Staff at the Indiana Military Museum are marshalling their strength for what will prove to be a busy summer campaign.
Judge Jim Osborne, the museum’s founder and curator, said board members are planning an official grand opening and ribbon cutting for May 31. And present for the event will be four of the board’s most noted honorary members: George Patton, the grandson of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.; Capt. Frank Lee Culbertson Jr., a retired astronaut who flew the Discovery in 1993 and 2001 and who lived on board the International Space Station for 129 days; retired Maj. Gen. John Singlaub; and Maj. Gen. John D. Riddle.
The ribbon-cutting will be held at 10 a.m. followed by the dedication of the museum’s F-4 Phantom fighter jet, a plane only recently acquired by museum officials. And beginning at 11 a.m. there will be a special ceremony at the U.S. Grayback memorial, one honoring submariners lost during World War II.
The Grayback was one of 52 American submarines lost during the war.
The monument was transported to Vincennes from the Naval Reserve Center in Indianapolis last year when the museum moved to its new downtown home at the corner of Sixth and Willow streets.
Admission into the museum will be free on May 31 as well, Osborne said.
Board members and volunteers also are planning a “Salute to Vietnam Veterans” event for June 8-9. A complement to its annual “Salute to World War II Veterans,” Osborne said he thought it “high time” Vietnam veterans got the local recognition they deserve.
“There are still many Vietnam veterans around, and we want to bring more attention to the sacrifices they made for their country,” he said.
The event’s highlight will be an appearance by Sammy Davis, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Davis served in a Vietnam infantry division that came under attack by the Viet Cong in November 1967.
“Ignoring dozens of wounds from shrapnel from enemy mortar rounds, one that had pierced his kidney and one which was lodged in his vertebrae,” so the museum’s monthly newsletter reads, “(Davis) returned to the howitzer and single-handedly loaded and reloaded the artillery piece firing again point blank at the enemy positions.”
Davis, who now lives in Freedom, also swam across a nearby river — he reportedly couldn’t swim — after the attack to bring back three of his wounded comrades. He’d suffered multiple wounds and a broken back, and he was one of only 15 to survive the battle, Osborne said.
“He is probably one of the more notable living recipients of the medal of honor,” Osborne said, “and we’re honored to have him.”
One of the IMM honorary board members, Davis, who will only be at the museum on June 8. Footage of his Medal of Honor award ceremony was used in the movie, “Forrest Gump,” with actor Tom Hanks’ head superimposed over that of Davis.
Osborne said members of the Indiana Air Search and Rescue Group in Indianapolis will be bringing Davis to the event in a Huey helicopter, a model commonly used during the Vietnam War. Group members also will be offering visitors rides over the city in the helicopter in exchange for the purchase of a membership in the organization.
Memberships start at $100. Rides will only be available on June 8 as well.
Throughout the two-day event, visitors will see a multitude of Vietnam War re-enactors, encampments, equipment and vendors.
“The museum will have some special equipment out that represents the Vietnam period, jeeps and trucks, those things, as well as a Vietnam ambulance that we plan to have finished by that weekend,” Osborne said. “We’ll have lots of vendors, food, things like that.
“The Evansville Military Collectors Association says it will be there with 13 tables full of memorabilia for sale.”
A 105 howitzer, the type of cannon used during the Vietnam and Korean wars and the kind Davis was using when he earned his Congressional Medal of Honor, will be on display June 9. The Indiana National Guard will be doing demonstrations of the artillery piece throughout the day, Osborne said.
The “Salute to Vietnam Veterans” event will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 8 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 9.
Admission into the museum during the two-day event will be waived for Vietnam War veterans and their spouses. There will be a $2 parking fee, but admission to the grounds and outdoor exhibits will be free to all.
Admission into the museum is $5.
The museum’s annual “Salute to World War II Veterans” will be held Sept. 7-8.