Wyoming’s lost but never forgotten

The Wyoming National Guard Museum is a living library of archives that represents the military history of the state and city of Cheyenne.

In 1929 a warehouse was built by the Wyoming Military Department and from 1936-1938 the second section of the building was designed.

“The warehouse was used for storage of supplies for the various units throughout the state,” said William H. Saunders Jr., a museum assistant. “In the late 1930s it was used as an armory for cavalry units. During World War II it was used as a storage area and headquarters for the Home Guard, in the 1950s it would be used by units as an armory — where units conducted training; it was used for a short time as a headquarters for the Wyoming National Guard, (and) it served as an armory for units and as a maintenance shop for units in Cheyenne during the 1960s to 1990s. It was last used during the 1990s and early 2000s.

“During the 1990s the vault in the back room was used to store historical artifacts. I’m not sure when State Maintenance began using the long east-west wing for storage of equipment, probably same time as the historical artifacts storage began. After Homeland Security got a new office, in 2007 MG Wright allowed the Wyoming Historical Society to use the entire north-south wing of the building as a museum. In 2014 a major renovation of the north south wing was done: new HVAC systems, new IT wiring, new server room, grinding of the cement floors, sealing of the walls in the storage area where the vault is located at, and a fire sprinkler system was installed.  In addition security was installed: video cameras.”

The building was designed to preserve the history of the Wyoming National Guard.

A militia was formed in 1870 to protect settlers from outlaws, to keep the peace between the cattlemen and sheepherders, and to help take a load off of the sheriff and other law enforcement officials.  It wasn’t until the 1890s that the militia was changed to meet different standards and political members were responsible for the safety of the people. In August of 1946, the Air National Guard was born, which contained members of a fighting squadron.

The Wyoming National Guard was present at the Spanish American War and the Philippine American War; proof of this can be found in the casualty list.

During World War I, a Wyoming company was sent overseas as an “Ammunition Train” but their job was to help with the training of horses and seeing to their care and well-being.

The National Guard formed its own troop of girls which was known as the “Wyoming Girl Guard.”  Their job was to guard the state flag and participate in many ceremonies. A movie, “The Jack Bull,” used the girl’s uniforms but did not employ any of the girls themselves.

According to Saunders, the 141st Tank Battalion of Wyoming were members “who would think their unit did something important.  The Battalion was called up for the Korean War, but it never deployed to Korea. They were sent to Ft. Campbell KY and would train new ‘tankers.’  They would send a large number of their tankers to Korea and around the world. By the time the Battalion Deployed, it deployed to Germany, but their was only a handful left.  Most opting to go home at the end of the 20 month call up. While the Battalion was in Germany 1952 to Jan 1955. It would win the Tank Gunnery Award for US Forces in Germany which is quite a feat.” They were also the first to have an African-American man, Corporal Palmer, that served.

The Wyoming National Guard has been used on several occasions to participate in movies or were asked for the use of their uniforms.  In the movie, “We Were Soldiers,” the producers bought several uniforms of Asian descent to be used by actors in the film, one of those uniforms is now on display. The movie “Black Hawk Down” is based on military history of the 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron that conducted “Operation Restore Hope,” a humanitarian mission to protect and aid citizens of Somalia who were caught in the middle of a civil war. “Col. Tim McCoy, Adjutant General of the Wyoming Guard, went on to become a movie star.  He also coordinated with Hollywood and the Wyoming National Guard’s participation in a number of movies,” Saunders said. They did not play major parts but were present in several scenes.

The C-121s were the first airplanes used by the Wyoming National Guard.

A newspaper article with the headline, “Guard Ordered To Stop Taking Draft Dodgers” is also on display at the museum. The article is critical of the Guard because most of its recruits were football players who wanted to serve the country but also not be sent overseas.  The article, published in the Dec. 5, 1967, edition of the Riverton Ranger, states, “An official for the Wyoming National Guard says it has received orders to stop enlisting recruits who have not had prior military experience. This follows an announcement by the National Guard Bureau that guard units across the U.S. have been ordered to stop accepting recruits seeking to avoid the draft. The bureau said guard strength was 17,300 above the quota authorized by Congress. The operations and training officer for the Wyoming National Guard, Col. William Maxwell, said the state units were some 70 men above the quota.”

In October of 1993, Senior Airman Marjorie Williams is pictured helping transport a soldier who is injured. Williams is now fighting to prove that she was there and serving due to the military government trying to ban her existence.

The museum has artifacts from Pole Mountain, where the Guard’s mounted horsemen or Cavalry unit was stationed. There are a couple interesting facts on the Cavalry;

  1. The bugles: Some of the buglers had certain keys they liked to play the songs in, which is why some are sized differently.
  2. The mascots: The museum has pictures of an English Bulldog named Winston Roosevelt.  The Guard had several animals that became their mascots but only a couple pictures have been found of these dogs.
  3. The horses: To the Cavalry soldiers, their reliance of transportation and the reason why they were cavalrymen was their horse, until the military gave them jeeps and that modernization changed everything from animal to machine.  The Guard went from expert riders of mounted horsemen to riders of machines. Their ability to ride is how some came to be actors in films.

A soldier of the last name Olguin received two purple hearts for her service overseas.

Lots of history is in the Wyoming National Guard Museum.  Each mannequin has a story, each piece is part of a soldier’s life.



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