WWII exhibit coming to Veterans Memorial Building

A new exhibit in Cedar Rapids will tell the story of local veterans with connections to World War II.
Published: Nov. 20, 2022 at 10:53 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Visitors to the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids will notice a change soon.

The exhibit on Eastern Iowa’s connection to the Korean War will close in December after four years, according to Museum Manager Teri Van Dorston. In its place will be the story of local veterans with connections to World War II.

“I have goosepimples because, to me, this is so powerful,” Van Dorston said, about a collection of bomb pins, artifacts that will be featured in the upcoming exhibit.

“Bomb safety pins, or cotter pins, from this one pilot in our community who kept them, I believe, as souvenirs, but it also recreates the history of where he was and where he his unit was,” Van Dorston said.

That pilot is Army Air Corps bomber Kenneth Oseth, and his bomber jacket will also be in the exhibit. Van Dorston said Oseth painted his jacket with one bomb for every mission he flew, 25 in all.

“It’s such a unique, powerful twosome to have the jacket, and then we’ll display the bomber pins next to it,” Van Dorston said.

Van Dorston said her office has received an “overwhelming” amount of donations. Some of those have been Ike jackets. “I have hundreds,” Van Dorston said.

With so many of one kind of artifact, Van Dorston is planning a special display.

“It’s important for visitors to see that repetition and, the amount of Ike jackets alone that we have, to see and visualize just how many people in our community joined that war effort,” Van Dorston said.

Van Dorston said it’s “emotional” to sort and organize the hundreds of World War II artifacts in the collection in preparation for the exhibit.

“World War II speaks to the band of brothers, band of sisters. Such long friendships were made with people from all over the country fighting for the same goal. Can’t help but think about that when you see an exhibit or go through an archive,” Van Dorston said.

The exhibit will not be large—only about 1,000 square feet of room off to the side of the lobby. However, Van Dorston believes the exhibit will be deeply meaningful despite its size.

“I can’t tell the whole World War II story in a thousand square feet, but I can show honor and we can memorialize and remember these World War II veterans from our community.”

Van Dorston said the exhibit is set to open in January 2024.