Museum display tells stories of local heroes
BALDWIN — Visitors to the Lake County Historical Museum in Baldwin will notice three exhibit rooms with military uniforms and artifacts on display — a tribute to the men and woman who served during World War I and World War II. The women's war effort also is highlighted.
The display, which was unveiled in September, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI and will continue through Dec. 22, when the museum shuts down for the season. The displayed items are on loan from members of the community. Most of the uniforms were worn by local people who served in wartime, and a few other locals' ancestors.
Along with the uniforms and artifacts are numerous photographs, documents and stories about men and women who served their country.
“This is a limited one-time exhibit,” said Jill Engelman, museum curator, adding the display has been very well-received. "Visitors have personally connected with the exhibit because of the stories behind the names and uniforms on display, bringing the wartime history to life."
One of the displays tells about William M. Gleason, of Baldwin, who spent 10 days behind the Japanese lines during WWII, wounded and without food. When he returned to the U.S., he served in various military camps giving talks to replacement troops about camouflage, cover and concealment.
The story of Gilbert Willard Smith, U.S. Army Sergeant, who served in South Pacific in the Signal Corps Red Arrow Division, also was told. He was a driver removing the wounded from the battlefield and was only one of 25 percent of his platoon to return home. The majority succumbed to malaria or battle wounds.
Bruno Roti, Second Lt. of the U.S. Army Air Corps, was taken as prisoner of war during WWII. He piloted a B-17 named Sacktime on bombing raids over Germany, and on the seventh mission, he was shot down over Axis territory and was captured by Germans. He spent two years as a Nazi prisoner, first at Stalog Luft 3 in Sagon-Silesia, Bavaria, and then in Numberg-Langwasser. He was liberated at the end of the war.
Devere J. Warner's story is on display in the WWI exhibit. An African-American, he served as a U.S. Army captain for 8th Illinois 370th Infantry. In a letter from his colonel, Warner was stated as being efficient, taking good care of his men, and with personal valor, he was one of the most valuable officers in the regiment. He was awareded the War Cross and the WWI Victory Medal.
The history of the women's war effort on the home front also is told, including women employed at the parachute factory in Nirvana and those who operated an observation post from the second floor of the old fire hall in Baldwin. Emily MacLeod Allison and Romayne Gleason Radtke were among those who took shifts looking out the east windows to watch for enemy aircraft.
Everyone is invited to learn about more stories of the local heroes who served in wartime by visiting the museum, 915 N. Michigan Ave., open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday through Dec. 22.