#151, Interstate 80 museum honors military history

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About halfway between Sacramento and San Francisco, travelers on Interstate 80 can visit an iconic brewery, renowned confectionery or an indoor-outdoor homage to military transportation within minutes. But a full day’s visit to one or any combination of the attractions is warranted.

The setting is a trio of museums all located within a few-mile radius on farmland off frontage roads in Fairfield, an agricultural hub in Solano County. The Anheuser-Busch facility doesn’t have much in common with Jelly Belly or the American Armory Museum. But the latter two destinations share much.

The American Armory Museum features one of Gen. Geroge Patton's Jeeps.
The American Armory Museum features one of Gen. Geroge Patton’s Jeeps. All Images © Bruce Aldrich/2020

Geoff Lippman, the military museum’s general manager and curator, is our guest this week on The Weekly Driver Podcast.

Lippman discusses the history of the museum, its ever-expanding collection of vehicles and military memorabilia from several countries and several wars with co-hosts Bruce Aldrich and James Raia.

The armory’s history began in 2013 when Herman Rowland Sr., the former CEO of Jelly Belly, bought several military vehicles from the estate of armored vehicle collector Jacques Littlefield. The initial collection included an Israeli M-3 half-track, a self-propelled artillery piece and an M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier.

Military museum has more than 60 vehicles

Open to the public two years ago, the museum has guests ranging in age from primary grade school children to WWII veterans in their 90s. Many visitors find the roadside business by happenstance while driving along the Interstate.

Positioned on eight acres and in a nearly 5,000-square-foot warehouse, the collection showcases about 60 vehicles and a vast collection of all things military — uniforms, flags, weapons, gear and soldier mannequins in full uniform. The vehicle collection, 90 percent of which is drivable, includes an Army Harley-Davidson from WWI and one of the Jeeps Gen. George Patton used in WWII. A British Scorpion and an M-60 Patton tank are also prominent. The collection includes donated pieces, items purchased and others on loan.

Lippman wasn’t in the military, but the former land developer and auto restorer in Florida has a vast knowledge of machinery and engines. He was hired by Rowland to repair the collector’s original collection but then accepted his current position. He knows every vehicle intimately and works with numerous volunteers to get vehicles running properly. He also curates the facility.

The museum’s centerpiece is Patton’s 1942 Command Jeep. The vehicle is accompanied by a display of Patton’s history, including a video featuring Francis J. “Jeep” Sanza, Patton’s driver. Sanza died two years ago in Napa.

In addition to weekly outdoor church services, the museum hosts special events, including the Military Vehicle Demonstration Weekend, scheduled Oct. 10-11.

Please join us in this episode of The Weekly Driver Podcast as we travel to Fairfield for a tour of the American Armory Museum and a conversation with its general manager and curator.

The American Armory Museum is located at 4144 Abernathy Rd., Fairfield, Ca., 94534. Tel. (707) 389-6846. Various membership levels are available. Admission: Adults $7; Children 11-under, $3; Military and Veterans with ID are free; Group & Membership rates available; Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a..m.-3 p.m. Donations are accepted. Volunteer opportunities are available; Website: americanarmorymuseum.org.

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