Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Tour of the Military Technology Museum of New Jersey

A Tour of the Military Technology Museum of New Jersey

Tucked away on the campus of historic Camp Evans in Wall Township, New Jersey is a military museum virtually unheard of to even the most well-informed museum enthusiasts. In a little less than a year, the Military Technology Museum of New Jersey has transformed a portion of a 1940s era government building into an inviting space full of rare military vehicles, weapons, and uniforms.

However, the collection began about 35 years ago by museum founder Dan Janquitto. He, his son, Luke, who is the museum curator, and a number of volunteers have refurbished the building, which was left in ruins by the Army when it was vacated in 1997, and filled it with interesting machinery, informative signs, and fantastic displays. They have privately amassed one of the largest and rarest collections of both static and operating military vehicles and equipment in the world.

The mission of the Military Technology Museum of New Jersey is to, "Educate school children and the general public, through both static and interactive displays depicting past military technological changes and inventions that affect our daily lives today." As I toured the building, I learned various tidbits of information, such as the wartime origins of M&Ms and words and phrases that we use in everyday life that originated on the battlefield.

Here's a very small sampling of the museum's large and varied collection:


Since the 1940s, Jeeps have been used by U.S. Army. The original Jeep was the prototype Bantam BRC. Willys MB Jeeps went into production in 1941, specifically for the military. The Jeep became the primary light 4-wheel-drive vehicle of the United States Army and the Allies during World War II, as well as the postwar period. The Military Technology Museum of New Jersey has a number of early Willys Jeeps and one of only two Chevrolet prototype jeeps in existence. On display in the museum is a 1943 Chevrolet Cel, serial number 2. The U.S. Army always wanted jeeps to weight less than 1,000 pounds. This was Chevrolet's prototype of a lightweight jeep, having a net weight of 1,062 pounds.


Another one-of-a-kind vehicle on display at the museum is the 1940 AquaCheetah Model XAC-1 amphibious automobile. The vehicle was conceived by Buffalo, New York entrepreneur Roger Hoffeins. He figured that the United States could not avoid World War II and looking at a map of Europe, noticed the large amounts of water and lakes. He conceived and built this amphibious vehicle out of a 1939 Ford Convertible. It was featured in newsreels and photos from the period, but never put into production. The vehicle was found in a backyard in Buffalo in 2012 and rescued. It is now proudly displayed and is being preserved in the condition it was found in.


Vehicles with a story are always more interesting. At the rear corner of the museum is the front half of a 1952 General Motors Cargo Truck. It was the first Army truck produced with an automatic transmission and was capable of fording deep water. What's interesting about this truck is that it made it all the way to Broadway! At one point it was modified and the rear section of it was removed so it could be used as a prop on the revival of the Broadway production of South Pacific.


A  1940s Dodge VC-6 Carryall and other vehicles from the period.


Another rare and odd vehicle at the museum is 1942 Stoewer Kettenkrad Motorcycle. German soldiers were trained to ride motorcycles, therefore it made sense to design a vehicle that looked like one. Steering the Kettenkrad was accomplished by turning the handlebars. First designed and patented in June 1939, it was first used in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The vehicle was also used in the North African theater and on the Western Front. In total, 8,411 were produced but very few exist today and this is the only known Stoewer in the United States.


The museum shows the full evolution of the Jeep from a military vehicle to farm vehicle, and eventually a sports vehicle. On display are two sporty Jeeps, one of which is the 1965 Kaiser-Willys model CJ5, "Tuxedo Park" Mark IV. From 1964-1969. 7.400 of these Jeeps were produced. Prior to this model, most Jeeps for civilians were considered farm vehicles. This Jeep featured hubcaps, chrome accessories, a spare tire cover, an overhead interior light, and radio among other upgrades. This introduction of this vehicle signaled the emergence of the modern SUV market.

The museum is part of the Information Age Science History Museum and Learning Center (InfoAge), which is a sprawling campus of non-profit groups and individuals dedicated to science, technology, history, and the military. In addition to the Military Technology Museum of New Jersey, the site is also home to the Atlantic Surfing Museum, the MARCH Vintage Computer Museum, the Garden State Central Model Railroad Club, the Institute for Exploratory Research (IXR), National Broadcasters Hall of Fame, New Jersey Shipwreck Museum, Ocean Monmouth Amateur Radio Club, and Radio Technology Museum. There is also a World War II miniatures room, fallout shelter and exhibit, and rooms with different radar and radio equipment in the original 1914 Marconi hotel building. Over the past ten years, volunteers have donated thousands of hours to restore this site (although the work done only scratches the surface) and maintain each museum for future generations to enjoy.


Additional photos of my trip to The Military Technology Museum of New Jersey on Pinterest


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