FORT LEE, Va. (July 20, 2017) -- A new exhibit “Battle Ready: The Quartermaster Mission in World War I” was unveiled during a special ribbon-cutting ceremony July 12 at the Quartermaster Museum as part of the weeklong Fort Lee Centennial Celebration.
The exhibit highlights the contributions of the Quartermaster Corps during World War I and the important role they played in supply and logistics.
“This is a great museum and a fabulous new exhibit,” said Brig. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, Quartermaster General, in remarks introducing key details to a large group of Lee command leaders and special guests at the gathering. “The quartermasters are a great story. During World War I, they grew by leaps and bounds. Trench warfare was horrible and the hurdles to supply and sustain the fight were extraordinary. We had never fed, clothed and supplied this size of a force before. They met every challenge in short order, and there were many challenges.”
The exhibit includes President Woodrow Wilson’s presidential flag that hung in the oval office. “This is a national treasure – the actual flag. Few people know the Quartermaster Corps helped design and produce that flag,” noted Fogg.
He said one of the more moving aspects of the exhibit is a display recognizing Gold Star families.
“The Quartermaster Corps was put in charge of escorting mothers (and others) to their Soldiers’ gravesites in France,” said Fogg. “This was a tough but very fulfilling duty.”
Fogg recognized a group of Gold Star families in attendance. “Thank you for the sacrifices you have made. We will always be here for you.”
He congratulated Museum Director Paul Morando and his staff for “doing an outstanding job with the new exhibit.”
Guest speaker Dr. Charles Cureton from the Army Center of Military History, noted, “Why commemorate the Centennial? No single event in our history was shaped in defining the Army as did World War I. More than four million Americans, mostly citizen Soldiers, served in the American Expeditionary Forces – the forebearers of the modern U.S. Army. More than 300,000 were killed, wounded or went missing.”
He continued, “The centennial presents a unique opportunity to build esprit de corps and further contributes to the sense of the Army’s institutional heritage.”
He recognized the Quartermaster Museum for leading the way in education and outreach efforts among the Army’s museums “to get the message out” about World War I history.
“Museums are windows to our pasts,” Cureton said. “They are windows to other communities whether that community is the story of a city, a culture, an institution, a fort or a unit of a QM Soldier.”
He added, “Events shape us. And objects associated with them are powerful tools of remembrance. I challenge any of you in this room not to have some object in your possession that doesn’t mean something to you.”
Museums seek objects to give visitors an insight into historical events, he said. “A hundred years ago, our honored grandparents and, for some, their great-grandparents returned to their homes from a war that spanned the globe and redefined the world we know today and redefined them. Most just shoved the mementoes of their immortality into cardboard boxes and packed them away.”
In the exhibit gallery, Cureton said, there is a person’s personal trunk filled with “all that stuff in it.”
“These bits and pieces that meant life and death for each day in combat ... are what was packed away in boxes in dusty, old attics. Now, they are the silent bards of a generation’s experiences and memories.”
“Developing and installing an exhibit is a full-time job,” said Morando. “It takes planning, research, and heavy lifting. You simply just can’t put an artifact in a case, put a label on it and call it done.”
The project took nearly a year, he said. “There are many people, some in this room, who helped create this vision we had for the exhibit.”
He recognized each of his staff members for their efforts in completing the project.
“They did all the hard grunt work behind the scenes and provided constant guidance,” he said. ‘Maybe we should put it in this corner.’ I heard a lot.”
He recognized the QM Foundation for its financial support. “They played a vital role in this exhibit by funding the conservation of the Woodrow Wilson flag, which is a very integral part of this exhibit.”
Morando also noted a book by Dr. Leo Hirrel, former QM historian, was a great source of information for the exhibit.
“The information and research he did was very helpful in putting this exhibit together,” he said.