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Special Warfare Museum

Home > Culture > Special Warfare Museum

Special Warfare Museum

The Special Warfare Museum provided members of the Special Forces community and others a collection of exhibitions about Special Forces, Psychological Operations, and Civil Affairs history. It has been located on Fort Bragg, North Carolina for several decades. The museum was closed by the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) in 2020. In late 2021 it was reopened after USASOC responded to pressure from the Special Forces community.

JFK Special Warfare Museum Website
https://specialwarfaremuseum.org/

JFK Special Warfare Museum Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/JFKSWM

(910) 432-4272
D-2815 Ardennes Street
Fort Bragg, North Carolina

The museum houses artifacts from World War I to the present conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. It was established in 1963 by BG William P. Yarborough. Some of the collections include weapons used by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. There are several displays of ethnographic materials from Southeast Asia that relate to the Vietnam War.

Displays and exhibits feature the First Special Service Force, the OSS, Detachment 101 in World War II, the Korean conflict, as well as more recent actions in Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom. The museum helps to preserve the history of the unique and specialized part played by the various units of the Army's special warfare community during conflict and peacetime. The history of unconventional warfare spans more than 250 years - dating back to the French and Indian War and Rogers Rangers.

The museum is a favorite destination for former and retired Green Berets, current members of the Special Forces community, and those seeking to explore career opportunities in Special Forces, Psychological Operations, and Civil Affairs.

In the summer of 2017 the museum moved from its location in Building D-2502 on the corner of Marion Street and Ardennes Street to Building D-2815 located on the corner of Ardennes and Zabitosky Streets just across the street from the JFK Chapel.

In the last few years the Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg has been in the midst of a huge building project - mainly along Ardennes Street. This new "campus" is updating the school facilities and classrooms for the students in the special warfare community. The Special Warfare Museum was rumored to have a facility designated within the footprint of this new campus - but it never came to pass.

US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum Association.
The association was a non-profit organization. It was established to provide an opportunity for all people, military and civilian, to create and maintain a memorial or memorials of and aid in the preservation of history and traditions of Special Warfare units, past and present. The association was organized exclusively for historical, charitable, and educational purposes. It qualified as a tax exempt organization under Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code of Law. It is unknown if this organization still exists. Membership in the association was open to all military and civilians. There were several categories of membership and donor contributors. The association was administered by volunteers consisting of an Executive Board and a fifteen-member Advisory Council.
https://www.jfkwebstore.com/about.php (link no longer active)

Museum Gift Shop.
For many years the museum operated a Gift Shop. It was managed by a Gift Shop Manager with a small staff. The gift shop worked with the Museum Association Secretary and Treasurer. The Gift Shop's purpose was to support the US Army JFK Special Warfare Museum while providing various souvenirs throughout the Special Operations community. The Gift Shop operated as a non-profit organization.
https://www.jfkwebstore.com/store/ (link no longer active)

The gift shop function has been assumed by the Special Forces Association located on Doc Bennet Road, Fayetteville (near the airport). Articles can be purchased online on the Special Forces Association website.
https://www.specialforcesassociation.org/shop/

Yarborough Knife. The museum gift shop used to offer the Yarborough knife; however, that is now an offering of the Special Forces Association as well.


Closing of the Special Warfare Museum in 2020

'Closed for Inventory'. The closure of the museum by USASOC was seen by many SF veterans as a 'behind the scenes' move with very little transparency. The first indication that something was amiss was the closure of the museum in December 2019 to 'conduct inventory'. USASOC indicated that the museum would reopen by the end of February 2020 - never happened.

Museum Given New Name. Then in January 2020 a USASOC press release announced a name change - with the new name of "ARSOF Museum". The 'new' museum would incorporate the history of the Ranger Regiment and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Special Forces veterans were dismayed with this news - it appeared that the emphasis on SF in the museum would be lost - and many SF related exhibits would be put into boxes to make way for other newer exhibits relating to the Ranger Regiment (Fort Benning) and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Fort Campbell).

Museum Facility Closed. Subsequent USASOC press releases provided more news - that the new ARSOF museum would be a 'virtual experience'. Some artifacts would be displayed for short periods of time at ARSOF units all across the country. The 'brick and mortar' museum would be closed.

