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  • Writer's pictureKen Murray

Lessons in History at the National Museum of the U.S. Army

I visited the National Museum of the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and saw exhibits that told the story of the U.S. Army from Colonial times to today. The museum was scheduled to open on Veteran's Day, 2020 but remained closed due to Covid-19. It opened up in June and is very much worth a visit.

I started at the Founding the Nation Gallery which covers the Army’s history from the colonial period to the War of 1812. It explores the origins and formation of the Continental Army, its role in the Revolutionary War and the Army’s development as a professional force. This gallery also covers key events of the War of 1812 such as Chippewa, the burning of Washington, the assault on Fort McHenry and the Battle of New Orleans.

The Preserving the Nation Gallery provides an understanding of the Army’s part in the defining American event of the 19th century, the Civil War. This gallery also documents the Army’s role in westward expansion, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Indian Wars and the Mexican War.

The next stop was the Nation Overseas Gallery which explores the Army‘s first venture onto the world stage. Operations in China and the Spanish-American War are exhibited, as are the Army’s operations along the Mexican-American border. The remainder of the exhibit focuses on the Army’s role in World War I and the changing face of warfare. It also has an immersive exhibit, portraying the Army’s advance during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive which prominently features the FT-17 Renault “Five of Hearts” Tank.

The Global War Gallery portrays the Army’s role in the Allied victory during World War II. I learned about the European and Pacific Theaters, technology, the Army’s air war, and the development of the atomic bomb. Key artifacts included the M4 Sherman “Cobra King” Tank and a Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP), also known as a “Higgins Boat,“ that took part in the Normandy beach landings.

The Cold War Gallery showed how the United States faced numerous global challenges during the Cold War. American Soldiers occupied a defensive line in Europe that deterred a potential attack, while on the other side of the world, the U.S. Army fought wars in Korea and Vietnam.

Lastly, the Changing World Gallery depicts one of the most dynamic and global periods in U.S. Army history, from the fall of the Soviet Union through our nation’s current conflicts. The Global War on Terrorism portion follows the progression of operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The galleries were great and displayed the uniforms, armaments, like an M1 Garand rifle from WW II, and gear of the soldiers during each time period. Special displays, called A Soldiers Story, featured personal stories and accomplishments of soldiers during times of service. There were also foreign armaments on display, such as a German MG-42 from World War II.

I very much enjoyed the visit. Here's some photos of my visit. Next on the list is the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia.

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