Living History Day celebrates Tropic Lightning

| October 21, 2014 | 0 Comments
Members of the Civil War Round Table of Hawaii participate in a Civil War re-enactment during Living History Day at Tropical Lightning Museum, Oct. 11. (Photo by U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii Public Affairs Office)

Members of the Civil War Round Table of Hawaii participate in a Civil War re-enactment during Living History Day at Tropical Lightning Museum, Oct. 11. (Photo by U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii Public Affairs Office)

Story and photos by Karen A. Iwamoto
Staff Writer

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Military history enthusiasts converged on the Tropic Lightning Museum for Living History Day, here, Oct. 11.

This annual event celebrating the inception of the 25th Infantry Division in October 1941 featured music, dancing, kid-friendly activities and presentations by living historians from the Hawaii Historical Arms Association and the Civil War Round Table of Hawaii.

“The whole point of a living history is being out where you can touch, see, ask questions,” said Sheldon Tyau, board member and former president of the Hawaii Historical Arms Association. “A regular museum is inanimate. Everything is stuck behind glass.

“But see how they’re engaging with the audience and the kids are asking questions?” he added, waving an arm toward Eric Mueller, a living historian dressed in the traditional garb of a Union Soldier in the Civil War.

Members of the Hawaii Historical Arms Society brought a 50 caliber Browning machine gun to show attendees of the Tropical Lightning Museum's Living History Day, Oct. 11.

Members of the Hawaii Historical Arms Society brought a 50 caliber Browning machine gun to show attendees of the Tropical Lightning Museum’s Living History Day, Oct. 11.

Mueller was regaling an audience with details of Army life in the 1860s.

“I’m dressed as a sergeant in the Union Army, the Army of James,” said Mueller, a member of the Civil War Round Table of Hawaii. “My uniform is from approximately 1864 or 1865. I’m in the 2nd Division, 24th Corps. I’m carrying light marching order. I have a rifle musket.

“This a cartridge box that holds up to 40 rounds of ammunition,” he continued. “This is my bayonet. And this is my haversack. A haversack is like a refrigerator on the march. It holds about three days worth of food, and this is also where you carry things that are important to you and you don’t want to lose, like pictures or maybe a Bible. All of this is about 20 pounds of stuff. A full pack would weigh about 40 to 60 pounds.”

After listening to Mueller, children in the audience volunteered to try on a Civil War-era uniform. Mueller also passed out samples of hardtack, a cracker-like biscuit that Soldiers on the march would typically eat.

While Living History Day celebrates the history of the 25th ID and the Civil War was fought well before the formation of the 25th ID, Justin Vance, a history professor at Hawaii Pacific University and also a member of the Civil War Round Table of Hawaii, pointed out that there is a direct connection between Hawaii and the Civil War.

Eric Mueller of the Hawaii Civil War Round Table goes over the details of life as a Union soldier in the Civil War while onlookers sample hardtack, a cracker-like biscuit eaten by Civil War soldiers, at the Tropic Lightning Museum's Living History Day, Oct. 11.

Eric Mueller of the Hawaii Civil War Round Table goes over the details of life as a Union soldier in the Civil War while onlookers sample hardtack, a cracker-like biscuit eaten by Civil War soldiers, at the Tropic Lightning Museum’s Living History Day, Oct. 11.

“People from Hawaii fought on both sides of the Civil War,” Vance said, adding that the Civil War Round Table of Hawaii is taking part in a ceremony to dedicate a headstone to one of those Soldiers, J.R. Kealoha, at Oahu Cemetery on Oct. 25.

Meanwhile, at the tent set up by the Hawaii Historical Arms Society, attendees got to peruse a display of memorabilia and weapons from a more recent era, from World War II to the Vietnam War.

“In previous years, the emphasis was more on World War II, but recently there’s been more focus on the Vietnam War with the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam conflict coming up,” Tyau explained.

The fall of Saigon took place in 1975.

If Tyau, Mueller and Vance represented Hawaii’s military past at Living History Day, Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, represented its present. They were at a booth on the opposite end of the lawn from the Civil War Round Table and the Hawaii Historical Arms Association, demonstrating (unloaded) weaponry currently used by the Army.

The 25th ID’s formation occurred only months before start of World War II; the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor two months later. Since then, the 25th ID has played a role in almost every major American conflict, including the Korean War, the Vietnam War and overseas contingency operations. Tropic Lightning Museum strives to include all of it.

As Tyau said, “Military history is the history of our country.”

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Category: Community, Community Relations, Education, Observances

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