Monday, May 25, 2015

HSGL Lansing Goes to War & Be A Tourist in Your Own Town

One lucky kid who guesses the weight of a Civil War cannonball will win a year's supply of jaw breakers at the "Lansing Goes to War" exhibit in the lobby of Lansing City Hall as a part of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing's participation in "Be a Tourist in Your Own Town,", Saturday, May 30.

Also visitors to the exhibit will be able to climb aboard the WWI inspired Forty and Eight train which will be on display from 10 a.m. to 12 noon in front of Lansing City Hall.  The Forty and Eight train movement is named after the French train boxcars that transported soldiers and horses to the front in World War I.  the boxcar would hold either 40 troops or eight horses and in 1920 a charitable group raising funds for child welfare and nurse's training adopted the name as a means to raise funds.

Kids under 13 will have a free chance to guess how much a cannonball from the Civil War weighs, and the winner closest to the weight without going over will be awarded a large jaw of jaw breakers.  In case of a tie a drawing will be held among the entries for the same weight.

These events will help highlight the Historical Society of Greater Lansing's exhibit "Lansing Goes to War," a collection of more than 150 artifacts and ephemera from the Civil War to the Spanish America War and from World War I to World War II and to the First Gulf War.

"The current exhibit showcases how war changes all aspects of our life, forever," she said.  "We wanted to express the concept that, once a generation, people in Lansing have sent family members off to war.  The exhibit looks at the time when women worked in factories or were sent overseas as nurses and families received sober telegrams starting with "We regret to inform you...."'

The exhibit includes uniforms, medals for bravery and other mementos from Lansing families, she said.  "We wanted to focus on the things they carried and the things they wore," Marvin said. 

The exhibit also contains items from the home front including the first tank shell manufactured by Oldsmobile during World War II.

Another highlight includes letters from Freeman 'Mac' McClintock who was an auto mechanic in World War I and would service ambulances across the French countryside.  At the end of the war he ended up in Paris servicing the cars of General Pershing and President Wilson.  He later returned to Lansing and owned several car dealerships including McClintock Cadillac.  His daughter, Mary Jane Wilson, will present a program at 7 pm, Thursday March 26 based on her father's letters from the front.  Following the presentation guests are encouraged to bring their own or relative's letters and read snippets of them which will be recorded.

The exhibit also explores the role women played in the war as nurses and medical professionals, but also gaining their independence by working in wartime factories making everything from bombs to airplane parts.  A banner from the Willow Run Bomber Plant, once owned by the Lansing aviatrix Babe Ruth, a WWII trainer for the Army Air Force, is on display for the first time.

Visitors will also see how the war was integrally involved in every aspect of the home front including ration stamps, MIA bracelets, and the blue stars which families hung in windows to designate a soldier, airman, sailor, or Marine overseas.

One collection showcases how families and warriors kept in touch through Vmail during World War II and how they were able to vote from overseas.  There are also items that feature souvenirs set home to family members, especially mothers and wives.  An extensive scrapbook compiled by Joyce Hammond is an endearing record of her sweetheart fighting overseas.  Ron Springer who served in Vietnam loaned what he calls 'the rucksack letter' which he sent home to his parents detailing what he carried into the field on a mission.

A truly unusual piece of ephemera is one of the original manuscripts used by Luther Baker in speaking engagements describing his role in leading the group which captured John Wilkes Booth.  Following the end of the Civil War Baker moved to Lansing and used the award money to invest in local real estate.  Baker and his horse Buckskin were often seen in parades and at local speaking engagements.

The exhibit will be open through June 30 during normal City Hall hours and it will also be opened on special days and weekends.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Vietnam Veterans Panel on Thursday, May 21

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting a panel discussion featuring three Vietnam War veterans at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 21 in the lobby of Lansing City Hall.

Valerie Marvin, president of the Historical Society, said that the program is being held in conjunction with the Lansing Goes to War exhibit which features more than 150 items representing wartime and civilian experiences from the Civil war to the first Gulf War.

"In recognition of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War the panel discussion will explore one of the United States' most complex engagements from the viewpoint of three men who served on the ground there."

The panel will be moderated by Scott S. Shattuck of Mason.  Shattuck has been a high school teacher for more than 30 years; is a member of the Ingham County historical Association and on the Board of the Mason Historical Society.  In addition, he is a collector of military memorabilia.

The panelists include Ronald Springer, Larry Emery, and William Murphy, all from the Lansing area.

Murphy, who is retired from the State of Michigan, is also an author of seven books and has written a book, "Souvenirs of War," on his experiences in Vietnam.

Murphy served 13 months in Vietnam, as a Marine Corps' infantry rifleman and was in-country from mid-February 1968 to late March 1969.

He was in the 3rd Battalion of the 27th Regiment for one-half of his tour, and in the 2nd Batt 9th Marine Regiment for the second half.

Both of these battalions were front line units and he was involved in 12 major combat operations as a fire team leader (small 5-man units).  Besides the usual service medals for service in Vietnam he received two Purple Hearts and the Naval Achievement Medal with a combat "V" for valor.

With two friends Spring volunteered for the draft and entered the US Army from Lansing on May 6, 1969.  He took Basic Training at Ft. Knox, KY and Advanced Individual Training, (AIT) in Infantry at Ft. Polk, LA.  He was then sent to Ft. Benning, GA for NonCommissioned Officer's School (Infantry) and then back to Ft. Polk for training with an Infantry AIT company.

He served in Vietnam from April 1970 to March 1971 with Co A, 1/502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile).  His positions included Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant (acting) and Platoon Leader (acting) with the 1st Platoon.

His unit operated in the lowlands and triple canopy jungle mountains 10-20 miles west and south of Hue, known as Military Region 1 or I Corp in the northern region of then South Vietnam.

Firebases in his area included Arsenal, Bastogne, Birmingham, Brick, Jack, and Rakkasan.

His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Infantry Badge.

A third member of the panel was recently added and did not provide biographical information.