Warbirds and Airshows
By David D Jackson

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 Indiana Museums - Aviation, Military, Automotive and Fire

Museum of the Soldier
Portland, IN
Date Visited:  9-20-2014

Portland is a small town of about 6,300 residents and the county seat of Jay County which lies on the border of Ohio in northeast Indiana.  It is not the location one would expect to find a very nice military museum with some first class displays.  But through the efforts of several persons the Museum of the Soldier in Portland, IN is just that.  Started in the 1980s by several military historians it now occupies the former Coca-Cola bottling plant in Portland.  I was unaware of the existence of the Museum of the Soldier until the late summer of 2014 when I became aware that the museum was hosting a military vehicle show at the nearby Jay county fairgrounds.  I was able to visit both locations which are shown below. 


The home of the Museum of the Soldier in Portland, IN.


Located in the former Coca-Cola bottling plant, the museum has very limited visiting hours during the summer.  This is typical of several museums in the state that are not set up financially to heat a building of this size during the winter. 

In the early 1900s the Coca-Cola company started licensing the bottling of its product and by the 1920s there were over a 1,000 plants in the USA.  This one was one of them, being built in 1921.  Coca-Coal bottling plants went to war during WWII.  At the request of General Eisenhower Coca-Cola set up plants to supply the troops in North Africa and by the end of the conflict there were 64 plants operating around the world.


Stepping through the front door one finds a small gift shop at the entrance. 


There are many military uniforms on display but this was my favorite in the museum and the oldest.  Shown in the display case is are US Navy uniform parts from the Civil War.  The jumper is made of wool and was worn by petty officers.  The bell bottom trousers were made at the Brooklyn Naval yard in 1862 out of a duck material and the belt is for an officer's sword.


These weapons are part of the Vietnam display. 


More of the Vietnam display.  I was intrigued by the photo of the young girl in the center of the wall and there was no explanation of why her picture was there.  I asked the docent on duty and he could not tell me.  She was wearing fatigue shirt similar to the "tiger" camouflage one on display next to the photo.  I guess this gives me a reason to go back again some day and find out.


The museum operators have done an excellent job in laying out the displays while keeping all in an orderly fashion.


This corner display featured the B-29's role in WWII.


This section features products and companies from Indiana that provided military products for WWII and after.  The Army-Navy "E for Excellence" flag on display was highly coveted by companies during WWII supplying the military.  This one was won by the Portland Forge for the supply of 81mm mortar shells.


This display is on Medal of Honor winners.


The museum has a second room which contains several vehicles and displays.  Shown here are two M38 Jeeps, an M35 2-1/2 ton truck, and an M37 3/4 ton truck.  The horse is pulling a WWI ammunition cart.


Just inside the door to the back room is this display with a Desert Storm area at the end.


There is also a WWII bicycle,


 This wagon was of the most interest to me because it is a 1899-1917 US Army Escort Wagon built by the Studebaker Wagon Company of South Bend, IN.  Studebaker started building wagons in 1852 and continued in business until1963.


One of the wheels on the wagon was made in Anderson, IN, where I reside.

Portland Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) display at the Jay County Fairgrounds, September 19-20, 2014.
Hosted by the Museum of the Soldier.
I was not sure what to expect of a military vehicle display in a rather remote location in Indiana.  I was pleasantly surprised by the number of vehicles and the rarity of several on display.


There were two reasons for my visit to Portland, IN.  One was to visit the museum, and the other to visit the military vehicle display hosted by the museum. There was an excellent turnout of vehicles and the late summer weather was perfect.  Warm and sunny.


The fairgrounds are just a few blocks from the museum. 


  This non propelled road grader type was used by Army Engineers during WWII to build airfields and maintain roads for truck traffic. 


The road grader would be pulled by a prime mover when in operation.  It was built in Indianapolis in on 10-13-1942 by the JD Adams Manufacturing Company. 


