“That’s my grandfather right there.”
The young man’s voice startled me in the quiet of the museum hall. I looked over at him in surprise. He was pointing at an olive drab-clad mannequin standing in a display about World War II.
“My granddad served with the Third Infantry Division in the U.S. Army in Italy, and I’m sure this mannequin is based on him.”
Whether this was true or not, one thing was certain: this young visitor to the Fort Stewart Museum in Hinesville, Georgia, was immensely proud of his family’s contribution to American history and the museum dedicated to preserving a unique facet of Lowcountry history.
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The Fort Stewart Museum is located in an unassuming complex of buildings on the sprawling, 280,000-acre Fort Stewart Military Reservation just an hour’s drive from Bluffton. The museum houses over 5,000 items of historical and cultural significance related to local history, the formation and development of Fort Stewart, and the storied past and accomplishments of the Army’s Third Infantry Division. This highly decorated unit was formed as the United States entered World War I and has participated in every major engagement since up to Operation Iraqi Freedom and the War on Terror.
When you visit the museum, you will be greeted by a silent sentinel of a World War II-vintage tank parked near the entrance. This and several other outdoor displays that include helicopters and other vehicles set the tone for your visit to this highly accessible collection of historic artifacts and memorabilia.
Inside you will be greeted by active-duty military attendants who work to carefully preserve the items on display. Your tour through the small but well-presented museum rooms will take you through the development of Fort Stewart from coastal swamp and woodland to the largest military base east of the Mississippi.
You will travel with the Third Infantry Division from its establishment through two world wars and other conflicts spanning over a century of service. Photographs, uniforms, tanks, vehicles and other equipment are preserved on display and take you through to modern times where the men and women of the “Third ID” still serve today in the preservation of freedom.
My family and I recently visited the Fort Stewart Museum in Hinesville on a day-long tour of other historic sites in the area. My kids were thrilled to see the imposing tanks and other vehicles, and the whole family enjoyed the old photos and unique items on display from vintage firefighting equipment to gold-plated weapons seized from the arsenal of Saddam Hussein.
A highlight of the Fort Stewart Museum is the uniform and other items that had belonged to Audie Murphy. Murphy was one of the most highly-decorated combat soldiers of World War II and is credited with single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers during a desperate battle.
As a result, Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest and most prestigious military decoration that can be awarded for valor and sacrifice. After the war Murphy went on to become a successful Hollywood actor and even played himself in a biopic film portraying his life and experiences during World War II.
Whether you love history, have ties to the United States military or simply wish to enjoy several hours of exploring a unique corner of the Lowcountry and coastal Georgia, then the Fort Stewart Museum in Hinesville is an excellent destination for all who visit.
The Fort Stewart Museum is located just an hour from Bluffton on the Fort Stewart Military Reservation in Hinesville, Georgia. It is a small but fully serviceable museum complex and is part of an active-duty military base.
When you visit, be prepared to show a current ID and other information at the gate. If you do not have a Department of Defense pass, park first at the guard post outside the gate and enter to register your visit. You will need current driver’s license, insurance and vehicle registration in order to be granted a pass. The process only takes a few minutes, and the staff is extremely courteous and helpful.
The museum is located at 158 Cavalry Way at Fort Stewart and is easy to find.
For more information about the museum, call 912-767-7885 or go to www.fortstewarthousing.com/museums for more information about the museum and other sites of interest in Hinesville and in the surrounding area that will make for a full and enjoyable day trip.