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Vandals Deface Military Museum

Anti-American slogans are painted on 13 tanks, a chapel and walls. Deputies don't know if juveniles or antiwar protesters are to blame.

March 22, 2003|Hector Becerra | Times Staff Writer

Vandals climbed over a wrought-iron gate at the Gen. George S. Patton Museum near Indio and spray-painted anti-American slogans on tanks, a chapel, plaques and walls, authorities said Friday.

Museum employees in the tiny community of Chiriaco Summit discovered the vandalism Thursday morning. The museum is just off Interstate 10 near the former Desert Training Center, where Patton trained soldiers during World War II for battle in North Africa.

Thirteen tanks were vandalized. The words "Alla is God," with Allah misspelled, were scrawled on the front of the chapel and elsewhere, and a plaque commemorating Medal of Honor recipients from the Coachella Valley was defaced.

"Iraq will win" was among the messages written in black spray paint, said Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy John Kaiser. A large bronze statue of Patton, however, was not touched.

"We don't know if this was just juveniles just trying to get attention," Kaiser said, or "protesters trying to get their message out. But we're talking felony vandalism."

Museum founder Margit Chiriaco-Rusche said offers of help were coming from around the region. "People are offering gifts," she said. "Some are saying, 'I'll get turpentine,' or 'I'll get paint thinner.' "

The Pomona National Guard also offered to remove the graffiti. "We'll probably take them up on it," Chiriaco-Rusche said.

"I don't care if they march in front of the museum with signs saying 'No war.' That's fine. But when you desecrate artifacts ... that really gets under my skin," she said.

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