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A museum exhibit about Wyoming's place in Navy history finds a temporary home in Gillette

A section of the Wyoming Navy exhibit displayed at the Rockpile Museum.
Campbell County Rockpile Museum
A section of the Wyoming Navy exhibit temporarily displayed at the Rockpile Museum.

For most people, combining Wyoming and large bodies of water, especially the world’s major oceans, would seem odd, given Wyoming's landlocked status. Despite this, visitors to the Campbell County Rockpile Museum in Gillette will find out that Wyoming’s place in naval history is notable.

Wyoming Navy, a traveling exhibit that roams the state from its permanent home at the Fort Caspar Museum in Casper, tells the story of navy ships, both past and present, that have been named for Wyoming people, places, landmarks, or natural features.

Rockpile Museum Director Robert Henning said the exhibit has been well received by the public.

"They're surprised that there are so many ships related to Wyoming or named after Wyoming people or places," he said. "And I think they're surprised at the diversity of the ships that you read about in the exhibit."

One of the ships featured, though no longer in service, is the USS Eisele, an Evarts-class, short-hull destroyer escort. Named for a Gillette-born sailor, George Raymond "Spud" Eisele who was killed in 1942 during the Battle of Guadalcanal at age 19, the ship was commissioned by Eisele's mother in 1943 and served until it was decommissioned in 1945.

Though the exhibit has been available for public viewing, a more formal opening occurred on Veterans Day.

The Wyoming Navy exhibit has toured the state over the past several years and is sponsored by the Fort Caspar Museum Association and in part by Casper Memorial VFW Post 9439 and Auxiliary. The exhibit will be on display until the end of the year, though Henning said it may stay a bit longer into the next year.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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