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History repeats itself as Ft. MacArthur Artillery Show starts with a bang

Around the South Bay

July 10, 1988

Ft. MacArthur seemed to have gotten lost in a time warp Saturday as soldiers and weapons representing the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries assembled in San Pedro for a weekend celebration of military history.

The centuries mingled as a young man in an authentic World War I doughboy uniform chatted with two fellows in Revolutionary War costumes. And nearby, the post-Civil War era came alive as members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry Memorial unit of the National Indian Wars Assn. set up an encampment.

The gathering was part of the second annual Ft. MacArthur Military Museum Artillery Show. Many of the people helping to stage the show are military collectors and history buffs who delight in telling visitors about the battles and lives of soldiers past.

In answer to a bugle call by Bob Harrison, Indian Wars enthusiasts assembled, wearing wool uniforms similar to those worn by the unlucky horse soldiers who served under Gen. George A. Custer in 1876 and were massacred by the Sioux at the Little Bighorn River.

Soldiers of that era wore wool whether it was hot or cold, said Dennis Bacon, wiping sweat from his brow. A resident of Torrance, Bacon collects military items dating from the Civil War to the Vietnam War.

Soldiers in Custer's time wore linen suspenders called braces, or galluses, which were removed when a man took off his vest, Bacon said. "Those John Wayne movies (showing soldiers in shirts with their suspenders on) were all wrong," he said.

While the Indian Wars group set up camp, complete with a 38-star U.S. flag of the period, museum director Don Young supervised the placement of the numerous historic guns and weapons that will be blank-fired in public ceremonies at 10 a.m. today. As each gun is fired, military history groups will perform drills in full uniform and demonstrate the loading of their muskets and small arms.

Visitors today will be able to witness the blank-firing of cannons from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the Indian Wars; of a rare U.S. Navy landing gun from the Spanish-American War; a .30-caliber machine gun from World War I, and a rare Gatling gun, an early machine gun used in the Indian Wars.

Also on display are twin cannons that for 65 years were a local landmark at the Southern California Military Academy in Signal Hill. They were acquired at an auction in 1985 by Long Beach collector Chuck Abshire. He has loaned two cannons and several other items, including a World War II 8-inch howitzer, to the museum.

"It's like having an art collection--you want people to see it," he said. "And that's my Van Gogh." .

Around the South Bay

History repeats itself as Ft. MacArthur Artillery Show starts with a bang

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