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History of the U.S. Marine Raider Museum

By R. G. Rosenquist

During my tenure on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Marine Raider Association, I broached the idea of reproducing a Marine Raider Stiletto, as an authorized commemorative issue to perpetuate the history of the Raider Battalions. After some discussion, this was accepted by the Board. Here the idea reposed for several years, at which time I went out on my own and contacted the original manufacturer, Camillus Knives. In response to my letter, I received a handwritten note informing me that the company was not interested in such a project. They suggested that I contact Mr. Robert Buerlein who, through the American Historical Foundation in Richmond, Virginia, was producing commemorative Fairbairn stilettos. I contacted Mr. Buerlein and found he was the president and majority owner of this Foundation. I arranged to drive to Richmond and meet with him. I found a young, very professional individual, who displayed a keen interest in history and things Raider. I took with me to this meeting several original knives and a number of combat photos that I had purchased from Lowell Bulger, who was then the editor of the “Raider Patch” (the Association newsletter). After the initial meeting, Bob and I conversed via telephone and mail, exchanging ideas and thoughts regarding the suggested project.

When I received word from the American Historical Foundation that the project was possible, we entered into discussion regarding cost, possible royalties, etc. The end result was that the project was a “go” with a limited production of only 2,500. The American Historical Foundation absorbed all cost of publicity and layout for advertising, art, etc., and provided our association with a fair royalty (all this information should be in Col. Sexton’s file in the materials turned in to Fran Hepburn by then Association President Bob Mathews).

While working on this project, so much public interest was received that I suggested to Mr. Buerlein that we also create a commemorative K-Bar and a Gung Ho knife (Collins No. 18). These were then done, also in limited issue of 2,500. The final spin-off of these projects called the “Terrible Trinity” was that the American Historical Foundation then produced a commemorative K-Bar for each of the six Marine Divisions and of the Marine Air Wings groups. Robert Buerlein, John Dragon and I presented all serial numbers 01 of the Raider knives to the Commandant of the Corps.

During our work in Richmond, the American Historical Foundation moved three times, each time to larger locations. It was during the last move, when the building on the corner of Grace and Lombardy was undergoing remodeling and repair that Bob and I, almost in unison voiced our thoughts “why not create, around the Raider photos from Lowell’s collection, a museum so that the story of the Raider Battalions could be seen and enjoyed by the public!”

Taking some of the royalties from our knife projects, there were constructed some permanent wall showcases in one of the halls which was quite large. Bob and I scrounged second hand furniture shops and estate sales, purchasing a number of old showcases, which were fitted with locks, etc. Thus, the US Marine Raider Museum in Richmond was born.

The Raider newsletter was instrumental in the response of the many Raiders who started sending in artifacts and memorabilia. During this time one of our Raiders, Earl Davis passed on. In his final request he asked that no flowers be sent, but that donations for a Raider Memory Wall be created at the museum. Lacking space, I devised a series of double doors that nested one over the other to create a display space. The work of Maj. Jerry Beau, Col. Archie Rackerby and Frank Guidone several years ago produced a roster of everyone who ever served in the Raider units. These were originally posted on the Memory Door on a paper print out. Later when George MacRae came aboard as Assistant Curator, he found a source that would print thirty-five names and units on a plastic engraved card that was then affixed to the doors in alphabetical order. In retrospect, I only wish George had shown up in the beginning. His talent and capacity for work have been most appreciated.

Later, as the museum became more recognized, we were able to have a large highway sign erected for both North and South bound traffic on Highway 1-85 in Richmond. Following this, the City of Richmond erected a series of smaller signs leading to the museum location. The dedication came on August 21, 1986 during our annual Raider reunion in Washington, D.C. As I mentioned in our welcoming address, the Raiders started on Tulagi August 7, Makin Island, August 17 and now, our last and final beach head here in Richmond, also in August!

