that aren’t currently on display. We’ll also try a bit of experimentation. Look for one or two new virtual exhibits here every week while the museum is closed. Please enjoy!
I Corps at Buna-Gona, Papua New Guinea, 1942-1943
“Take Buna, or do not Come Back Alive”
WWII in the Pacific
The United States initially remained neutral as World War II began, providing some aid to Britain, the Soviet Union and China through the Lend-Lease Act. As things heated up around the world, the US economic sanctions were brought against Japan, which outraged the Emperor and led ultimately to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. When the United States was attacked her citizens responded with a spirit of revenge seldom witnessed in our history. Recruiting stations were flooded with recruits eager to strike back at Japan.
I Corps Howitzer.
I Corps was organized during World War I and saw service on the Western Front. Although inactivated following the “Great War,” I Corps was reactivated on 1 November 1940 in response to the growing threat of war with Imperial Japan.
Between November 1942 and January 1944, I Corps troops were engaged in a series of hard fought battles. These battles were often fought at close range and to the death. On 3 January 1943, the Japanese forces were driven out of Buna, marking the first allied victory over the Japanese Army in World War II. However, heavy fighting and mopping up actions continued until the end of January.
U.S. Soldiers in New Guinea.
In August 1942, I Corps deployed to Australia to plan the assault on Japanese forces in New Guinea. At the time of I Corps’ arrival on Papua, New Guinea in November 1942, the Japanese forces were at the height of their fighting power and they believed themselves invincible. General Douglas McArthur told I Corps’ Commanding General, Robert Eichelberger, “Bob, I want you to take Buna, or not come back alive.”
General Robert Eichelberger takes a break from the fighting near Buna.
Major General (later Lt. Gen) Robert Eichelberger led both American and Australian troops in the Pacific. The soldiers of I Corps gave the United States one of its first victories of WWII in Buna. Following the New Guinea campaign, Eichelberger was promoted to lieutenant general and given command of the Eighth U.S. Army.
The American G.I. in the Pacific
While Japanese soldiers often thought themselves invincible, the Americans tended to underestimate the determination and fighting prowess of their foe. The American G.I. soon learned that he was fighting against a formidable enemy.
As the war progressed, the Japanese forces experienced dwindling manpower and supplies while the American soldier developed and employed ever-evolving battlefield tactics and were supplied with the most advanced arms and equipment in the world.
Conceptual drawing of WWII New Guinea exhibit and diorama by Alan Archambault.
During the campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, the tropical climate and associated diseases were as deadly an enemy as the Japanese forces. Malaria, typhoid, heat stroke and “jungle rot” took as big a toll on American troops as bullets and shells. Operating Field Medical Aid stations were one of I Corps’ biggest responsibilities. Modern medical care, both in prevention and treatment of tropical illness and battlefield casualties helped ensure an American victory.
U.S. Army M1 .30 Caliber Carbine (LEW-12894)
U.S. Army Pocket Surgical Kit (LEW-07900)
Red Cross Field Medic Brassard (No Catalog Number)
U.S. Army Sulfadiazine Wound Tablets (LEW-08965)
U.S. 1st Aid Pouch (LEW-08289-B)
U.S. Army Sulfadiazine Wound Tablets (LEW-11909)
The Soldiers of the Rising Sun
At the time the United States entered the War in the Pacific, the Japanese Imperial war machine had reached its zenith. After victories in Manchuria, Korea, Indo-china and the Philippines, many a Japanese soldier believed he was invincible. Inspired by the warrior spirit, embodied in the code of Bushido, soldiers were aggressive on the attack and stubborn in defense. After the first American victories at Attu, New Guinea, and Guadalcanal, the Japanese Army was put in a defensive position. With dwindling manpower and resources, the Japanese military could not match their enemies in terms of weapons, medical care, or manpower. In spite of their personal courage and dedication to the Land of the Rising Sun, the soldiers of the Army of Imperial Japan were ultimately defeated.
Conceptual drawing of Japanese Imperial uniform and weapons by Alan Archambault.
Japanese Flag with Signatures of U.S. Soldiers. Captured by a 41st Infantry Division soldier in the Pacific Theater, circa 1944 (LEW-00750).
Japanese Army Field Binoculars and Case (LEW-13021 and LEW-13022)
Japanese Army Pistol Holster (LEW-11776)
Japanese Semiautomatic Type 14 Pistol (LEW-11015)
Japanese Army Bolt Action Rifle, Type 99 (LEW-06039)
Japanese Army Bolt Action Rifle, Type 38 (LEW-04937)
Japanese Fragmentation Grenades (LEW-06515 and LEW-11581)
Japanese Mortar Round (LEW-00113)
Japanese Army Syringe Kit circa 1942 (LEW-003034)
Japanese Army Wooden Identification Tags, circa 1942 (LEW-11404)
Japanese Army Compass (LEW-00293)
Japanese Army Bayonet and Scabbard, circa 1939 (LEW-11777 and 11778)
Japanese senninbari, sash (or belt) of 1,000 stitches (LEW-13344)
Japanese Army Water Canteen, circa 1943 (LEW-00291)
Japanese Army Barracks Sandals (LEW-11394)
Japanese Army Officer’s Daito Sword and Scabbard (LEW-13287)
Japanese Army Officer’s Katana Sword, Knot and Scabbard on loan from West Point Museum (Cat #s 02143.1, 02143.2, 02143.3)
Documentation of captured sword, courtesy of West Point Museum.
