- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Franklin Brooke Nihart of Springfield, a retired Marine Corps colonel who helped create Marine Corps museums across the county, died Aug. 30 at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He was 87.

A veteran of two wars, Col. Nihart was a noted military historian, weapons specialist and military museum director. After 26 years of active duty, he became an editor of the Armed Forces Journal before assuming the duty of deputy director for Marine Corps museums at the Washington Navy Yard, where he served for another 19 years.

Born in Los Angeles, Col. Nihart received a degree in political science and economics from Occidental College in 1940 and a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps through the Platoon Leaders Class program. He graduated from the Marine Corps Officers Basic School in Philadelphia before the outbreak of World War II.

As a lieutenant, Col. Nihart was a gunnery officer on board the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga when it unsuccessfully tried to assist Wake Island immediately after Pearl Harbor and later sustained torpedo damage. He taught both Marine and Army units amphibious landing tactics, and in 1945, then a major, he was executive officer of 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment in the battle for Okinawa.

Later, he was assigned to Marine occupation forces in north China.

During the Korean War, as a lieutenant colonel, Col. Nihart commanded the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, receiving the Navy Cross for winning a fierce nighttime battle late in September 1951 at the Punchbowl in southeastern North Korea. His battalion was the first military unit in history to be helicoptered at night into battle positions.

In 1953, he was the Marine member of the Department of Defense’s Advisory Committee on Prisoners of War. There, he wrote the basic draft for the Code of Conduct of U.S. prisoners of war, which has been in effect ever since.

In 1959, he served as military attache at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, Burma, before returning to Camp Pendleton, Calif., to command the 7th Marine Regiment.

Before retiring in 1966, Col. Nihart won several gold medals in both pistol and rifle matches, also earning an international reputation as a military weapons specialist.

He also wrote the paragraph on body armor for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

One of his most prestigious appointments was as American representative on the executive board of the International Association of Museums for Arms & Military History, for which he traveled around the world visiting major military museums.

While serving as deputy director for Marine Corps museums from 1972 to 1991, Col. Nihart oversaw development of the Marine Corps Museums System, and in 1977, he was responsible for the establishment of the Marine Corps Museum at the Washington Navy Yard. The next year, the Marine Corps Aviation Museum opened at Quantico, Va., and he guided it through its transition to the Marine Corps Air-Ground Museum. The exhibits developed for these museums form the backbone of the coming National Museum of the Marine Corps, and Col. Nihart was the prime mover in acquiring the majority of the aircraft, vehicles and artillery that will be featured there.

Col. Nihart’s personal decorations include the Navy Cross, two Bronze Stars with combat V, Air Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and Navy Commendation Medal.

Col. Nihart was a 40-year member of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in McLean.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Mary Helen Brosius Nihart of Springfield; two daughters, Cathy Nihart of Milford, Conn., and Ginna Nihart of Colorado Springs, Colo.; a brother, J.F. Nihart of Coon Rapids, Minn.; and two grandsons.

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