The benefits of the Raider Association in its relationship with the American Historical Foundation were not over. We went on to do a commemorative Raider Mod. 1911 .45, a Raider TSMG and a Raider plate properly designed and embellished. Later, during the Las Vegas reunion we produced (barely in time) a book called “Our Kind of War.” I, Stormy Sexton and Bob Buerlein had been working on this for over a year and, again,the American Historical Foundation picked up the cost and let us pay after we sold a set number of books. This was done in short order – the first printing sold out and the last copy I saw for sale at a gun show was $150! The book is a coffee table size pictorial and has a very complete Raider history. Another small monograph was done by the American Historical Foundation, which was taken from the program written by Stormy Sexton for the unveiling of the Raider plaque at Camp Pendleton. This was fleshed out, and with the addition of my old war sketches, was ready for print. We called this “Raider Historical Handbook”. It is now in its’ fifth or sixth printing. Prior to this the American Historical Foundation produced a book titled “‘American Fighting Knives and the Men Who Made Them Famous” by Robert Buerlein. This contains a chapter on the Raiders and the knives.

In October 2000 the final touches on the Memory Doors will complete the museum’s last project. This, with the addition of a credit to Raider Earl Davis and short verse relative to the names displayed. It reads:

THIS BAND OF GALLANT RAIDERS

Raiders all in silence,
All in order stand.
Give homage then, to those
Who served this gallant band.
Age dims our memories now
Of actions known on far off lands.
But names of comrades left behind,
Are not forgotten by their kind.
All are in fact recorded here
For all the coming time.

By Raider R.G. Rosenquist
3rd Raider Bn. D,M&K Co. & 2 H&S


A second museum site was acquired in 1998 through the efforts of a group of West Coast Marine Raiders. This was seeded with duplicate artifacts from the Richmond site and while it does not have the space and footage of the Richmond location, it received an outpouring of donated items displayed in a very professional and informative manner. It is part of the Command Museum at the Recruit Depot, San Diego, and is known as the “‘Raider Room”. Our association is currently setting in motion plans and grants which will insure our displays will continue after the last Raider is gone. This action will place all in the hands of the Corps Heritage Museum in Quantico, which will also receive the Air/Ground Museum already on that site and, possibly, Building 58, Washington Navy Yard, where the current Marine Corps Museum is now in place.

This outline has been the work of Robert Buerlein, President of the American Historical Foundation, R.G. Rosenquist, Director of the US Marine Raider Museum, past President of the Raider Association, George MacRae, curator and Ervin Kaplan, former Raider and Raider website designer. Also credit should be given to past Association Presidents, Col. Stormy Sexton (deceased), Captain Bob Mathews, USMC and Army, John Dragon former Raider, Mike Beeler (deceased) former Raider and Col. John Sweeney, former Raider.

A new display is being designed around the M1 rifle that was recovered when the missing Raiders’ burial site was discovered on Makin. The remains were exhumed for reburial (hopefully) in Arlington. This discovery spearheaded by Raiders Don Harn and Ben Carson has been on ongoing effort by the Raider Association for a number of years.

R. G. Rosenquist, Director
U. S. Marine Raider Museum
Raider Hall, Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia


Museum hours:

Monday through Friday from 06:00 to 19:00 hours.
Closed Holidays.


For any other information contact:

LtCol Joseph C. Shusko
Director Martial Arts Center of Excellence
24191 Gilbert Ave
Quantico, Virginia 22134
703-432-6472

HISTORY OF THE MARINE RAIDER MUSEUM – PART 2

By Honorary Raider Robert A. Buerlein

This picks up in 2003 where “Chapter 1” by Rudy Rosenquist (17 Dec 24 – 1 Mar 10) ends, when Rudy retired as the hands-on, day-to-day Curator of the U.S. Marine Raider Museum in Richmond, Virginia (retaining his title as Museum Director), and Raider George MacRae (1 Sep 17 – 7 Jun 10) became Curator, after having worked for many years as Assistant Curator.

Rudy lived in Fairhope, Alabama, which made for a long and expensive logistics chain. From when we started work on the U.S. Marine Raider Museum in about 1984 through 2003, Rudy (and usually his wife, Marian) made that long trip – at their own expense. In that 19-year period he/they probably met me at the Raider Museum in Richmond about two times a year, so about 38 trips. Each time, they paid for their travel and lodging out of their own pocket.

Throughout that time, we spoke on the telephone an average of about 25 times a year, and Rudy paid for all his calls to me. In short, Rudy’s out-of-pocket expenses and time devoted were considerable – and readily absorbed by him without mention.

