Georgia on our minds

Nationalism: With unrest stirring patriotic passions, Georgia's many historic sites offer a star-spangled primer of past battles.

Destination: The South

October 28, 2001|By Paula Crouch Thrasher | Paula Crouch Thrasher,Cox News Service

Thomas Paine's oft-quoted words echo through the ages: "These are the times that try men's souls." More than 200 years after the patriot wrote of America in crisis, his passionate observations ring with new resonance.

"Tyranny, like hell," he continued, "is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

Today, as Americans face uncertain times, we understand more than ever what Paine wrote Dec. 19, 1776, as the American Revolution raged -- even though the source of tyranny is much different now.

The tragic events of Sept. 11 have ignited a patriotic fervor not seen since World War II. And in Georgia, American pride shows at a variety of historical sites, from military monuments to the place where the president who governed the country through World War II died.

Here are destinations throughout the state that remind us that from our nation's painful birth, men and women have fought and died to preserve the freedom we all enjoy.

Andersonville National Historic Site

In the National Cemetery in Andersonville, where 13,000 Union soldiers held captive at the infamous stockade are buried, park officials have displayed a circle of American flags donated by the families of veterans.

Built in 1864, Andersonville, officially known as Camp Sumter, was the largest Confederate military prison. In the 14 months the facility operated, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were crowded into the stockade. Nearly a quarter of them died from disease, horrible sanitation, malnutrition or exposure.

Today, the 495-acre park honors all American prisoners of war throughout history. In addition to the historic prison and cemetery, there's the National Prisoner of War Museum, which opened in 1998.

The building is designed to look like a prison -- complete with bars across the windows. Looming towers evoke the danger of trying to escape. Inside are POW relics from the Civil War to Desert Storm. A 27-minute audiovisual program, "Echoes of Captivity," is shown every 30 minutes.

National Infantry Museum

Housed in the first permanent structure built on Fort Benning Army base, the museum fills three floors with exhibits of weapons, uniforms, mess equipment, helmets and personal equipment of U.S. infantrymen as well as their enemies. Also on display are vehicles, including two of the first SUVs, a 1902 Studebaker Utility Wagon and a Jeep.

"We have a war dogs exhibit that is just fabulous," says spokeswoman Becky Pennington. "It even goes back to dogs in Egyptian and Phoenician times."

The museum building was the post hospital from 1925 to the mid-1970s; it's on the National Register of Historic Places.

Military-themed films are shown continuously throughout the day in the 100-seat theater. There's also a gallery of military art and a gift shop.

Because the museum is inside the security gates of Fort Benning, all visitors are subject to search and questioning.

Museum of Aviation

The three-story Eagle Building near Robins Air Force Base is the largest among the four buildings that together contain 180,000 square feet of exhibition space at the Museum of Aviation in the town of Warner Robins.

Inside the complex are exhibits, an extensive collection of aircraft (93 total), archives, the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame and a gift shop.

An F-15 Eagle and two World War II aircraft (PT-17 Kaydet and TG-4 Glider) are suspended in the rotunda. Smithsonian movies Flyers and To Fly are shown in the Robert L. Scott Vistascope Theater.

Don't miss the "We the People" theater and exhibit hall in the Century of Flight Hangar. The audiovisual presentation covers the Constitution provision for the "common defense" of our nation, the separation of powers in government and how a bill becomes law. Also in the hangar are numerous aircraft, including Lockheed's SR-71 "Blackbird" and a U-2 spy plane.

Hangar One features restored aircraft, missiles and engines as well as an F-105 cockpit simulator. The exhibit "America's Black Eagles -- the Tuskegee Pioneers ... and Beyond" traces the experiences and achievements of black aviators.

The Little White House

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was governor of New York in 1932 when he built a retreat in Warm Springs, where he had been coming since 1924 to seek relief from the polio that had struck him three years before.

When he was inaugurated as president in 1933, his home away from home became known as the Little White House. And it is here that he died of a stroke on April 12, 1945, after leading the country through the turmoil of World War II.

Visitors today will see the white frame house and furnishings much as Roosevelt left them. An adjacent museum displays memorabilia and presents a newsreel-type film containing home movies and historic footage of Roosevelt and his contemporaries.

Here, too, is the famous Unfinished Portrait, which appears just as it did when FDR collapsed in front of artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff.

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