By: Brecken Beck, Moab Museum Intern
I am interested in military history, and through my internship with the Moab Museum, I have had the opportunity to study two military uniforms in the Museum’s Collection to learn more about their stories. As the country observes Veteran’s Day, we invite Moabites to look into the history of veterans in our community through artifacts in the Collection.
One uniform in the Museum Collection is a World War I uniform with a helmet. The uniform has two patches on the arm, which indicate the soldier’s rank and division. From the patches, I learned that the rank of this soldier was a Private, the second patch shows that the soldier was in the 91st Infantry Division of the Army. The 91st Infantry Division was referred to as the “Wild West Division,” and included men from Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah.
For WWI, members of the 91st Infantry Division were sent to Camp Lewis in Washington in 1917, and went on to fight in Europe beginning in 1918. They were involved in a number of decisive battles. The division’s first operation was in the St. Mihiel Offensive in France. Serving under the U.S. Army’s V Corps, the division fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and helped to destroy the German First Guard Division. Twelve days before the end of World War I, the division crucially helped drive the Germans east in the Battle of the Lys and the Escaut.
The second uniform I looked at is from World War II. From the ribbons and patches on this uniform, I was able to learn a bit about the story of the soldier who wore it. The uniform has three patches: a 63rd infantry patch, a patch indicating that the soldier was a sergeant major and a 1st Cavalry Division patch. The 63rd Infantry Division was activated on the 15th of June in 1943 and served in Europe. Historically, the term ‘cavalry’ refers to soldiers who fought on horseback, and until 1943, the First Cavalry Division served as a horseback cavalry. The division served –without horses– in the South Pacific during WWII. Ribbons also give clues into the story of the soldier’s service, often indicating medals earned.
While we aren’t sure from the Museum records who wore either of these uniforms and further research could help clarify more information from the uniforms, decoding what the patches on the uniforms mean and learning about the history of the different military divisions gives us a deeper understanding of the veterans in our community. If you have more information about either of these uniforms and who may have worn them, we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you to the many generations of veterans from Grand County who have served.