Rudy’s service to the U.S. Marine Raider Association (USMRA) also included a two-year term as president, and he had been a Director of the Association since I met him in about 1981 (and it continued through to about 2003). But, in 2003, Rudy turned 79-years-old, and his many years of living life to the fullest was starting to slow him down. The same was happening to many of the other Raiders. As a result, the Raiders started to become fractious with each other much of the time. This was exacerbated by the realization that their Last Patrol was now on the radar screen. With a sense of sudden realization of the inevitable (as Raiders started passing on at a growing rate), they accelerated their earlier talks that the USMRA would be a “Last Man” organization, and they prepared to start winding down the Association. This, in almost a knee-jerk reaction, prompted them in 2004, to take $100,000 from the treasury and contribute it to the Marine Corps Historical Foundation (MCHF), to use to help perpetuate the memory of this gallant unit. They also donated $50,000 to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. Also, Mike Beeler, a prominent, successful Raider (as I recall, he did well in the oil business), who also recent-to-that time had served as President of the USMRA, donated about $50,000 to the MCHF for the Beeler Marine Raider Fund (to encourage the remembrance of the Raiders).

I told Rudy it would be crazy to close down the USMRA, and he and I talked often about keeping it going after the Raiders had gone. He then used his influence at the Board level to encourage the continuance of the Association, as it does to this day.

Meanwhile, Rudy’s health continued suffering, and finally, as a result, he answered the Final Roll Call on 1 Mar 10, at age 85. Shortly thereafter, Marian had a lovely “Celebration Party” for him at their nearby Yacht Club, which my wife, Judy, and I attended, along with several Raiders. As Rudy requested, he had been cremated. I asked Marian, “What are you going to do with his ashes?” She replied, “Rudy said he wanted them to be put into a whiskey bottle and buried under his favorite tree in the front yard.” (Note to readers: This is a beautiful place that overlooks the bay, which is only about 75 feet from their house.) I asked her again, “So what are you going to do with his ashes?” She responded, “I’m going to put them in a whiskey bottle and bury them under his favorite tree in the front yard!” You can take a man out of the Raiders, but you can’t take the Raider out of the man!

In the last 30 years of his life, Rudy had made many contributions to and innovations in the Raider Association, which had included the Raider Museum and many more, including the Raider Weapons Commemorative program, the idea and design of the “Raider Doors” (now at Quantico, listing the names of all the Raiders) and the Raider book, Our Kind of War: Illustrated Saga of the U.S. Marine Raiders of World War II. He was determined to keep alive the memory of the Raiders, and he was dedicated to that until the end.

Well prior to 2003, Raider George A. MacRae (3K), who lived about 100 miles away from the Richmond Museum in Virginia Beach, Va., and his wife, Gloria, had started coming to Richmond, with their visits coinciding with Rudy’s.

George had a ready willingness to support this endeavor due to the special relationship he felt with Rudy, going back to their days together, just after the Raiders, in the Sixth Marine Division in the invasion of Guam. George’s company was slowly advancing, covered by suppressive fire from a hill just behind them, where Rudy was a machine gunner (Browning .30-cal., air-cooled, M1919-A4). George had been severely wounded in his right forearm by an enemy sniper (at the Raider reunions he would always shake hands with you using his left hand), and their position was in doubt due to the strength of the enemy force which would attack, be repulsed, re-group and attack again, over a prolonged period of time. George told me on several occasions that he owed his life to Rudy, who stayed at his position and, undauntingly, maintained his mowing down of the Jap (as the Raiders still call them) advances. George said, when it was finally over, there were about a hundred dead Japs piled up like cord wood, in front of George’s position, thanks to Rudy! George clearly repaid the favor through his dedicated services to Rudy’s favorite cause, the Raider Museum.

As it turned out, this pre-2003 period became a good phase-in for when, in 2003, Rudy’s health started waning, and he turned over his title of Curator to George (and Rudy kept the position of Raider Museum Director).

George and Gloria stepped up to the job, and they visited the Raider Museum about one every 2 to 3 months. Although George was 85 (and Gloria was decidedly younger), George continued to drive on these trips (unlike many couples of that age where you usually see the wife driving!).

By 2005, I had hosted and worked, hands-on, in the Raider Museum, with Rudy and George, for about 20 years. To quantify my commitment to the Raider Museum, in addition to donating some of the display cases and contributing some of my artifacts, I had provided about a thousand square feet in my building for the Museum, supplying all the utilities, housekeeping, and a receptionist (who was shared with my business). At the going rate for office space at that time, ($15/sq.ft.), that would translate to about $300,000. I state that here solely to indicate, in light of upcoming events, my love for, commitment to, and investment in the Raider Museum.

