Warbirds and Airshows
By David D Jackson

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Indiana Museums - Aviation, Military, Automotive and Fire

National Military History Center/Automotive and Carriage Museum
Auburn, IN
Last Date Visited:  10-19-2014

Author's update 11-17-2017:  Yesterday I returned to the museum to find that the military collection described below was pretty much non existent.  There was one half track, one CCKW-352, a Packard, a Dodge command car, and two Vietnam era gun trucks on display.  While the museum in 2014 had suffered a hemorrhage of the equipment, there still was a decent amount and some interesting items to look at.  Not any more.  I do not recommend anyone wasting their time and money visiting this museum. DDJ  11-17-2017

I will make comments below in red on what I found in yesterday's visit.

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time in 2001.  Spend $35 million to purchase the assets of a failing military museum in Belgium, (That should have been the first warning of problems to come.) and build a 192,000 square foot military vehicle and automobile museum along I-69 just south of Auburn, IN.  Previously known as the Victory Museum, the now renamed National Military History Center opened in 2003 to great and unrealistic expectations that never materialized.  What also appear to be not so well thought out business decisions made by the chief benefactor of the Museum complex have not helped the financial situation since then. 

Dean Kruse, who for many years owned the very successful Kruse Auto Auction on the east side of the south Auburn, IN exit on I-69, sold out to Ebay in 2001, and then at the same time purchased the assets of the Victory Memorial Museum in Arlon, Belgium which had closed in 1998, and included 150 pieces of WWII military equipment from 11 countries.

I have included four links below that tell the story of the Kruse Museum complex in Auburn better than I can.

The Opening of the Museum  The beginning in 2003.

Here is a link to an article on the DeKalb zoning board meeting that approved the building of the museum.

Zoning Board Meeting  The date shows 2012 but it would have been in 2001.

Note there is talk of hotels and development at this intersection.  It never happened.  All of the hotels, gas stations and restaurants are two miles to the north, which itself has grown since 2003.  Mr. Kruse, no doubt saw all of the traffic going up and down I-69 and thought a percentage of it would stop in to see his museum and make it successful.  Maybe that's why the parking lot for the museum runs the entire length of the building and can hold hundreds of vehicles.  The most I have ever seen in the lot in my many travels up and down I-69 and by the museum is a dozen or so. 

What Mr. Kruse did not realize, is yes, there is a lot of traffic on the interstate, but those persons traveling, like myself that have driven it hundreds of times going to and back from Michigan, are focused on getting to the final destination.  This part of I-69 in northern Indiana is a stretch of road to put behind one's self on his journey.  And if one does need to stop in the area for fuel or to eat, it will be the next exit to the north.  And when finished, one is going to get back on the road again and make tracks for home or somewhere else he needs to be.

Two other buildings on the site now stand empty.  One was a short lived Ford V-8 Museum, and the second the still born Andy Granatelli Hall of Fame Museum. 

Andy Granatelli Building  It was the Andy Granatelli building that broke the back of the National Military History Center.

The Sale  Details of the Auction of the 2012 auction.

This photo show but a small part of the 192,000 square foot main museum building that holds the National Military History Center to the left or south of the entrance and lobby, and the Automotive and Carriage Museum to the right or north.  192,000 equates to 4.4 acres which makes this museum building second in size only to the Indiana State Museum in downtown Indianapolis, which covers 270,000 square feet.

This Vietnam Era gun truck "Wild Thing" is normally on display inside the museum and is on loan from a private owner.  I have seen it at various events in the area.  It was placed outside for a military collectors' show that was going on the Sunday in October, 2014 I visited the museum last.
11-17-2017 update:  This is one of the two gun trucks on display inside the museum.

In August of 2013 when I visited the museum for the first time in several years, this is what I was greeted with as I entered the parking lot.  As will be shown below, the hemorrhaging of military equipment still continues at the National Military History Center.

The National Military History Center

Entering the National Military Heritage Center one is greeted by a few displays but mostly empty space.  Note that the floor has a laminate laid down.  Some local floor contractor thought he had died and gone to heaven when he got this job.

