Expanded facility honors those who have served in wars

by: PHOTO BY: COREY BUCHANAN - Dea Begert (from left), Paul Schnedler and Anna Schnedler check out a historic tank outside of the Camp Withycombe military base in Clackamas.An expansive new museum at Camp Withycombe named after retired World War II Brig. Gen. James B. Thayer Sr. is projected to open to the public in August 2015, the 70-year anniversary of the end of WWII.

The recently remodeled Oregon Military Museum, also at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas, is sort of a “sneak preview” of the new museum, Executive Director Alisha Hamel said.

But while the old museum focuses mostly on the 41st Infantry’s conquests during the two world wars, the museum will feature history about Americans’ conquering of Indian lands, the Civil War, how Oregon became a state, and the future of the defense industry in Oregon.

“Basically, we will explain what they (the Oregon defense industry) are working on to help save American lives,” Hamel said. The Historical Outreach Foundation, which is a nonprofit that helps fund the museum, provides educational programs. According to the OMM website, the new museum will quadruple the old museum in size and have a more diverse range of exhibits.

by: PHOTO BY: COREY BUCHANAN - Deanna and Nathan Dube of Oregon Connections Academy, a virtual charter school, learn about Oregon's rich military history from some of the displays at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas.

“You can’t tell Oregon’s history without telling its military history,” Hamel said.

Oregon Connections Academy, a statewide virtual charter school that offers about 100 field trip opportunities per year, gathered on a recent morning at the OMM for an American history lesson, according to OCC spokeswoman Dawn Phillips,

“I do some of my own research, so it’s cool to see actual replicas and artifacts,” OCC student Nathan Dube said.

“It’s a beautiful museum,” second-grade teacher Dea Begert added. “I was flabbergasted with the things I was learning. And I thought I knew a lot about history.”

The kids learned about the 41st Infantry’s travels during WWII, from the infantry’s deployment in New Guinea and the Philippines, to the time they shot up a boat full of Christmas trees, thinking the Japanese were invading the Oregon Coast. Plus, they learned how the A-bomb helped the infantry avoid a “suicide mission” on Japanese soil and a battle between McMinnville resident Leonard DeWitt and 20 Japanese men. DeWitt managed to defeat all of the Japanese, but somehow couldn’t garner a Medal of Honor.

On Armed Forces Day, May 17, Camp Withycombe hosted the 18th annual Living History Day. The display included artifacts, restored tanks, modern military equipment, and amphibious vehicles.

Begert thinks the realities of war must enter a child’s stream of consciousness.

“War is not a video game and is not pretty.”

Hamel seconded Begert’s view.

“War is a terrible thing, but it changes the world. It’s important for kids to learn about that,” Hamel said.

She also is excited to showcase a more expansive museum when the new museum opens.

She said: “The new museum will help tell history as it unfolds.”

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