SF Community Response. The response from the SF community was immediate. SF social media was set ablaze with comments about the Special Warfare Museum closing. Opinion articles were published (see below) questioning the motive and reasoning for the closure of the museum.

Petition to Save the Museum. An online petition was established to save the museum by Dr. Josee Bourget - the widow of a Special Forces soldier who died in Africa during a deployment. She had donated numerous articles belonging to her husband to the Special Warfare Museum. A big concern of hers (and many others) was what would become of these articles and if she could ever get them back.
Keep the JFK Special Warfare Museum Open

Fall 2020 Status. Eventually USASOC 'saw the light' and revisited the museum issue. An external 'advisory committee' was established to study the issue and report back to the USASOC commander - LTG Fran Beaudette - with possible courses of action (COAs) in late summer 2020.

LTG Beaudette on SF History. USASOC acknowledged the huge negative response by the SF community to the closure of the museum. In an August 2020 address by LTG Beaudette to the membership of the Special Forces Association during their annual (virtual) convention he stated [1]:

"We heard your voice loud and clear on the museum. Thanks for keeping us honest".

LTG Beaudette continued with the following statement:

"Eventually, today's Green Berets will transition on. Their legacy of self-service to the nation, just like yours, must be captured and preserved. We honor their history by faithfully telling the story of our regiment and its soldiers. The way people interact with history is evolving and so must we. Our history should preserve our past but also inspire future generations towards the opportunities that Army Special Operations has to offer. We will make sure these stories are told to future generations. Our regiment, our soldiers, and our families deserve it."

Museum Reopens. The JFK Special Warfare Museum reopened in 2021.

JFK Museum Gift Shop. For years current and former members of Special Forces were able to buy swag at the SF Gift Shop located on Ardennes Street on Fort Bragg, NC. Apparently the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum Association's gift shop was closed by the USASOC History Office with little notice to the museum association or to the manager of the gift shop. The Gift Store (as of August 2020) is being operated from the Special Forces Association national headquarters on 4990 Doc Bennett Road, Fayetteville, NC. Swag, Yarborough knives, and other mechandise can be ordered online from the SFA gift shop.


Websites about the Special Warfare Museum

JFK Special Warfare Museum
https://specialwarfaremuseum.org

John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum
U.S. Army Center of Military History
https://history.army.mil/museums/jfk-swm/index.html

John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum
United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC)
https://www.soc.mil/SWCS/museum.html

JFK Special Warfare Museum Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/JFKSWM

JFK Special Warfare Museum (not the official FB account)
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jfk-Special-Warfare-Museum-Ft-Bragg-Nc/212706605444953

JFK Museum Gift Shop
https://www.jfkwebstore.com/store/ (link no longer active)

Army Museum Enteprise, U.S. Army Center of Military History
https://history.army.mil/museums/

Airborne and Special Operations Museum
Fayetteville, North Carolina
https://history.army.mil/museums/IMCOM/fortBragg_airborneSpecOps/index.html

U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum
https://www.asomf.org/



News Articles about the Special Warfare Museum

June 17, 2020. "Military Widow: Sign the petition to save the JFK Special Warfare Museum", by Dr. Josee Bourget, Fayetteville Observer.

May 9, 2020. "Army Special Operations Command Closes Museum and Stirs Controversy", by Steve Balestrieri, SOFREP.

May 6, 2020. "USASOC Closes Special Warfare Museum on FBNC", SOF News.

March 6, 2020. "Renovation of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum", USASOC.

April 24, 2020. "ARSOF History: Embracing the Future", USASOC Public Affairs Office.

January 25, 2020. "Army Special Operations Forces Museum", SOF News.

January 24, 2020. "U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare Museum becomes Army Special Operations Forces Museum", USASOC Public Affairs Office.

July 2006. "Hidden Treasures of the JFK Special Warfare Museum", by Robert Bruce, Small Arms Review.


Endnotes

[1] LTG Beaudette's 'loud and clear' comment is made at the 7:00 minute mark of this video. His comment honoring Special Forces history begins at the 14:20 minute mark of the video. USASOC Commanding General Comments to Special Forces Association, YouTube.com, August 22, 2020.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLQgC0Umits

 


Top Image: The original Special Warfare Museum on Ardennes Street, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 

 

 


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