Passing out of the first display area into the next, one finds a selection of German military equipment from WWII around the walls.  Still lots of empty floor space in the middle. 
11-17-2017 update:  The collection just shown on the left was gone.  The one with the motorcycles was still there.

The highlight of this area is this German "88" anti-aircraft gun.
11-17-2017 update:  This was gone.

The Dodge WC-1 1/2 pickup truck, of which only 2,575 were built, located in the center is on loan from an individual and sits in the location where a Willys Jeep was before.  The Studebaker Weasel, Chevrolet 1-1/2 ton telephone pole setter truck, the GMC 2-1/2 ton truck and International M5 tractor are all part of the original collection brought over from Belgium.
11-17-2017 update:  All of this was gone with the exception of the CCKW-352.

Walking through the door in the firewall at the south end one finds this collection of vehicles.  There were some changes and deletion of displays from my last trip.  Eisenhower's Staff Car in previous trips was along the far, or west wall.  It replaced a Ford amphibious jeep, or Seep, that had been located there, and the Seep was nowhere else in the Museum.
11-17-2017 update:  This area was closed off permanently to the public and appeared to be a workshop area.  Only the Packard in the foreground remained of all of the vehicles in this section.

This area differs from the previous area in that it is fully lit.  It is hard to see but in the left hand corner of the photo is a military truck sitting in front of the overhead door.  I have to assume since it had moved from its earlier display location it had and had been sold and was awaiting its new owner to pick it up.
11-17-2017 update:  Gone.

The truck in question was this rare 1942 Yellow Truck and Coach AFKWX-363 Cab over Engine 2-1/2 ton truck.  Yellow became GMC later in the war on September 30, 1943.  Only 6,621 of these were built during WWII.  Having a 15 foot bed allowed it to carry lighter, bulkier loads than the CCKW-353 2-1/2 ton trucks with twelve foot beds.  The GMC DUKW that this vehicle shared display space with was also missing.  Both were purchased in the auction by a new museum in Chicago, the National Veterans Museum.  Apparently there was a lag between purchase and the time of pickup.  The question gets to be:  Is all of the rest of the equipment still in the museum already sold, and just waiting for the owner to pick it up?
11-17-2017 update:  Gone.

The DUKW and AFKWX on my previous visit.  The DUKW sold for over $100,000.
11-17-2017 update:  Gone.

This LVT(3) (Landing Vehicle, Tracked) was one of 2,962 built during the Second World War for the US Marine Corps and Army.  Each of this series was powered by two Cadillac V-8 engines with Hydro-Matic transmissions.  This very rare display will hopefully stay the the museum.  I took this photo on my previous trip and one can see in the background the front end of the Seep that is no longer on display.
11-17-2017 update:  Gone.  This was such a cool display.

This photo was also from a previous trip and shows the cover plates off of the engine and transmission locations on the sides.  All of the other of the over 20,000 LVTs built had radial aircraft engines located behind the driver's compartment in front.  Note the Seep on the left side of the photo that is no longer at the museum.

Two of the props build for the TV mini-series "Winds of War" are on display in the area.  This prop represents the HMS Prince of Wales. 
11-17-2017 update:  This is still there.

This mini ship from the TV series is the USS Tennessee. 

A photo of the west side of this section of the building there is a soldier mannequin standing in the foreground.  There used to be a White Halftrack located there. 
11-17-2017 update:  One of the Dodge command cars is still on display as is the half track.

This is the White M16 Halftrack that was in the location on previous visits.  This also sold for over a $100,000 to the National Veterans Museum.
11-17-2017 update:  This half track was gone.

In the center is one of 209,000 Canadian Military Pattern Trucks that was built by Ford of Canada.  It was previously in the center of the floor, and replaced Eisenhower's staff car that moved the spot where the Seep was. 

This photo taken from another earlier visit shows a close-up view of the Canadian Military Pattern Truck.  The reason it was named as such is that both Ford and Chevrolet built the same vehicle and parts were interchangeable between the two.  This is the only one of its type I have seen to date, and is one of the reasons this museum still really has some unique displays in it.  At least for now.
11-17-2017 update:  This was gone.  This was a very raw piece of equipment.  I will miss it.

