- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - A 28-inch silicon bronze statuette of Army National Guard Capt. Harry S Truman in his World War I doughboy uniform has been emplaced in the north gallery of the Field Artillery Museum.

Truman was the only U.S. president to serve in the Field Artillery branch and train at Fort Sill, according to Fort Sill Director of Museum Services Frank Siltman.

The statuette commemorates the centennial of World War I, which began in August 1914. The U.S. entered the war in April 1917. Siltman said this is the first of many exhibits the museum directorate will prepare in honor of the centennial observance.

“We can tie in Fort Sill’s role. We can tie in the field artillery’s role, and recognize the service of our president as well,” he said.

The story of how the statuette came about can be seen in an episode of the new Museum Men series on the History Channel.

A year and a half ago, the History Channel contacted brothers Mark and Steve Palmerton, owners of The Crucible Bronze Foundry in Norman, about doing a segment for the show.

The Palmertons have been in business 16 years. They’re known for casting Paul Moore’s 47-piece “Oklahoma Centennial Land Run Monument” in lower Bricktown in Oklahoma City, former state Sen. Enoch Kelly Haney’s “The Guardian” atop the dome of the state Capitol and Moore’s bas-reliefs in front of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan.

The show’s producers wanted to show the entire creative process from concept through execution. To do that, the brothers had to have a subject, and Truman was one of a baker’s dozen they did on the show.

Others included Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Atkins of Waurika, astronaut Thomas Stafford of Weatherford, Harry Houdini, Medusa and, in honor of the Putnam City Pirates, Blackbeard.

Steve Palmerton and Craig Campbell of Wichita, Kansas, collaborated on this particular sculpture, molding it first in oil-based classic clay. Mark Palmerton said a statuette like this one should take about nine months, but for the show, it was actually completed in six weeks.

The statuette incorporates many symbolic features. The base is an eye chart because Truman wanted to go to West Point but failed the Army physical because he didn’t pass the eye test. He memorized the eye chart in order to gain admission to the Missouri Army National Guard, so the eye chart is emblematic of his drive to get into the military.

Atop the eye chart is a Model 1897 French 75-mm field gun, the artillery piece that Truman would have trained on as a member of the 35th Infantry Division.

Beside it are the crossed cannons and captain’s bars to represent the insignia that Truman would have worn.

Truman himself is attired in a 1917 officer’s uniform, complete with the doughboy helmet.

Siltman said that when the sculptors came to Fort Sill to do their research, all of it was caught on camera.

“We took them back into the collections area to see and touch an actual uniform,” he said.

Afterward, they went over to see Gerald Stuck, chief of the Fort Sill Half Section. They learned how to operate a French 75, got some “hands on” time to see how one feels, and then the Half Section fired a round for them.

The statuette comes to the Field Artillery Museum courtesy of The Crucible Bronze Foundry, the History Channel and Atlas Media Corporation. Since Fort Sill cannot legally accept private donations, the statuette was actually presented to Friends of Fort Sill, a private foundation that supports all three museums on post, and Gene Love was there to represent the organization.

The statuette is mounted on a pedestal built by Exhibits Specialist Zane Mohler. It’s adjacent to a photograph of Truman in his World War I uniform.

Since Truman was the 33rd U.S. president, 33 editions of the statuette will be issued. There will also be a 6-inch version, according to Mark Palmerton.


Information from: The Lawton Constitution, https://www.swoknews.com

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