State Museum Presents Citizen Soldier: New York’s National Guard in the American Century

The State Museum in Albany presents Citizen Soldier: New York’s National Guard in the American Century, on view until Thursday, March 31, 2011.

Since its inception, New York has been guided by the principle that its defense lies in the hands of its citizenry. From militiamen defending their homes on the colonial frontier to individuals serving in conflicts around the globe, a courageous cadre of New Yorkers continues this legacy of selflessness to the present day. This exhibition traces the service of New Yorkers through several wars and battles as well as natural disasters and national emergencies. Personal stories and mementos, uniforms, and artillery pieces from the Museum’s collection, the New York State Military Museum, members of New York’s National Guard, and local collectors anchor these amazing stories from the 20th century.

he exhibition focuses on the 20th century, which witnessed the transformation of the United States from an isolationist nation into a dominant power with the ability to shape world events. It was dubbed the American Century in 1941 by Time Magazine Publisher Henry Luce. During that time the National Guard evolved from an ill-equipped and poorly trained militia into a modern-day force capable of protecting American interests around the world.

Encompassing nearly 7,000 square feet of gallery space, the exhibition covers the service of New Yorkers in the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the first Persian Gulf War in 1991 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Also included are the missions closer to home – the Capitol Fire (1911),blizzards in Buffalo (1944, 1977) and New York City (1996), the Woodstock concert (1969), the Attica riots (1971), the ice storm in northern New York (1998), the Mechanicville tornado (1998), the 2001 terrorist attacks and other smaller calamities around the state.

Visitors entering the exhibition will see the M8 Greyhound Light Armored Car that was first introduced into combat in 1943. The 16,000-pound vehicle was used in all theaters of World War II, including Europe, where it was issued to the men of the 101st Cavalry Group of the New York National Guard. The car is now owned by Gregory Wolanin of Loudonville. Also on display are a flamethrower and bazooka, a 37 mm gun, as well as various other military equipment. Visitors will also have the opportunity to see the History Channel film, “Defending America,” which will be shown in the gallery.

There are many personal stories of courage and heroism throughout the exhibition. Medals of Honor were awarded to Col. William J. O’Brien and Sgt. Thomas A. Baker of Troy, both of the 105th Infantry Regiment, for their courage in the face of a horrifying enemy attack by the Japanese on Saipan in 1944. First Sgt. James Meltz of Cropseyville, a member of the 108th Infantry Regiment, received the Bronze Star for valor after rescuing fellow soldiers from a burning humvee in Afghanistan in 2008.

The exhibition also features profiles of other members of the 108th Infantry who served in Iraq, including Sgt. 1st Class John Ross of Latham, Sgt. 1st Class Luis Barsallo of Halfmoon and Private 1st Class Nathan Brown of Glens Falls. Brown was killed in Iraq in 2004 when an insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the back of the 5-ton truck he was riding in.

The State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information about programs and events can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting

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