ROSEBURG — Retired 1st Sgt. James Barnett has turned his Roseburg home into a museum of Marine Corps artifacts. He has a collection of clear boxes filled with soil collected from every Marine base in the world and all the major World War II battles.
Barnett has also collected more than 900 challenge coins, traditional medallions bearing the insignia of military organizations; Marine recruiting posters; drinking glasses; framed quotations about the Marines; Marine bulldogs and just about any other type of memorabilia imaginable.
Barnett, 80, entered the Marine Corps when he was 17 years old, shortly after the Korean War broke out.
“Four of us decided we were going to single-handedly win the Korean War, so we joined up together and went to boot camp in San Diego,” he said.
He was too young for combat and was assigned to guard duty at a Naval brig in San Diego.
Barnett served 20 years in the Marines and is a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. He also served as a drill instructor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and as a Marine recruiter. After retiring, he helped his wife with her custom drapery business and they retired to Roseburg 26 years ago.
During the Vietnam War, he met Maj. Gen. Marion Carl, ace pilot for the Marines. Carl was highly decorated and posthumously initiated into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio.
After Carl was murdered in his Glide home in 1998, Barnett spearheaded a campaign to create a memorial to Carl at the Roseburg Regional Airport. The campaign drew $35,000 in donations and attention from across the country. The memorial includes a bronze likeness of the general. Barnett assured that the cement foundation contained soil from each of the battlegrounds over which Carl fought.
Custom-made cabinets in Barnett’s home hold 4,000 DVDs, which naturally include many movies featuring Marines.
“I have almost every Marine movie ever made. I go all the way back to when Edison made one of the first movies he ever made back in Chicago … a black-and-white nontalker,” Barnett said.
He appeared alongside other Marines in three of those movies himself. One of them is “The Longest Day,” in which Marines dressed as Army troops and recreated the World War II D-Day invasion. He marched with other troops in cadence in the 1957 film “The D.I.,” starring Jack Webb, and also appeared in the 1965 film “In Harm’s Way,” starring John Wayne and Patricia Neal.
“Every night at our club in Hawaii, where they made the movie, John Wayne would come into our club, saunter in and say, ‘As long as I’m in here, the drinks are on me.’ There were all kinds of Marines in there with a drink in each hand and letting him pay the bill. He made it a point to go around to everybody and shake their hand,” Barnett said.
In “In Harm’s Way,” Marines played themselves staging an amphibian invasion during World War II.
Barnett and his wife, Anne Barnett, have visited 140 countries and taken 53 ocean cruises. Their travel experiences range from walking on top of the Great Wall in China to standing in Egypt looking up at the Sphinx.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We probably spent most of our money doing that, but you only go this way once, so you might as well see everything you can,” Barnett said.