- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Those pushing to establish a museum honoring Evansville’s contribution to the U.S. military effort during World War II have named the museum’s first executive director.

Jack Buttrum will be responsible for overseeing all operations of the Freedom Heritage Museum and spearheading its events and programs, with direction from the board of directors. The museum is projected to cost $7 million to $9 million. Organizers are eying an old hangar near Evansville Regional Airport for the location.

Buttrum is 84, and his recollection of the World War II era is vivid. His older brother and several cousins served in the war. “I was in seventh grade when I listened to President (Franklin) Roosevelt’s ‘Day of Infamy’ speech. I didn’t know what was going on, but my teacher cried.”

Buttrum attended Purdue University from 1947 to 1951 and heard numerous firsthand accounts of World War II. “Almost all of my friends were there on the GI bill,” the former president and owner of Swanson-Nunn Electric Co. told the Evansville Courier & Press (http://bit.ly/1e0uN2S ).

More recently, about five years ago, Buttrum was in a museum in Nebraska about five years ago and met a Thunderbolt pilot. “I got fascinated with the fact that they were made in Evansville and used in World War II.”

Buttrum said he and a few other people “decided we needed to something to highlight P-47s in Evansville.”

Freedom Heritage Museum organizers already have a P-47 engine. They say the facility will show photographs and artifacts from the World War II era, along with interviews that have been taped by students and others over the years. The effort is about two years in the making, and fundraisers have been conducted.

They envision a museum that salutes men and women who worked for the Evansville Shipyard and Republic Aviation, as well as local World War II veterans.

The museum has obtained nonprofit status. “We are determined,” Buttrum said of the effort’s organizers.

Buttrum was with Swanson-Nunn for 30 years. Since 2005, he has worked for Jacob’s Engineering as a construction administrator.

The Purdue graduate has an honorary associate degree from Ivy Tech Community College, where he served on the board of directors for six years and headed the board for three.

He said the Freedom Heritage Museum’s goal will be to highlight for future generations how critical Evansville was to the country’s war effort. “It’s something we need to let people know about.”

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com