Museum showcases Oklahoma's military heritage

Monday, May 26th 2008, 1:31 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

The 45th Infantry Division Museum honors Oklahoma military heroes and highlights the Sooner State's military heritage.

The museum, which opened in 1976, houses a large collection of artifacts that Oklahomans have brought back from foreign wars.

"These artifacts were all recovered by Oklahomans serving in some branch of the armed forces," Curator Mike Gonzales said.

Gonzales said the artifacts that get the most attention are in the museum's World War II section.

"We have the largest collection of items that were once the personal property of Adolph Hitler on public display anywhere in the world," he said.

Many of the Hitler artifacts were recovered by the 45th, as they were the first Allied unit to enter Munich, Gonzales said.

"The 45th Division headquarters personnel made a beeline for that apartment and they established the division headquarters inside that building," he said.

Not all of the Hitler items came from the apartment. A mirror that hangs in the museum was recovered from Hitler's private bathroom in his Berlin bunker.

"So it's kind of a spooky little thing to stand there and look at your own reflection in this mirror, knowing on the last morning of his life Hitler rose, washed his face in that mirror, shaved in that mirror, trimmed his little mustache, married Eva Braun, and later that morning shot himself in the head," Gonzales said.

The museum also has a large section devoted to the Korean War.

"There were only two National Guard units that were mobilized in 1950 for the Korean War, the 45th Infantry Division being one of them," Gonzales said.

Other exhibits document Oklahoma's contributions in Vietnam and in the first Gulf War.

Gonzales said the museum is fortunate to have amassed such a large collection.

"I'm hoping that, at some point in everybody's life who lives in Oklahoma, they can come here and gain some feeling of the appreciation for the sacrifices that their friends and neighbors, family members have endured to help us preserve our freedoms," he said.