These records document the activities of NAFMAB, including collecting and accessioning, planning for a site, exhibits design, and carrying out various projects. Also included is a multi-volume chronology of events, 1946-1973, in addition to copies of files of NMHT curator Mendel L. Peterson, who represented the Smithsonian on a preliminary committee established by President Eisenhower. Files on the Tecumseh include photographs of the diving operations and items retrieved from the ship.
The National Armed Forces Museum Advisory Board (NAFMAB) was created by Act of Congress in 1961 to plan for the establishment of a national museum to honor America's armed forces. The museum, which was to be a Smithsonian bureau, would include a study center named in honor of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. John Nicholas Brown served as Chairman of the Board, 1963-1975. Colonel John H. Magruder III served as the Director of NAFMAB from 1963 until his death in 1972. He struggled unsuccessfully to bring the museum into existence, gathering military weapons and artifacts and lobbying tirelessly to acquire various sites for the project. When the museum plan seemed doomed, he recast it as a Bicentennial Outdoor Park. He also acquired the rights to the Civil War monitor Tecumseh, which had sunk in Mobile Bay during a battle in 1864. Divers were sent to the Bay and a number of artifacts retrieved from the vessel, but the plan to recover the entire wreck failed.
None of Magruder's efforts succeeded, in part because of the American involvement in the Vietnam War and some unfortunate publicity which likened the museum to a Disneyland of war. With Magruder's death, the project was weakened further. In 1973 the Smithsonian decided to salvage at least a part of the 1961 law by bringing the study center into existence. The Eisenhower Institute for Historical Research was established in the National Museum of History and Technology (NMHT). For an administrative history of the Eisenhower Institute, see Record Unit 377.
James C. Hutchins was named Acting Director and then Director of the proposed armed forces museum, 1973-1975; but in effect he presided over its demise. Although the legislation was never formally repealed, Smithsonian management in the 1970s did not favor the museum. The Advisory Board was ordered to divest itself of the material that had been gathered; and in 1975 the Board recommended that all further efforts to build the museum cease. Hutchins was eventually transferred to the staff of the Eisenhower Institute.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 581, Smithsonian Institution, National Armed Forces Museum Advisory Board, Project Records
Smithsonian Institution Archives
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