The 100th anniversary of the US entering World War I was in 2017. Still working to commemorate the date, Perrin Air Force Base Museum in Denison is putting together an exhibit of artifacts from the period.
In the last month, the museum has received several new artifact donations for its World War I exhibit.
“World War I is beginning to be called the forgotten war,” Perrin AFB Museum WWI Centennial Coordinator Dale Howard said. “When generations die off, people tend to forget what happened and what people in that era went through. This is a milestone and it should be remembered. If you go to England, France, and Germany, they have cemeteries filled with people from the war.”
Howard said that Perrin’s only connection to WWI is that Perrin was a military base. The museum houses many military artifacts that are not just from the time that the base was active.
“Perrin was a World War II base,” he said. “But, it is very important that we honor those who fought in World War I. In my generation, everyone had a relative in World War I. Now, there are not that many veterans from that era that are still around.”
Howard said that the museum is gathering its artifacts as well as receiving artifacts from other areas in order to build the museum’s WWI exhibit. The exhibit should be complete by November 11 when the museum plans on hosting a ceremony and other events to honor veterans.
On June 2, the board of directors at Perrin gave a resolution to Andy and Diane Petta. A release about the resolution presentation stated that the pair were being honored for “their outstanding, unique, and unusual donation to the Museum of priceless artifacts and photographs belonging to their respective grandfathers, each serving in World War One; thereby enhancing our collection of sacred military artifacts and significantly stimulating our forthcoming celebration of the Centenary of Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 – November 11, 2018.”
Diane Petta’s grandfather was a lieutenant in the first infantry division.
“She gave us a wrist watch that has a shrapnel guard on it,” Howard said. “The guard was meant to protect the watch from shrapnel from artillery. The only other thing that could have protected the watch in the same manner would have been the soldier’s helmet. It shows the importance of the wrist watch during that time period.”
Howard said that wrist watches during the early 1900s were not only expensive to make, they were unique.
“She also donated a leather wallet from her grandfather,” Howard continued.
The calendar inside the wallet that is dated 1918.
Andy Petta donated three pictures to the museum. They include Andy Petta’s grandfather as well as other World War I soldiers.
“There is also a photo of his grandfather with his pet bear,” Howard said.
Another artifact now being featured in the museum is a yard-long photo that belongs to Grayson County Frontier Village Museum. The photo is being loaned to Perrin for the World War I exhibit.
“Hobby Lobby framed it for us for free,” Howard said. “The photo uses a technique where an entire battalion of men would take a photo together. These types of photos are very common. This photo is of soldiers in front of barracks at what looks like Ft. Sam Houston”
Harry Goodman recently donated a Model 1904 US Army McClellan cavalry saddle with stirrups.
“This is really a great addition to our collection here,” Howard said. “It was designed by McClellan around the time of the Civil War. Cavalry were used in combat until they were phased out in 1941. This particular model —the 1904 —would have been used in World War I.”
Howard also said that he hopes that people come to Perrin to educate themselves about the past and this area’s military history.
“We want people to remember and we want the generations coming up to know that the base used to be here,” he said. “Perrin Museum is a gem for this area. Its preserving the history of this area. It is a unique museum. We probably have thousands and thousands of artifacts. It has a lot of personal items give. Every time I go through the museum, I see something I have not seen before.”
Howard said that Perrin’s Veteran’s Day activities may include a military ball to be held at Austin College.