Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
In the face of cancelled air shows and the downgrading of NYC’s Fleet Week, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano announced on May 9, that American soldiers will be forever honored on Long Island through the creation of the Museum of American Armor to be built at Old Bethpage Village Restoration thanks, in part, to a million dollar gift from Lawrence Kadish.
“We are watching powerful tributes to our American military reduced or eliminated across the nation and its just plain wrong,” stated County Executive Mangano. “Fortunately, the Memorial Day weekend air show at Jones Beach will be held regardless of the loss of the Thunderbirds, but Fleet Week in New York City will be greatly diminished and across the country air shows are being cancelled weekly. Nassau County is moving in another direction. An armor museum that honors every American soldier will be created on county property this year which will not only pay tribute to those who have defended our nation but will also strengthen the county’s tourism and destination industry and provide a new source of revenue.”
Joined by veterans, elected officials, living historians, representatives from the nearby American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport and the Cradle of Aviation Museum, County Executive Mangano stated, “The ability to create an armored column that replicates the sights and sounds of American forces during World War II is one of the most compelling educational tools we have to recount the story of our GIs’ courage, valor and sacrifice. Place it in this setting of vintage farmhouses and country roads so reminiscent of the WWII era Normandy countryside, and you have created a virtual time machine that ensures indelible memories for families.
The Museum of American Armor began with a modest display of military vehicles at the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport in 2009 and quickly grew to become one of the most important armor collections on public display in the Northeast. It will continue to play an integral role at the American Airpower Museum, but will now have a dedicated location in which to display and operate all of its tanks, armored cars, jeeps and support equipment.
Lawrence Kadish, founding chairman of the Museum of American Armor, is providing a gift of $1,000,000 towards the creation of the museum.
“Our appreciation of history can be fickle in an age of iPhones, Instagrams, virtual realities and Wikis,” said Kadish. “Our appreciation of our nation’s battles is often ignored; seeing these vehicles rumbling across an open field recreates a moment in time that allows us to fully honor our military and understand what was required of an entire generation whose sacrifices ensured the defeat of brutal enemies seeking world domination.”
Kadish said that the goal of the museum is to bring the sights and sounds of American history to a new generation, and pay tribute to those who have defended freedom.
Heritage tourism has become a significant sector across the country, and Nassau County has an opportunity to grow its share of the market through this effort. A national survey found that heritage travelers who seek to connect with America’s past spend an average of $994 per trip compared to only $611 for other leisure travelers. The study also found heritage travelers are more frequent travelers, reporting an average of 5.01 leisure trips over a 12-month period versus 3.98 trips by non-heritage travelers. They prefer their leisure travel to be educational and they spend more on cultural and heritage activities.
Chief historian for the History Channel, Dr. Libby O’Connell, stated, “This announcement marks a unique commitment by public and private sectors to preserve and present a seminal chapter in the history of our nation, and our world. It also reflects a commitment to apply a variety of innovative resources to the task of funding the preservation of our history.
By allowing complementary presentations of history within the same space, Nassau County has strategically enhanced the ability of Old Bethpage Village Restoration to be a stronger destination for local residents, tourists and those who live within the tri-state area and beyond.
The arrival of the Museum of American Armor at Old Bethpage Village Restoration will enable a joint marketing program with the nearby American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport and Nassau County’s Cradle of Aviation Museum at Mitchel Field in Garden City.
“Over the last several years we have clearly demonstrated the enormous synergy of air and armor, as tanks and armored cars have created a literal ‘parade of combat vehicles’ down the flight line,” said Jeff Clyman, president of the American Airpower Museum. “Now the whole becomes far greater than the sum of the parts in our presentation of American military history; the ability to base an entire collection of World War II armor in this setting, literally ‘down the road’ from Airpower, will allow for joint programs, national and international marketing and educational efforts unique to the Northeast.”
Plans call for the construction of a 25,000 square foot facility on the grounds of the village. Operational vehicles that will be on public display include the iconic Sherman tank, a Stuart light tank used extensively by the Marines during their Pacific campaigns, a potent 155mm Howitzer, reconnaissance vehicles that acted as armored scouts for American forces, anti-aircraft guns and similar weapons that broke the back of the Axis powers during World War II. Other vehicles range from a classic LaSalle staff car in the markings of a Fleet Admiral to jeeps, weapons carriers and half-tracks.
In addition to World War II programs, tributes will be created to the American service men and women who have served in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Afghanistan and the War on Terror, so that the museum is able to fulfill its mission of honoring America’s defense of freedom throughout the decades.