More people are taking time to visit the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum during the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Volunteers who oversee the museum at 4742 Ray Boll Blvd., located just west of the airport’s terminal building, have worked hard to not disappoint their patrons.
The newest Pearl Harbor display is a marked-up copy of the “Day of Infamy” speech delivered to Congress and the nation on Dec. 8, 1941, one day after the attack that plunged the United States into World War II.
Created through resources obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, the copy reveals several edits in the handwriting of the 32nd U.S. president.
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The changes appear to show FDR wanted to simplify the original verbiage for his radio audience, as well as underscore the seriousness of the moment. For example, the word “infamy” was originally “world history,” the document reveals.
However, former museum president Gordon Lake said he believes those changes mostly reflected Roosevelt’s desire to make the address his own and speak to Americans from the heart.
Once you step into the museum’s front entrance, the copy can be seen to your left in the Homeland display area, right above the cabinet of a 1937 radio.
Patrons can push a red button on the cabinet that will play FDR’s most famous address in its entirety, a system installed by White River Broadcasting chief engineer Chuck Weber, Lake said.
“Everyone who comes through here likes that,” Lake said. “Even the kids.”
On top of the radio cabinet is a video display providing high-resolution photos ranging from the devastating destruction inflicted upon the Hawaiian naval base to Roosevelt’s address.
In the same area on the east wall is the full front page of the Dec. 8, 1941, edition of the Indianapolis News, which provides this headline: “Congress Votes War — Japan Claims Naval Supremacy on the U.S. in Pacific.”
Not only do the articles describe events in Honolulu and Washington the previous day but also provide little known facts, such as the opposition to war from Jeanette Rankin, a Montana Republican who was the first woman elected to Congress.
There’s also an editorial that declares, “The time has come to lay aside partisan, sectional and other differences. There is only one division. America — and the enemies of America.”
If Bartholomew County residents really want to understand the local impact of the attack on Pearl Harbor, they need only to look around the region, Lake said.
Construction on Camp Atterbury near Edinburgh began two months after the bombs fell in Hawaii.
Six months later, efforts to obtain farmland north of Columbus for the Bakalar Air Force Base were concluded. The military installation, which closed in 1970, officially became the Columbus Municipal Airport in 1982.
Using laws of imminent domain, farmers who owned the land where the airport stands had no choice in the matter, given a one-month notice to get off the property, Lake said.
Neither did the 600 families who had to find new homes to make room for Atterbury, he said.
Freeman Field in Seymour and the Walesboro aviation facilities were also “directly spun off from the bombing of Pearl Harbor,” Lake said.
But museum visitors often discover both personal and enlightening history of that era from other patrons who frequently tell stories and share memories that are triggered by one of the many exhibits, museum vice president Jim Reid said.
After concluding their observance of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor this month, things won’t be slowing down at Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum.
In fact, volunteers will likely be putting in even more work in 2017 to complete improvements that will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the museum, Reid said.
What: Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum
Where: Columbus Municipal Airport, 4742 Ray Boll Boulevard
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, free admission
Tours: Special tours can be arranged by calling in advance
How to help: Cash donations can be made during a visit, and checks are accepted in person or by mail
For more information: Visit atterburybakalarairmuseum.org or call 812-372-4356.