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St. Louis Fights

Exterior of the St. Louis Soldiers Memorial.
My son Glenn Peterson, his wife Amanda, and their two daughters Jane and Anne took me to the newly renovated St. Louis Soldiers Memorial. The museum reopened last Veterans Day after a three-year renovation. The museum was originally dedicated in 1938 to honor WW I veterans, but the “new” Soldiers Memorial displays stories, photographs, drawings and artifacts from all American wars dating back to the early 1800s.

I didn’t know what an “entablature” was until I looked it up. It is the rim above the columns of a classical structure. These bas-relief profiles on the museum structure make the exterior look striking.
An eagle sculpture proudly sitting outside the war memorial.
Of course an American war museum would have to have an eagle standing guard. Great moments in juxtaposition — if you look closely you’ll see a high-flying jet aircraft over the bird’s left shoulder. Of course I composed the photo that way.
One of four winged-horse sculptures guarding the exterior of the St. Louis Soldiers Memorial.
Gracing the entrances are four winged-horse sculptures by St. Louis native Walker Hancock signifying the soldierly virtues of SACRIFICE, COURAGE, LOYALTY, and VISION.
One corner of the war museum showing the subdued lighting and some of the many displays.
The subdued lighting in the interior strikes just the right mood to chronicle the serious business of war. The memorial is divided in two halves with a basement. In the middle vestibule sits a black granite “cenotaph” with the engraved names of 1,075 St. Louisans who gave their lives during the Great War, World War I. A red, gold, and silver mosaic in the ceiling contains a gold star representing the many St. Louis mothers who lost a son or daughter in war.

Historical tidbits from the museum

In 1919 St. Louis was the birthplace of the American Legion after WW I. The organization lobbies governments for veterans benefits and offers services to veterans as well as a place to gather and trade stories.

After WW I, “Last Man’s Clubs” brought together surviving members of military units once a year for reunions where the participants could remember their comrades and memorialize friends who had passed away during the year. The clubs set aside a special bottle of champagne or cognac that was to be opened by the last two surviving members who would drink a toast.

A number of special plaques are on display in a “Court of Honor” at the historical Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. In the 1920s a group of Gold Star mothers — who had lost a child in the Great War — honored the fallen by setting up a bronze plaque for each service member. The memorials were erected in the median of Kingshighway Boulevard. Unfortunately, highway construction impeded on the outdoor memorial, but American Legion members were able to recover many of the plaques.

Fort Belle Fontaine established in 1805 was the first American military output west of the Mississippi River. It became a key facility during the War of 1812 when the British hired Indian tribes to harass the young nation. The Missouri Territorial Rangers provided their own weapons and horses but received federal pay for scouting and skirmishing with the Indians, including famed Sauk chief Black Hawk. Two sons of famous American frontiersmen Daniel Boone and Daniel Morgan led ranger companies.

St. Louis was an important Union base during the Civil War. The war caused terrible splits among Missourians as this display shows.
Granddaughter Jane Peterson designing a Civil War ironclad on an interactive display in the war museum.
One of the exhibits allowed my granddaughter Jane to design this nifty triple-turret ironclad for the Union Navy in the Civil War. Unfortunately, input from grandpa and dad made her boat too heavy, and it promptly sank when launched into the Mississippi River.
A B-24 nose turret manufactured by the Emerson Electric Co. of St. Louis
Jumping to WW II, St. Louis was home to a number of important war industries including making components for the atomic bomb. Here is a nose turret on a B-24 bomber manufactured by the Emerson Electric Co., which was housed in a 700,000-square-foot factory. The nose turret was made of more than 3,000 parts designed to synchronize the control and firing of two .50-caliber machine guns.
This looks like a video game controller salvaged from a house fire, doesn’t it. In actuality, it is the remote controller for the nose turret guns shown above.

Painting of the three St. Louis Clark brothers, two of whom died in WW II.
Symbolizing the sacrifices of war is the story of the Clark brothers of St. Louis. Army Air Corps flyers Sgt. Harvey Clark (r) and Lt. Charles Clark (l) were both killed in action in 1944. The War Department removed Marine Pvt. Frank Clark (middle) from combat in the Pacific in June 1945 and sent him home. Frank Clark donated this painting to the Soldiers Memorial in 2008.

photo of John, Anne, Glenn, Jane and Amanda Peterson outside the St. Louis Soldiers Memorial.
The museum crew of April 20, 2019: from left, the author, Anne, Glenn, Jane and Amanda. The Soldiers Memorial should be part of everyone’s St. Louis visit.
Posted in museum, Confederacy, WW II, Civil War, Historical Site, military, War Dead, War History

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