POW tour ends as bus-museum catches on fire

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A 'miracle' needed to save veteran effort

A school bus converted into a traveling World War II prisoner-of-war museum is stopping its tour across Iowa after a motor in the vehicle was badly damaged.

"Unless a miracle happens, our project is going to end," said Michael Luick-Thrams, executive director of TRACES, a nonprofit group preserving Iowa's WWII legacy, who was driving the bus when it caught fire Friday on Interstate 80 between Earlham and Stuart.

The bus proved popular among area veterans during visits to Storm Lake and Alta early in the tour last spring.

The 40-foot seatless vehicle was loaded with photographs and memorabilia of Midwestern POWs, including Meskwaki code talkers and Tuskegee Airmen. Display panels included sketches prisoners drew.

Luick-Thrams said some of the photographs were damaged in he fire.

The bus has visited 205 Iowa towns since it began its tour in March. Since then, more than 17,000 people have toured the exhibit, which parks at libraries, schools and other community facilities.

The bus was scheduled to appear in more than 80 towns between August and October, Luick-Thrams said.

He said the bus was towed to a trucking company in Altoona, where mechanics told him it would cost $13,500 to replace the motor. Luick-Thrams said that is a cost his group can't afford to pay.

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