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Contact: 1LT Vincent Solomeno, (732) 974-5966

National Guard Militia Museum Opens Berlin Crisis Exhibit

 

SEA GIRT, N.J. – The National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey will open an exhibit commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 1961 Berlin Crisis deployment.  “50 Years On: New Jersey’s National Guard and the Berlin Crisis” opens November 7 and runs through January 2 at the main museum in Sea Girt and the museum’s annex in Lawrenceville.

“The Berlin Crisis was a significant event,” said Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) William Kale, the museum’s volunteer curator in Lawrenceville.  “Thousands of National Guard members from New Jersey and other states were called to active duty, left their jobs and families for over a year, and deployed to duty stations in the United States and Europe.  They did not know whether war or peace was in their immediate future.”

The Berlin Crisis was sparked by Soviet provocations in the occupied German capital, most notably the construction of the infamous Berlin Wall.  In response, President John F. Kennedy ordered New Jersey’s 108th Tactical Fighter Wing to Chaumont, France while the 119th Tactical Fighter Squadron served on active duty in the United States.  In total, over 10,000 Air Guard personnel deployed to Europe in support of what became Operation Stair Step and another 33,000 soldiers and airmen were placed on domestic alert.   After tensions in Berlin cooled, New Jersey’s units returned home in August 1962.

The exhibit was developed by museum staff and Rider University intern James Sheridan.  Materials were drawn from the museum’s extensive archives, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Air Force Heritage Center, and several donations from individuals who served during the deployment.

Established in 1980, the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey presents the role of the New Jersey Militia and the National Guard within the context of the larger history of the state.  Collections include original and reproduction uniforms, weapons, photographs, artifacts and art from the period of Dutch, Swedish and British colonization through the War for Independence, Civil War and World Wars I and II to the present day, with particular attention paid to the diversity of the New Jersey citizen soldier and his or her experience. 

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