The Nimitz Museum

History of WWII south Pacific Campaign

Fredericksburg, Texas

March 23, 2005

If you were traveling east on I-10 heading for Austin, TX, and wanted the shortest way, you could take US 290 straight into the Capital.  In doing so you would pass through, Fredericksburg, one of those great "out of the way" places, often found by those travelers who choose a road less traveled.  We decided to hang out here for a week and absorb the Germanic flavor of the town.  It is for sure, a tourist town, with quaint shops and loads of ever-fattening German restaurants, and oh, that wonderful imported German beer, thick, dark and mellow.  At the far end of town stands a grand old house with a wonderful history and one time home of one of America's favorite sons. The Nimitz hotel was purchased by Charles Henry Nimitz, Sr. in 1855. By 1860 the Nimitz hotel was established, hosting frontier travelers and providing a home for the large Nimitz family.  Expanded in the 1870 to feature a steamboat-shaped facade, the hotel was a center for community activities.  It was sold by the family in 1926 and underwent major alternations.  In 1964 it became a museum honoring fleet admiral Chester W. Nimitz and those who served with him in World War II.  Now again under restoration, the  steamboat-shaped facade was getting a face lift and the entrance which included the Admiral Nimitz museum was closed.  However, the museum was unaffected and open.  The inside was a eclectic mixture of information on the War in the Pacific.  We took  chairs in the little round theater and watched the large electronic map while we listened to a description of the overview of the entire War.  Island hopping from Tarawa to the final invasion of Okinawa. Done in beaded lights, the display brought four years of confusion over such names as Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima into a logical progression of events. There were both wall board displays and actual objects of war. One such impressive item was a Japanese mini-sub of the type used in the attack of Pearl Harbor.  On December 22, 1941, just 16 days after the devastating attack at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese XIV Army invaded Luzon in the Philippians.  The combined American and Filipino forces under General Douglas MacArthur were unable to halt the Japanese  The Philippine capital of Manila was quickly taken.  MacArthur's troops and thousands of civilian refugees retreated into the jungles of the rugged Bataan Peninsula and to the heavily fortified island base of Corregidor.  Here the Allies made heroic stands despite shortages of food, fuel medicine and ammunition.  After bitter fighting, cut off from supplies reinforcements, and hope of relief, more than 76,000 Americans and Filipino troops surrendered on April 9th 1942.  It is considered the worst defeat in US military history. One wall display told the forgotten story of the Allied civilians caught up in a war which moved faster than they could. American, British, Dutch and other Allied civilians caught behind Japanese lines during World War II were treated only slightly better than the prisoners of war.  At no point was treatment by Japanese guards in accordance with international law. Though the Geneva Convention's rules concerning prisoners of war applied to civilians, Japan routinely ignored them.  Once third of all women and one half of all men interned by Japan died in the camps, mostly from lack of medicines and nourishment. As we wandered through the remainder of the building I came around a corner and had to smile.  There was a whole wall dedicated to the famous 503 parachute division, for which my own father had been a battalion commander.  I had spent many an evening sitting on the floor in the middle of a group of men who had dropped by and were telling war stories.  Tales of heroism and adventure.     Unfortunately my father's war adventures ended in late 1944 on the little island of Noemfoor north of New Guinea,  when a shell burst sent shrapnel into his left chest.  Though seriously injured and disabled for the rest of his life, he lived on for another 50 years.  He was quite popular with his men and they took every opportunity to stop by and sit around reliving the good old day. I searched the board quite thoroughly but could find no mention of the famed 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. A door at the back of the building took us out into the sun light and more heavy equipment including tanks.  They had built a mock battlefield which on occasions is the scene for reenactments.  It was all quite real looking and we were free to walk around and feel or touch everything.  Many of the items had small placards explaining what we were looking at such as  the LVT-4 known as the water buffalo.  There were 3 types: those that discharged from the front, others from the back and some built solid with troops jumping over the side.  It could hold up to 24 men.  From the battlefield, it was several blocks to the last remaining building which housed even larger items.  There was a fighter plane and some artillery pieces and the one item that made the walk worth while.  A full size  PT boat, similar to the famous PT-109 of Kennedy fame.  I was surprised, the PT boat was quite a bit bigger than I had pictured it.  Slick and built for speed, these ships must have been frightening things coming at you at top speed. And so it was that we found this gem in a small town in central Texas.  I was quite happy with it.

*** THE END ***