About Montana’s Military Museum
At Fort Harrison, Helena, Montana
A non-profit, all volunteer effort to honor brave Montanans who served State and NationThe Montana Military Museum invites you to tour our facilities, check out our displays and help us honor those Montanans and citizens from other states and Canada who have service in our military forces to keep us secure and free. This effort to tell Montana’s rich military history is a joint effort by the Montana Department of Military affairs, the Montana National Guard Museum Activity, the non-profit Fort William Henry Harrison Museum Foundation, and the volunteer staff who devote their time and creative energies to share these often remarkable true stories.
Fort Harrison was first established in 1892 and garrisoned by troops from Fort Assiniboine in 1895. It was also used to assemble volunteers for the Spanish American War in 1898. It remained an active army post until 1913. Its subsequent history included acting as a mustering site for Montana troops bound for the Mexican Border Campaign of 1916 and France in 1917. It served as a training site for National Guardsmen between the two world wars and continues today.
The Fort is probably best known outside Montana as the home of WW II’s First Special Service Force (FSSF). Nicknamed by German forces, “The Black Devils or Devil’s Brigade” at Anzio during the Italian Campaign, the exploits of those soldiers are considered the lineage for today’s Special Forces who continue to train here. (The Montana Historical Society Museum located near the State Capitol also has displays on its third floor regarding the role of the FSSF and Montana’s 163rd Regiment during WWII.)
Primary centers for the Montana National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve, and U.S. Navy Reserve are located at Fort Harrison, which is also the home of the Veterans Administration hospital where thousands of ill and injured veterans have been treated for the past eight decades.
The driving force for the creation of this museum came in the mid-1980’s from veterans from two of the World War II units highlighted in our museum: the 163rd Regiment of the Montana National Guard who fought in New Guinea and the Philippines and the Canadian-American First Special Service Force who were formed and trained at Fort Harrison and fought in Italy and France. In addition to those units, the museum also recognizes the sacrifice and service of Montanans in the Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.
The museum’s displays, created under the direction of the late Helena artist and museum curator Robert Morgan, cover more than two centuries of military experiences related to Montana: from the arduous journeys of the Lewis and Clark Army expedition through Montana in 1805 – 1806, the Indian conflicts of the 1860’s and ‘70’s, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exhibits, including uniforms, firearms, and equipment worn and used by fighting men for more than a century dramatize these events.
The museum complex is housed in buildings constructed between World War I and the early 1930’s. The Montana National Guard allows the use of the grounds and of the buildings to house the Museum, as well as provides utilities. The Montana Legislature has also provided major funding support for the Museum’s long-term building program. All other expenses are met from donations from individuals, organizations and businesses. Volunteer labor has been provided by veterans, Army and Air National Guardsmen, and members of other organizations such as the Boy Scouts, and Civil Air Patrol.
The Fort William Henry Harrison Museum Foundations sponsors a Wine Fair and Silent Auction every year to raise funds in support of the Museum’s programs, The thousands of dollars raised each year by generous participants and donors has provided critical financial support for museum activities for over twenty years.The Museum welcomes donations of authentic and meaningful historic artifacts. The Museum’s military history library has thousands of rare and unique books that are available for research purposes. The Museum welcomes donations of military histories from both public and private libraries to enhance our collection.
The Museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Thursday without admission charge. If this is not convenient, visitors can sometimes arrange for personal tours on other days by making prior arrangements with museum staff. Donations, bequests, and memberships are the principal source for financing the Museum’s programs. Donations may be sent to the Fort William Henry Harrison Foundation and Montana Military Museum, P.O. Box 125, Fort Harrison, Montana, 59636-0125. An annual membership is available for $25 with a lifetime membership of $500 also available.
The Museum Store also sells books covering the events displayed in the Museum, memorabilia, and collectable hats and T-shirts to provide income for the Museum. Museum members receive a 15% discount on all store purchases.
he Museum is always looking for volunteers interested in participating in our research and preservation activities. Volunteer staff are always busy cataloging and arranging displays of donated historical artifacts. It’s fascinating work ideal for history buffs.
We look forward to seeing you.
The mission of the Fort William Henry Harrison Museum Foundation is to provide for the preservation, display and interpretation of military history and artifacts that have a geographical, cultural or historical tie to the history of the people and State of Montana. In as much as an appreciation and understanding of the history and heritage is the foundation of continued progress for any culture, the Fort William Henry Harrison Museum Foundation will concern itself with programs and policies that will educate and enlighten the public on the military history traditions of Montana and its citizens.
To implement this mission, the exhibits here begin in the early years of the 19th century when President Thomas Jefferson dispatched the Corps of Discovery, under Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to explore the Louisiana Purchase which included the lands comprising the current state of Montana. They continue through the formation of the Montana Territory in 1864 and admission to the Union as the 41st State in 1889. They continue through the campaigns of the latter 19th and tumultuous 20th centuries and into the asymmetric warfare challenging 21st century warriors.