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The Montana Military Museum: A Journey through the State's Military History

Montana's rich military history is showcased at the Montana Military Museum located in Helena. The museum is a non-profit membership organization operated under a memorandum of agreement between the Department of Military Affairs, State of Montana, and the Montana National Guard Museum Activity and the Fort William Henry Harrison Museum Foundation. The museum is an all-volunteer effort to honor brave Montanans who served the state and the nation.

The museum's displays follow the military in Montana from the arrival of the Lewis and Clark army expedition in 1805, through the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and various peacekeeping operations. The exhibits showcase Montana's contributions to America's military efforts through the years.

One of the most popular exhibits at the Montana Military Museum is "To Tokyo With Jimmy Doolittle." This exhibit tells the story of two young men from rural Montana who volunteered for a dangerous mission that would alter the course of World War II in the Pacific. Their actions forever cemented their place in the tumultuous history of the 20th century.

Another unique exhibit at the Montana Military Museum is "The First Special Service Force." This exhibit showcases the Canadian/American commando group known to their foes as the "Black Devils," to Hollywood as "The Devil's Brigade," and called by its members simply "The Force." The exhibit tells the story of the unit's creation, training, and ultimate success in some of the fiercest battles of World War II.

The story of two small-town Montana men, Stanley W. "Swede" Vejtasa and James F. "Jim" Barfknecht, who became decorated Naval Aviators, is featured in the "Naval Air" exhibit. Visitors can learn about their remarkable careers and the contributions they made to America's military efforts during World War II.

The "USS Helena" exhibit tells the story of several vessels named after the capital city of Montana. Each served proudly and was a worthy representative for the state. The exhibit showcases the history of these stalwart ships and the brave men who served aboard them.

The "Battle for the Southwest Pacific" exhibit includes the stories of many Montana men who enlisted or were drafted into the 163rd Regiment of the Montana National Guard and other U.S. military services. These soldiers served for over five years, taking them from small towns throughout Montana to Australia and Japan. Battles fought for the Southwest Pacific involved some of the fiercest fighting of the war in some of the most difficult conditions.

The "163rd Infantry Regiment" exhibit tells the story of the regiment of the Montana National Guard that went overseas with the 41st Infantry Division in World War II. The exhibit showcases the brave men who served in this unit and their contributions to the war effort.

"Camp Rimini" is another fascinating exhibit at the Montana Military Museum. The camp trained sled and pack dogs for use as war dogs in World War II. Between 1942-1944, 263 sled dogs and 268 pack dogs were trained. The facility was run by the U.S. Army's Quartermaster Corps.

Visitors to the Montana Military Museum can learn about the remarkable stories of Montana's brave men and women who served in the military throughout history. The exhibits provide a unique glimpse into Montana's military history and the sacrifices made by those who served. The museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the history of the United States military and the contributions made by the state of Montana.


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