Military History Preserved through Vast and Unique Local Collection

February 26, 2019
By

Courtesy photo.

SANTA BARBARA — Santa Barbara has no shortage of fascinating museums – art, innovation, local history, natural history, marine life, native plants. It’s all here.

But one of the most unique and diverse collections in town can be found in a museum many likely don’t even realize exists. There’s no signage, parking is limited, and there are no tickets or admission fees.

John and Hazel Blankenship, co-founders of the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation (PCVF), have an impressive collection of over 1,000 pieces of military memorabilia – all on display at their home in Montecito.

The “Bunker”, as the museum wing of the Blankenship’s home is known, houses over 300 military helmets and hats, more than 50 uniforms, and hundreds of other artifacts, including model ships, planes, and armored vehicles, artwork, medals, weapons, and more. Every war dating back as far as World War I is represented in some fashion, in addition to the more recent Post-9/11 conflicts.

John, a Navy pilot who served in Vietnam, and Hazel, who served in the CIA, co-founded the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation in 2003, vowing to continue their late friend’s work ensuring that those who served are Never Forgotten. One way they fulfill that mission is by inviting the public to explore the vast military history that can be found at the Bunker.

“I started collecting military memorabilia when I was young, and over time the collection grew,” said John Blankenship. “Once I had a decent collection, people started bringing me pieces for the museum, knowing that their items would be put to good use and appreciated by others in the community.”

Many Santa Barbara residents who wore the uniform are celebrated within the walls of the Bunker, but the collection isn’t limited to local military heroes.

Visitors touring the Bunker will find pieces of military history from wars and warriors around the globe. Helmets, uniforms, weaponry, and other artifacts from Japanese, French, German, and American soldiers can be found, as well as photographs of some of the most influential military leaders in history.

“We have hundreds of people visit each year,” said Hazel. “We’ve had a number of local schools come through on field trips, we’ve had World War II veterans. It’s really a great opportunity for our local community to learn more about our military history and show their appreciation for those who sacrificed everything to fight for our nation.”

The Blankenships are always happy to welcome people into their home for a tour of the Bunker, but visits must be arranged in advance.

To inquire about touring the Bunker, please call the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation at (805) 259-4394.

To learn more about PCVF’s work in the community, visit www.pcvf.org

About Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation: Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation is committed to honoring the men and women who have served in uniform at any time. PCVF does this by supporting veterans and active duty members, and related partner organizations, in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, as well as preserving military history and legacy. The Foundation works to uphold Pierre Claeyssens’s vision that those who have served are “Never Forgotten.” PCVF is funded entirely by private donations. For more information, visit www.pcvf.org or call (805) 259-4394.

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