AUBURN, Indiana-10am on a sunny fall day and the immense Kruse National Military History Museum in Auburn is open for business. Tellingly, the vast parking lot in front of the complex is empty, a clue to the museum’s financial challenges. While the parking lot is empty, however, the museum itself is anything but.
“We have a lot of equipment that’s jammed in that people can’t see now,” says museum founder Dean Kruse. “We really have too much in here.”
It’s a problem that could be remedied December 8th when part of this huge collection of World War Two equipment will hit the auction block. Going to the highest bidder will be 80 vintage military vehicles including half tracks, motorcycles, howitzers…the half tracks are the big draw, this M16 half track gun motor carrier with four Browning 50 caliber machine guns is one of them. Motorcycles too, like this 1941 Indian 741…and this vintage BMW with side car. Museum founder Dean Kruse says buyers around the world are contacting him.
“Most probably I would say from Germany,” he says, “but all over Europe, England, and a couple from South America. We’ve had a couple from Canada.”
Kruse bought this collection in Europe ten years ago, most of the equipment abandoned after the Battle of the Bulge. But with 800 World War Two veterans dying each day museum attendance continues to slide. The facility is nearly three million dollars in debt. Dean Kruse hopes the sale will help.
“And so we hope we can get enough out of this, I think we owe $2.5 million now, and we hope that this will pay it off,” he says. “I found that half of the kids graduating from high school in America think that Germany and the U.S. were on the same side in WWII so there’s a story that needs to be told.”
A story that will continue to be told in this one of a kind building…once a few of the armored chapters of that story are sold off. This is Eric Olson reporting.
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