A Piece of History – Patton Museum at Fort Knox Opens Restored WWII Barracks to Visitors

CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia
CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia

Ft. Knox has opened a new exhibit that preserves and presents an important part of its history.

The Patton Museum at Ft. Knox has restored a WWII era barracks.

“Oh, this is much more than a building. It’s not just a building,” said retired Army Col. Mike Weaver.

Everything in the barracks is authentic. The bunks, blankets, footlockers, walls, even the plumbing, are all recovered from barracks at Ft. Knox and elsewhere.

Weaver is the driving force behind the restoration. “It needed to be original. This is about as original you can get, and it tells a tremendous story,” said Weaver.

The barracks were originally built during World War II. Barracks just like it were home to millions of draftees. The building was saved and moved to the Patton Museum, right before being set for demolition.  “There were over 30,000 temporary structures like this built across the United States from 1940 to 1945, and over a thousand of these here at Ft. Knox. There is only one now, and here it is,” said Weaver.

Weaver and a team of volunteers spent two and a half years restoring the building. The old oak steps still show the boot marks from all the soldiers passing through. “Soldiers in combat boots walked up and down these steps and rubbed that off. And that concave you see, that’s from their footprints, too,” said Weaver.

The one area that has not been finished is the second floor. Weaver said that he saw shadows there. “And a low of voice from the depths of somewhere said to me, ‘You’re not welcome on the second floor.’ And I think we need to think where does that voice come from? Is it from a soldier, a sailor, an airman?”

Nathan Jones, a curator of the Patton Museum, said that not many artifacts from the collection would be allowed people to touch. This is one where people can come in, experience it, and feel what it was like then.

According to Weaver, this is not just a building, but a piece of history. It tells a story of sacrifice, patriotism, and leadership.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE