FORT STEWART, Ga. — The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division is marking its 100th birthday, and a new museum is telling its storied history.
The 3rd Infantry Division Museum at Fort Stewart held its grand opening Nov. 16.
Exhibits take visitors through the division’s timeline, dating back to its inception in 1917 at the now-defunct Camp Greene in North Carolina as the U.S. entered World War I, The Savannah Morning News reported.
Visitors learn about the famed battle one year later at the Marne River in France, where 3rd Infantry Division soldiers held off the German push for Paris, earning the division its nickname: “the Rock of the Marne.”
The museum holds artifacts from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“This is an accelerated project,” said Scott Daubert, director of the 3rd Infantry Division Museum. The goal was to open the museum for the division’s 100th anniversary, he said.
The museum is, in a sense, a reincarnation. Previously, it was located in a different building on post and was dedicated to the history of Fort Stewart itself, rather than the 3rd Infantry Division. That story isn’t being forgotten either, Daubert said. There’s a section of the museum cordoned off for installation history, with a significant display showcasing the exploits of the 24th Infantry Division, which occupied Fort Stewart before 3rd Infantry Division came in about 20 years ago.
“This is our community,” Daubert told the Savannah newspaper. “Fort Stewart has a rich history.”
A key aim of the museum now is to let new soldiers explore the history of their division, the newspaper reported.
The 3rd Infantry Division has suffered more than 35,000 wartime casualties and more than 50 of its soldiers have been awarded the Medal of Honor. In the past 13 years alone, more than 460 names representing soldiers killed in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have been added to Warriors Walk, a pastoral, tree-lined memorial on the installation.
The museum features an M5 Stuart Light Tank and a Howitzer, among other smaller items, like guns owned by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
“In each section of the museum we’ve done something a little different,” Daubert said.
While there is an exhibit dedicated to Audie Murphy, the 3rd Infantry Division soldier who was the most decorated American service member in World War II, there is also a significant display about a more recent soldier of acclaim: Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith.
“Everybody knows who Audie Murphy is,” Daubert said. “Sgt. Smith is not as well known.”
The soldier’s task force was attacked on April 4, 2003, in Baghdad by a larger force. Smith was killed in action as he manned a .50-caliber gun under heavy enemy fire to defend his fellow soldiers, an act for which he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Smith’s actions were similar to those of Murphy, who manned a .50-caliber gun under fire as Nazis bore down on his unit in France in 1944.