Japanese Type 99 Light Machine Gun (LEW-00095)
Japanese Army Projector “knee mortar” (LEW-02851)
Japanese Army Type 92 Machine Gun (LEW-13520)
Japanese Army Field Telephone (LEW-11696)
I Corps Field Medical Aid station diorama.
The 91st Division in WWI
The assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in June 1914 ignited the spark of war in a Europe already rocked by forces of globalization, revolution and rapid technological change. World War I was meant to conclude swiftly, but the European arms race had created weapons and machines that changed forever the nature of war. The U.S. initially vowed to remain neutral—but German attacks on merchant vessels and attempts to form a secret alliance with Mexico ultimately led to President Wilson’s declaration of war in 1917. The U.S. Army was sent to reinforce the Western Front, where in September 1918, it prepared for the final decisive battles of the War.
Conceptual map of Camp Lewis.
The 91st “Wild West” Division in the Great War, 1917-1918
When the United States entered the First World War, in April 1917, Congress approved the establishment of sixteen new cantonments to train the new National Army. The largest Army cantonment in the United States was constructed on the Nisqually Prairie in Pierce County, Washington, on land donated by the local citizens. Originally called Camp American Lake, in July 1917, it was formally named Camp Lewis, in honor of famed explorer, Captain Meriwether Lewis.
Camp Lewis doughboys port arms.
In September 1917, the first recruits arrived, by August, the new enlistees and conscripts, were formed into the nucleus of the 91st Division. The men were primarily from the western states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and northern California. Their frontier western origins led to the nickname of the “Wild West Division” and they adopted the battle cry of “Powder River, let ‘er buck.” The 91st trained at Camp Lewis, often assisted by veteran allied officers from England and France. Trenches and various fortifications, found on the Western Front, added to the realistic training conducted on Camp Lewis.
Powder River, Let ‘er Buck.
Edward Herbert Van Kooten, France 1918.
In June 1918, the 91st Division left Camp Lewis, bound for the Western Front. When the division arrived in France, in July 1918, the Europeans were fascinated with the “cowboys” from the Wild West. In August, the 91st Division saw their first action in the St. Mihiel Offensive. The division was then committed to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the largest allied operation of the war. In September, the Wild West Division earned it “spurs” by smashing through three lines of German defenses, defeating an enemy counterattack, and inflicting a devastating blow to the First Guard Division of the German Army. In mid-October, the 91st Division was sent from the Argonne forest to Belgium to assist our allies in the Ypres-Lys offensive. The men of the 91st Division helped push the German Army east across the Escaut River shortly before the Armistice ended the fighting on 11 November 1918. In 1919, the 91st Division returned to the United States and was inactivated at the Presidio of San Francisco.
Fighting in the Argonne Forest
Conceptual drawing of Hall of Valor WWI exhibit and diorama by Alan Archambault.
The men of the 91st Division saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war while advancing through the Argonne Forest in September and early October 1918. Here the men of the Division claimed that they earned a reputation as “Shock Troops.” They overran a number of German machine guns positions and defeated am enemy counterattack. As a result, they were pulled out of the Argonne-Argonne offensive and sent to Belgium to participate in the stalled Ypres-Lys offensive. Their courage and determination helped bring about the Allied victory on 11 November 1918.
Soldier Profile: Oswald J. Swanes
Oswald J Swanes (center) and friends.
One of the young men who joined the 91st Division at Camp Lewis in 1918, was Oswald J. Swanes. Serving in the 347th Machine Gun Battalion of the 91st Division, Swanes saw considerable action and his experiences in World War I would prove central to his future life. He returned to Tacoma after the war, ran a fish business, and was active in local veteran’s activities.
All artifacts (except M1911 Pistol), donated by Oswald J. Swanes.
U.S. M1917 steel helmet with 91st Division “Pine Tree” insignia (LEW-13193)
Overseas Cap (LEW-13186)
WWI Victory Medal (LEW-13368)
Red Cross Ditty Bag and contents (LEW-13196)
Cotton print ditty bag issued by the American Red Cross. Bag came with the following items: one shaving brush (brown and white plastic with boar bristle brush); one razor kit in box; one polished steel mirror in dark green cover; one “Fraz Swaty” hone in black wood box; one pig skin strap with eyelet; one small glass vial, unopened, with lighter flints inside.
U.S. Army Identification Tags (LEW-13197)
U.S. Army Pocket Compass (LEW-13199)
U.S. Army Wristwatch (LEW-13198)
U.S. Army Pay Record Book (LEW-13202)
U.S. Army Spiral Puttees (LEW-13188)
(From ditty bag)
Full view of museum case with Swanes artifacts and WWI US Army uniforms.