Moving back through the fire wall one finds a Daimler Ferret Scout car, a Diamond T M20 12-ton prime mover with an M9 45 ton tank trailer, and another GMC 6x6 2-1/2 ton truck pulling a quad 50. machine gun trailer.  All part of the original collection.
11-17-2017 update:  Gone.

This very rare Studebaker 2-1/2 ton truck is on loan from the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, IN.  It is rare for two reasons; the first is that is was never driven after being built, and second because all of the Studebakers were Lend Lease and most went to the Soviet Union and never came back. The a cut-away of  a Hercules engine that powered the truck is also on display.
11-17-2017 update:  Only the engine remains.  I have to assume the truck went back to the Studebaker Museum. 

The only piece of US armor in the museum is this Buick built M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer.  For some reason on this trip the M18 commander has his headgear missing.  Buick in Flint, MI did all of the final assembly of all of the 2,507 M18s built.  What is not known is that the Fisher Body Division of GM built most of the turrets and 40% of the hulls at both its Flint and Grand Blanc, MI plants.  Here the M18 is seen in diorama with a White Scout car of the meeting of Russian and American troops meeting at the Elbe River near Torgau, Germany on April 25, 1945.
11-17-2017 update:  The M18 was the centerpiece of the museum.  Both it and the scout car are gone.  But the American and Russian soldiers are still standing there shaking hands.  Very strange.

This photo from an earlier trip shows the tank commander with his helmet on.  Also there was a driver at that time also.

Also in this museum is a collection of antique tractors and several Vietnam era trucks, which are loaned to the museum and also seem to be in a state of flux. This 1962 M35A1 was built by Studebaker-Packard in nearby South Bend, IN, having received the military contract for the trucks in 1960.  Because of financial difficulties, Studebaker-Packard sold the military truck business in early 1963 to raise cash for its ailing auto business to Kaiser-Jeep Corporation, which then continued building the trucks in the same factory.  Studebaker still failed in December of 1963.
11-17-2017 update:  This was gone.

In the background is a large scale model of a P-51D Mustang which is the only aircraft related article in the museum.

I really like visiting this museum and hope that it can get itself back on its feet financially, and bring in some more borrowed equipment for interested persons to view.  But I have my doubts.  Just the operating costs have to be horrendous.  The museum is open year around and is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer.  Just the costs for climate control in this structure have to be unbearable.  There have been occasions when I have been there I am the only visitor in the building.  The museum can not cover its operating costs from the small amount of persons that visit each year.

The Automotive and Carriage Museum
The paid admission allows the visitor to view both museums.
11-17-2017 update:  The rest of the museum is as it was.  But this is of no real interest to me.

Crossing back through the lobby one passes through the museum library seen through the door in the background.  This section of the museum is dragsters and race cars.  Most of the vehicles in this museum are loaned to the museum for display by their owners.

There is no wasted space in this museum.

Monster trucks are a new addition to the museum.

This Batmobile is one of three that were built.  Down the aisle to the left is one of the Dukes of Hazzard's cars used in that TV series.

Due to the vehicles being privately owned, the displays change over time and can not be sold to raise cash.

There are some classics on display also.

Carriages are located on the east wall.



Home  Indiana Museums    Indiana Tanks on Outside Display   The Beginning    Revisions   First Flight of P-38F Glacier Girl  
USS Theodore Roosevelt    WWII Aircraft Manufacturing Sites    Gateguards
 2007 Airshows   2008 Airshows  22009 Airshows   2010 Airshows    2011 Airshows    2012 Airshows   2013 Airshows   2014 Airshows    2015 Airshows  2016 Airshows    2017 Airshows 
Aviation Museums of the Pacific Northwest
   Display Helicopter Locations   CAL FIRE   PV-2 Harpoon Photos     F6F Hellcat Photos
   Warbird Sightings   WWII US Air-Air Victories   Guest Photos    Indiana Warbirds   Featured Photos  Other Items   Links

Historic Sites   Historic Forts   Historic Texas Independence Sites   Pre-Historic Sites   Historic Manhattan Project Sites   GM Heritage Center

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