A new museum named for the five Iowa brothers who died in World War II when their Navy ship was sunk opens this weekend in Waterloo.
The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum tells the story of the five Sullivans, as well as Iowa’s other veterans. Billie Bailey has been leading the project.
"It’s really been an incredible trip," Bailey says. "It started probably almost 10 years ago with the concept and through the fundraising and the planning and the having a take a break, and then more planning again, it’s really been pretty exciting." The museum tells the stories of Iowa’s Civil War veterans as well as those who fought in the wars of the last century. Bailey says museum organizers felt a sense of urgency in collecting the first-person accounts of Iowa veterans.
"The urgency was the fact that Iowa was losing World War II veterans at a fairly rapid rate," she says. "These were people that were aging and starting to fail and they’re losing their memories. They’re passing away and (veterans of) the Korean War (are) not far behind, so there really was a sense of urgency to collect as many stories as we could."
Each museum visitor will be given a "dog tag" and at every war exhibit you can run it across a scanner to learn about the Iowa soldier who wore those tags in the military. An interviewer from the museum visited with over 500 Iowa veterans to get those details.
"We’re pleased that we’ve been able to get as many as we have," Bailey says. "This is an ongoing project…That’s something that we’ll continue to do even after the museum is open — collect those stories — probably moving on into Vietnam and the current conflicts."
The museum’s grand opening is this Saturday, November 15. The facility, located in downtown Waterloo, has 13,000 square feet of exhibit space. "Communication Stations" throughout the facility show letters and e-mail from Iowa soldiers, along with radio and television broadcasts and newspaper articles. There’s also a small theater where you can watch and listen to the first-hand accounts of Iowa soldiers.