|NRA's connection with the military can be traced back to its founding in 1871 by two Union Army veterans of the Civil War, Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate. Over the next century, NRA's unyielding commitment to freedom and patriotism would be especially evident during World War II, when the association offered its ranges to the government, developed pre-induction marksmanship training programs, and encouraged members to serve as Home Guards, which states were organizing to replace National Guard units.|
Today, in celebration of the 60th anniversary of victory in the Second World War, NRA has found two new ways to pay special tribute to the American servicemen and women who fought in that conflict -- with a new museum exhibit, and the creation of a veterans' endowment.
On May 18th, at an invitation-only reception, the NRA's National Firearms Museum opened The Arsenal of Democracy, an extraordinary new exhibit created to honor WW II veterans. The title of the exhibit is based on a comment made by President Franklin Roosevelt as America drew closer to entering the war: "We must have more ships, more guns, more planes—more of everything ... We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself."
In the exhibit, visitors will see arms, memorabilia, uniforms and equipment used by 40 individuals who fought in World War II. Moreover, photographs of the person who actually used each object will accompany it. A few highlights of the exhibit include:
- General Joe Foss's .45 1911 A1
- A Marine uniform worn by one of four brothers who fought at Iwo Jima
- Silk invasion maps
- John Garand's M1 Rifle, SN 1,000,000
- Benito Mussolini's silver cigar humidor
- A 1942 staff car
- A watch, worn by a paratrooper of the 101st Airborne, which stopped the moment he landed in Normandy on D-Day
The May 18th reception also marked the creation of The NRA Foundation's U.S. Veterans' Endowment, a permanent source of support for the gun safety and marksmanship training programs that started with NRA's founding and continue to benefit millions of Americans today.
Commenting on the display and the endowment, NRA Executive Director of General Operations Craig D. Sandler said, "One cannot view this exhibit without a profound sense of pride in our military and gratitude for the sacrifices made by American servicemen and women who helped win the Second World War. And I can think of no better way to protect the freedoms they fought for than through the U.S. Veterans' Endowment, which will permanently support NRA's important training programs."
The Arsenal of Democracy will remain open to the general public until December 31, 2006.
The National Firearms Museum displays more than 2,000 firearms, divided by historical periods and housed in 14 specially designed galleries with unique architectural features. The museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., except major holidays, and is located off Interstate 66 (Exit 57-A) on the first floor of NRA Headquarters, at 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, Virginia. Admission to the Museum is free. To learn more about the NRA's National Firearms Museum, visit nra.nationalfirearms.museum.
The NRA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that raises tax-deductible contributions in support of a wide range of firearms-related public interest activities of the NRA and other organizations that defend and foster the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans. For more information on the foundation visit www.nrafoundation.org or call 800-423-6894.