Photo Information

This 74-gun 3rd rate ship-of-the-line of the 18th century depicts many pre through post battle scenes above and below decks. Frangiosa builds dioramas like this and then loans them to nearby museums. This piece was previously displayed aboard the USS North Carolina museum ship and has an appraised value of $16,000.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki

Marine’s museum-type displays bring history alive

13 May 2011 | Lance Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki

In his workshop with the single-minded determination of a man obsessed, Staff Sgt. Joseph Frangiosa Jr. works long hours in his spare time with no other purpose than to create a form of time machine for others to enjoy.

One piece of his handiwork resides at the Havelock Tourist Center where it can be seen by hundreds of people every day. It doesn’t run at 88 miles per hour or use a flux capacitor, but it does serve as a window through time. The 4-by-4-foot diorama of an 1862 Union blockhouse fort guarding a railroad bridge crossing Slocum Creek is part of a museum exhibit to educate visitors on the Havelock area from prehistory to now.

Frangiosa, an MV-22B Osprey maintenance controller with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165, said he loves the thrill of making the past come to life and telling stories of those long gone. To this end, he has completed seven professional-grade dioramas for both hire and his personal collection. Frangiosa often displays his works at public events for people to take notice. One of them was Edward Ellis, the chairman of the Havelock Historical Exhibit Committee, who commissioned Frangiosa to create the Civil War diorama.

The results of the project were as eye catching as Frangiosa’s other exhibits, prompting the Havelock City Council to officially thank him in the city hall April 25.

“While others could have built a replica of the fort, no one would have sprinkled the detail, sweated the accuracy, or piled on the rich dollops of personality he did,” said Ellis. “In my estimation, Joseph Frangiosa created an enduring masterpiece that brings joy to the study of history and will be long admired by this and future generations. The people of Havelock owe him a deep debt of gratitude.”

Though Frangiosa was hired for the job, the purpose behind his artwork is the importance of keeping the past alive.

“It’s almost like bringing that person or that time period back to life,” Frangiosa said. “If we don’t continue to do that, it just gets forgotten about over the centuries. Hopefully, it will teach the next generation something, either to not repeat the same mistakes or to remember the triumphant events and to remember the fallen. We have to keep that going, otherwise people will forget.”

To ensure the past isn’t forgotten, Frangiosa creates his dioramas with vivid detail. He studies and cross references every minor detail in the piece to make sure it is historically accurate and uses the information to make a build plan. With a picture in mind, he scrapes together household supplies from various stores and uses figures from model railway sets as characters. When his job is finished, he has a valuable work of art such as his diorama of an 18th century 74-gun 3rd rate ship-of-the-line, which has an appraised value of $16,000.

With the upcoming centennial of Marine Aviation, Frangiosa has turned his attention to immortalizing the past 100 years of Marine flight. He said he already has a plan of action and will begin work on this next piece of art as soon as time permits. To Frangiosa, this is more than just a pet project. It is a way to support the Marine Corps beyond the scope of his role as an Osprey maintenance controller.

“What we always fall back on in boot camp is the history of the Marine Corps and how it will affect the future of the Marine Corps,” Frangiosa said. “The constant recognition, preservation and updating of the Marine Corps’ history is for the public, especially because public opinion is what has kept the Marine Corps active. They love us because of the constant vigilance of Quantico with the Marine Corps Museum and Marine Corps University.”

Much like the famous photo in World War II of the flag raising on Iwo Jima, Frangiosa hopes to bring about positive public relations with the aviation project and show the public what the Marine Corps is all about. While the dioramas may not be as famous as Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal’s proclamation that the flag raising on Iwo Jima meant a Marine Corps for the next 500 years, Frangiosa said the diorama will advance the mission to immortalize Marine Corps history in the public eye.

To view more products by Frangiosa, visit his website at

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point