"Born at sea, baptized in blood, your fame shall never die."
Those are the words Gen. George S. Patton said of the 45th Infantry Division, and keeping that promise is the mission of the 45th Infantry Division Museum, 2145 N.E. 36th.
Created by legislative act in 1965, the museum serves as a historical archive of Oklahoma military history. Numerous exhibits display artifacts and information from the Spanish exploration to the taming of the American West, but its primary purpose is to record the World War II exploits of the Fightin' 45th.
The museum's collection chronicles the 45th Infantry Division's battles in the European theater, where it saw more than 500 days of fighting in Italy, France and Germany.
The museum features Allied and Axis weapons, uniforms and other World War II artifacts, including items once belonging to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. In 1945, the 45th liberated the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, Germany, and a special place is reserved to commemorate the atrocities uncovered there.
The museum also houses a collection of original drawings by Bill Mauldin, who served as cartoonist for the military publications 45th Division News and Stars and Stripes. Depicting the war from an infantryman's eyes, Mauldin was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1945.
Although focused on World War II, other conflicts are not ignored. The museum's displays include a life-size recreation of a World War I battle trench as well as a collection of Korean War artifacts and a Gulf War display.
Housed in a 1937 Works Progress Administration armory, the museum is also home to the Reaves Military Weapons Collection, which the museum touts as "one of the finest collections of American military weapons in the nation." With a particular focus on Civil War arms, the collection includes weapons used by America's fighting forces in clashes from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam, as well as captured enemy weapons.
Also on the museum's grounds is Thunderbird Park, a collection of more than 60 military vehicles, tanks, weapons and aircraft.
Recently reopened after a revamp and remodel, the museum will celebrate its grand reopening as part of its annual Memorial Day ceremony on Monday.
With free admission, the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, visit www.45thdivisionmuseum.com.
Price writes online at www.travelblur.com.