One never knows what interesting and rare vehicles that will be on display.  This LVT-4 "Water Buffalo" was a welcome surprise, as they are very rare.  And this one is a movie star, having been used in the 2005 movie "Flags of our Fathers".


The LVT-4 was the first of the series to have a ramp.  Previously Marines and soldiers had to jump over the side to exit.  While this type vehicle is most recognized as being used by the Marine Corps in the Pacific, the US Army, being much larger, took delivery of the majority of LVTs.  LVT-4s in particular were used to cross the Rhine River.


 The LVT-4 was powered by a Continental R-670-9A seven cylinder radial aircraft engine producing 250 hp.  The radial engines, being originally designed to operate at relatively constant speeds for aircraft, did not work out well when having to constantly change RPMs when being shifted through the five speeds of the Spicer transmission.   


The driver's station with the Spicer transmission to the right and the powered axle in front.


The gunner's position.  One can seen the transmission better in this photo and the covering over the driveshaft from the engine.


This Ford jeep is another rare vehicle, being one of the 1,500 the company produced for testing by the military.  This was the final Ford version of the of the jeep that was tested against the Willys-Overland MB that was picked to be the new 1/4 ton truck.  The Ford prototype was overweight and had transmission issues.


Note civilian vehicle type instrument cluster.  This was common in early military vehicles produced by not only Ford, but Dodge, Chevrolet and GMC as well.


  The ID tags shows this is a Ford GP built on 4-30-1941.  The GP in Ford nomenclature designated "G" for government and "P" for 80 inch wheelbase, not "General Purpose" as is thought by some.


Just about the end of the line for Studebaker military vehicles, whether Escort Wagons like the one in the Museum or this 1962 2-1/2 ton 6x6 M35A1 cargo truck, as the company went out of business in the US in December of 1963.  The M35 is based on a 1949 design by the Reo Truck Company in Lansing, MI and was an improved version of the WWII 2-1/2 ton truck.  Reo, Studebaker, Kaiser-Jeep and AM General all built the M35.  Even Curtiss-Wright got into the act and built 150 dump truck versions. 

During WWII there were three different designed and built 2-1/2 ton trucks.  GMC in Pontiac, MI was the largest producer and its trucks went to the US Army and some overseas Lend Lease.  International Harvester in Fort Wayne, IN had its own version of the vehicle that went to the US Navy and Marine Corps, with some Lend Lease also. 

Studebaker in South Bend, IN developed its own design within the military specifications which were all Lend Lease, mostly going to Russia.  Studebaker built over 197,000 of the WWII trucks and Reo in Lansing, MI built another 22,000 under license from Studebaker.  The interesting point is the role reversal for design and manufacture of the trucks between Studebaker and Reo during WWII and after WWII. 

On April 16, 1945 when three Russian armies began their final attack on Berlin, they had between them 6,250 tanks, 7,500 aircraft, 41,600 artillery pieces, 3,255 multiple rocket launchers known as Stalin's Organs, and 96,383 trucks.  The trucks were for the most part all Studebaker, Reo, International Harvester 2-1/2 ton 6x6 trucks along with Ford 2-1/2 ton 4x2 trucks.  The Stalin Organs were mounted on Studebaker trucks, making the South Bend, IN built truck one of the most deadly weapons of WWII.


The nameplate shows this M35A1 was built in 1962 by what was then the Studebaker-Packard Corporation.  In the late 1950's General Motors and Ford got involved in a price war to try and increase their respective market shares in the US auto market.  For the small independent auto makers the only hopeful route to survival was joining forces.  Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson became American Motors which was successful for many years while the Studebaker-Packard combination ended its production in South-Bend in December of 1963.  The company survived in Hamilton, ONT, Canada producing cars until early 1966.

PMCS stands for "Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services".
 

 

 

 


 
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   Display Helicopter Locations   CAL FIRE   PV-2 Harpoon Photos     F6F Hellcat Photos
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