Public-private partnership empowers heritage tourism as armor column rolls
As the nation observes the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Museum of American Armor has dedicated its new $5 million home on the grounds of Old Bethpage Village Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Road, Old Bethpage, where it will present more than 25 operational armored vehicles within the context of telling the story of the American soldier.
Welcoming D-Day veterans and those military personnel recently returned from deployment, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano was joined by Congressman Peter King, co-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Museum founder Lawrence Kadish, former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, History Channel’s Chief Historian and Vice President Dr. Libby O’Connell and British Deputy Consul General Nick Astbury among others.
The museum is the result of a unique public private partnership that will allow Nassau County to access the powerful interest visitors have in the legacy of World War II, generate new revenue for the restoration village and create a permanent living classroom for a new generation of Americans presented with the story of battlefield sacrifices made on their behalf.
Mr. Kadish stated, “WW II will continue to fascinate current and future generations because the stark depiction of good versus evil is so dramatic. In addition, everyone has someone in their family’s history who fought in that war, survived the carnage or was lost during that conflict. It also reminds us that the current War on Terror still demands American courage in the face of relentless evil.”
Nassau County Executive Mangano observed, “The ability to create an armored column that replicates the sights and sounds of American forces during World War II is one of the most compelling educational tools we have to recount the story of our GIs’ courage, valor and sacrifice. Place it in this setting of vintage farmhouses and country roads so reminiscent of the WWII era Normandy countryside, and you have created a virtual time machine that ensures indelible memories for families.”
Congressman Peter King thanked the museum’s founder and president, stating, “Through the creation of this museum, Lawrence Kadish has ensured that we will have a better appreciation of our citizen soldiers and the role they continue to play in the defense of freedom. His considerable financial contribution to this new institution is staggering, but it reflects the depth of his commitment to tell the story of each and every one of us.
“We will be forever in his debt for creating a living, vibrant, tribute to our military – one that will also remind us that each one of us has an individual responsibility to `stand watch’ in a very dangerous world,” King concluded.
An economic multiplier
In recognition of the economic power of heritage tourism, the Cuomo Administration, New York State Senator Dean Skelos and Assemblyman Charles Lavine have directed some $1.6 million towards the museum’s construction.
In a joint statement, Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Lavine explained, “In addition to the power of this museum to pay tribute to the American soldier, it is also an economic generator that strengthens our tourism destination industry, a growing factor in our local economy. The rate of return for the taxpayer will be significant as the armor museum attracts national and international visitors to its operational collection.”
Chief Historian for the History Channel Dr. Libby O’Connell agreed, “This announcement marks a unique commitment by public and private sectors to preserve and present a seminal chapter in the history of our nation… and our world. It also reflects a commitment to apply a variety of innovative resources to the task of funding the preservation of our history and serves as a national model for similar efforts.”
Heritage tourism has become a significant sector across the country, and Nassau County has an opportunity to grow its share of the market through this effort without cost to the taxpayer. A national survey found that heritage travelers who seek to connect with America’s past spend an average of $994 per trip compared to only $611 for other leisure travelers. The study also found heritage travelers are more frequent travelers, reporting an average of 5.01 leisure trips over a 12 month period versus 3.98 trips by non-heritage travelers. They prefer their leisure travel to be educational and they spend more on cultural and heritage activities. Finally, these individuals will travel farther to get the experiences they seek.
Commissioner Kelly and Tanker Horowitz
Museum Board member, former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stated, “I am proud to be part of an organization that is not only paying tribute to every American who has worn the uniform, but is becoming a destination that will serve as a living, vibrant classroom that keeps alive the courage and valor of our American heritage.” In addition to Mr. Kadish, he is joined on the board by Ed Blumenfeld, Michael Polimeni, Steve Napolitano and Gary Lewi.
Hy Horowitz of East Meadow, a Sherman tanker in General Patton’s 7th Armor Division, was among those who liberated the Buchenwald death camp. Horowitz said, “For the last six decades, veterans like me have been retelling the stories of valor and liberation so that, as Americans, we can understand what we did on behalf of humanity. It puts our country in perspective and it frames our place in the world. It is now time for a new generation to accept the responsibility of retelling that story so that the world is reminded that America stands for freedom, diversity and democracy.
Horowitz observed, “Lawrence Kadish understands that need and put an enormous amount of money into a building that will house an extraordinary collection of old friends. But he knows it’s not about the armor – it’s about the people. Americans, all. We have a story to tell and this place will ensure that it is heard. My story, and that of a generation, will be in good hands.”
A collection of icons
Operational vehicles that will be on public display include the iconic Sherman tank, a Stuart tank used extensively by the Marines during their Pacific campaigns, a potent 155 mm howitzer, reconnaissance vehicles that acted as armored scouts for American forces, anti-aircraft guns and similar weapons that broke the back of the Axis powers during World War II. Other vehicles range from a classic LaSalle staff car in the markings of a Fleet Admiral, to jeeps, weapons carriers and half-tracks.
Beyond World War II programs, tributes will be created to the American service men and women who have served in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and the War on Terror so that the museum is able to fulfill its mission of honoring America’s defense of freedom throughout the decades.
The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 AM to 4 PM. Admission is $10, adults; $7, children 5 – 12 (under 5 are free); and $7, seniors, volunteer firefighters and veterans. Admission to the armor museum also allows you access to Old Bethpage Village Restoration.