Wheaton museum dedicated to 1st Infantry Division reopens

Thursday, August 24, 2017
Wheaton museum dedicated to 1st Infantry Division reopens
This year is the 100th anniversary of Big Red One, one of the United States Army's most famous military divisions.

WHEATON, Il. (WLS) -- After years of planning and a nine-month makeover, the story of the First Division was updated to include the conflict in the Balkans and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These historical updates are accompanied by new, high-tech storytelling methods. Visitors can ride in a mock-up of a Bradley fighting vehicle, surrounded by screens that show a computerized version of a 1991 tank battle in Iraq. The audio for the exhibit is a real recording from the battle. Virtual reality connections also allow visitors to accompany a unit on a 2007 counter-insurgency raid in Iraq.

These immersive displays are meant to make the visitor to think about the risks and consequences of combat.

"You're not put off by seven paragraphs of text," Paul Herbert,executive director of the First Division Museum of Catigny, said. "You're sort of drawn in by this interesting,moving picture. It's better story-telling."

Chris Stone was one of three First Division soldiers captured and held prisoner during the Kosovo conflict. His is among the 27 stories from Big Red One veterans told on a touch screen video board at the museum.

"We want the visitor to identify and empathize with the people they are, the fellow citizens they are," Herbert said.

The exhibit's new section is called "Duty First," but the displays of earlier conflicts were given crisper narratives and video, including actual film of tanks at the Battle of Cantigny in 1918. Timelines that condense history and put war in context accompany the exhibits.

Also on display is the Medal of Honor belonging to Private First Class Ross McGinnis, who lost his life when he threw himself on a grenade in Iraq and saved four fellow soldiers. His parents donated the medal. The McGinnis family will attend the opening Saturday.