However, during 2005, three trends became apparent:

1) I have three sons, and I had hoped at least one would have joined me with my business and, importantly, the Raider Museum. The oldest graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1996, and he had helped with and grown up in the Raider Museum. I must have overshot my goal, because he became a Marine (eventually earning the rank of Major of Marines). So I “lost” him from the Museum to the Marines.

About the same time, my middle son decided that Law was for him (he likes to argue), and he is now a lawyer in Atlanta.

My third and last son decided that Medicine would be his field, so he earned his M.D. degree, and he is a Physician at the University of Virginia Hospital.

2) My business of custom gunsmithing and selling museum-quality firearms in the $2,000 to $20,000 price range (The American Historical Foundation, which I had founded in 1978) was allowing me to provide the rent-free space for the Museum, along with some financial support. But the business was increasingly in need of more space of the type that would permit us to do more machine shop gunsmithing and precious-metal plating work – a more “industrial”-type setting, zoned appropriately (which our residential/light office zoning wouldn’t allow). As a result largely of this, the decision that mandated itself was to sell this beautiful, historic building to move to a more industrial area which, as it turned out, was not compatible with (or hence, zoned for) “museums”.

3) A third trend in 2005 was that year I turned 59, and I had worked hard in this business for 27 years – – and had four more books I felt an urgent calling to finish and get published. And, in the process of finding a new location, another group offered to buy my business and then move it to their location.

Well prior to this and having seen change coming up fast on the horizon, I had notified the USMRA of the necessity of us, together, finding a new location for the Raider Museum. As destiny would have it, in 2004, Raider Hall at Quantico was dedicated in memory of the Raiders, and many of the Raiders and I were on deck for that important ceremony.

At this event, we met the sharp, bright, energetic, Gung Ho Marine in charge of this facility – – LtCol Joe Shusko – – and asked him if he would be interested in becoming the host of the Raider Museum there at Raider Hall. Without hesitating a millisecond, he exclaimed, “Roger, that!”, and the future of the Museum at that new location was secure.

Like a tick on a hound dog, Joe jumped on this endeavor with great enthusiasm – – along with his group of highly motivated young Marines-in-training and permanent cadre at his M.A.C.E. (Martial Arts Center of Excellence) Headquarters and Training Center for “I.T.s” (Instructor-Trainers) for the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, known as “MCMAP”. Fortuitously, this included access (possibly “Raider-style”) to some 5-Ton “Six-by” trucks, which Joe and his Marines put to good use in three trips from Raider Hall to Richmond and back to transport the artifacts and showcases. Honorary Raider and frequent advisor and contributor to the Museum, Doug Bailey, came, yet again, from his home in Atlanta, top help with the move. During the move, George and Gloria MacRae continued their record-keeping and manual labor to help in the transition to the new location.

Subsequently, in August of 2005, with the Museum move completed, the USMRA dedicated the new location, which we all believe will remain the permanent vestige and legacy of these gallant young men of World War II who risked and gave their lives so our nation remains free – – and, in the process, ignited the permanent fire of Eternal Glory that lives on, today, in Raider Hall, MCB Quantico.

A year later, Joe Shusko capped off his Marine Corps career – – at least the Active Duty part (retired June 2006), and, today, as a civilian employee, continues at the helm of Raider Hall.

At age 92, after many years of service on the Board of the USMRA and work at the Raider Museum, George MacRaejoined the Final Formation on 7 Jan 10. He continues to be missed, especially at the Raider Reunions, where for many years he was a major assistant at the Raider Reunion Auctions – – wearing his trademark white Australian-style bush hat!

Now, in 2014, in the 30-year history of the U.S. Marine Raider Museum we, the Historical Preservation Committee of the USMRA continue in the leadership role of the Raider Museum, while also gaining the assistance of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

In closing this chapter in the history of the U.S. Marine Raider Museum, I recall in the late 1990s, when Raiders started passing on at an accelerated rate, Rudy’s reflection on the Museum:

“The leaves are now falling rapidly from the Raider tree.
Good to have a place to rake them all together, for posterity.”

Continue the mission…

Gung Ho!

Robert A. Buerlein
Honorary Raider
Richmond, Va.
2014