The 45th Infantry based in Oklahoma City was one of the first National Guard units to be activated for World War II, and after an extensive tour of Europe from the shores to Berlin to the liberation of Dachau, they later served in the brutal Korean War. The 45th Infantry Museum honors not just their service, but that of all Oklahomans.
The museum collection is incredibly eclectic, starting with the 15-acre Thunderbird Park outside the 1930s armory that houses the museum. There you can find all manner of military vehicles, from aircraft to tanks to artillery. The thunderbird is the symbol of the 45th, although their first symbol was a yellow swastika that was changed with the rise of the Nazis. Both were chosen to honor the American Indians in Oklahoma, many of whom have served in the 45th.
Inside the museum, though, is where the really curious objects are. The Reaves Firearm Collection goes back to the Revolutionary War, with the highlight being the Mosby Cannon captured from the Confederates by the Union Army in 1863. There are also World War II cartoons by Bill Maudlin, a member of the 45th Infantry, who tried to give some humor to cheer up soldiers in the battlefields.
The 45th Infantry was part of the taking of Hitler’s Munich apartments and his Eagle’s Nest retreat in Berchtesgaden, and there are objects from both. (Look for the photograph of one soldier taking a rest in Hitler’s bed while reading Mein Kampf.) The mirror from Hitler’s Berlin bunker is also on display for visitors to glimpse into.
Yet the most interesting object may be the Mickey Mouse gas mask from WWII, displayed alongside other gas masks. But unlike those, this one was made for children and, with the approval of Walt Disney himself, mimicked Mickey’s face, complete with the ears, to put children more at ease when preparing for chemical warfare.