Sunday, April 24, 2011

National Museum of the Marine Corps

After Easter baskets and our egg hunt, we drove just a couple of miles down the road to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico.  We've passed by it and have seen it from the road on all or trips to DC but have never taken the time to stop.  I'm so glad that Dave planned for us to go here today.  It was fabulous!  It is one of the most well done museums that I've ever bee to.  If you have never been, you definitely need to whether you are affiliated with the Marine Corps or not.  But if you are affiliated to the Marine Corps, this is a MUST SEE!

Dedicated on 10 November 2006, on the 231st birthday of the Marine Corps, the National Museum of the Marine Corps invites visitors to walk in the footsteps of Marines: from the sands of Iwo Jima, through the snow of Chosin Reservoir, and on Hill 881 South.  The Museum is not about heroes and giants.  It's about every single Marine doing his or her job as part of a larger unit.  They are all heroes in my eyes.

When you walk up you see the building and the top of the structure that you can see from the interstate.  The Museum's design is evocative of the World War II flag-raising scene on Iwo Jima.

When you enter the Museum, you enter a central gallery called the Leatherneck Gallery.  "Leatherneck" is a nickname give to Marines during the 19th century when they wore leather stocks on their necks.  While the constrictive neckwear is gone, the image of bearing and resolve remains.  This central gallery evokes bearing and resolve, but also permanence and innovation.  The artifacts, vignettes, testimonials and images in this space honor the contributions of every Marine and highlight core messages of the museum, to include innovation and advances in technology.  Suspended overhead are famous aircraft flown b Marines:  a "Jenny" biplane, two Corsairs, and a Harrier "jump jet."  On the ground, a Sikorsky helicopter disembarks Marines onto a Korean War position, and an amphibious tractor abuts a log wall at Tarawa.  On the travertine marble walls, 8 large portraits of Marines and 10 famous quotes beckon the visitor to contemplate and explore.

Next we were able to follow recruits through boot camp, from the recruiting station and bus ride, from the first buzz cut to graduation in the Making Marines Gallery.  Visitors are able to listen to the thoughts of wary recruits during that first bus ride to the training depot, stand on the famous yellow footprints and visit the barbershop where "it all gets taken away."  You can get up and close and personal with your very own "DI", lift a pack, do pull-ups and qualify on the M-16 laser rifle range.  We let Grace and Zachary test their skills with the M-16 and they both did great!  Grace scored a 92% and got her name written on the board where it stayed all day long as the high scorer!  Check out their targets in the picture below.

Along "Legacy Walk" visitors get a quick introduction to Marine Corps history.  Colonial Marines are perched high atop a ship on the "fighting tops," ready to defend and protect.

"Every Marine a Rifleman" is the theme captured for the period 914-1918, but a U.S. Marine locked in hand-to-hand combat with a German soldier reminds visitors that war can be intensely personal.
Marines in World War I
World War I dwarfed in size and horror any previous overseas war fought by the United States.  By the time the first American forces - including a brigade of Marines - arrived in France, their British and French allies were exhausted from three years of grinding warfare against the Germans.  The Marine brigade-two infantry regiments and a machine gun battalion- served alongside an Army brigade in the 2d Division, which entered action on June 1918 to stop a major German breakthrough aiming for Paris.  The Marines fought the Germans at Belleau Wood, a three-week battle that eclipsed in its first bloody day all the casualties the Marines had sustained in their first 143 years of existence.  Hearing rumors after the battle that German soldiers referred to them as "teufelhunden" because of their battlefield prowess, Marines adopted "Devil Dogs" as a proud nickname.  

I was not able to get very many good pictures in this exhibit but it was truly amazing.  The technology used allowed you to see the battle happening right before your very eyes and then you were sitting right in the middle of it.  

Uncommon Valor: Marines in World War II
"Uncommon Valor" recalls hard-fought battles against a formidable opponent in the Pacific.  The Marines entered World War II as a small expeditionary force with an unproven new mission - amphibious assault - and old equipment more suited for the jungles of the earlier "Banana Wars".    But the Marines' early losses turn into later victories.  These gripping stories are told with the help of tanks, artillery pieces, fighter aircraft, small arms and the everyday "junk on a bunk" that belonged to the individual Marine.  Receive your briefing before boarding a Higgins Boat to land on the beach at Iwo Jima.  The Corps' most important icon is in this gallery: the flag raised on Mt. Suribachi.

6,000 small eagle, globe, and anchor insignias and U.S. Navy insignias represent the cost in human lives to take that one island.  This gallery honors the sacrifices and accomplishments of America's "Greatest Generation".
Normal Rockwell (1894-1978)
The War Hero (Homecoming Marine)
Saturday Evening Post Cover
October 13, 1945

At this  point the kids were tired and hungry so we made our way upstairs to the 2nd deck where we could eat in the Mess Hall or Tun Tavern.  We chose Tun Tavern, a small replica of Tun Tavern in Philadelphia where it all began.  "The Legend" is that on 10 November 1775, the Second Continental Congress resolved that two battalions of Marines be raised.  The Continental Marines were born that day. According to legend, Captain Samuel Nicholas set up shop in Philadelphia's Tun Tavern and began recruiting.  The rest is history.  On 11 July 1798, an act of Congress created The United States Marine Corps.  Great atmosphere and great food!

Send in the Marines: The Korean War

The "forgotten war, " fought by thousands of Americans over 50 years ago against a determined enemy, is recalled in this gallery.  The innovative use of helicopters to supports the war is demonstrated by the presence of a looming Sikorsky aircraft, but it is General MacArthur's strategic end run to attach the enemy rear at Inchon that is the first major scene.  The floor shakes as you ride up to the sea wall with the Marines.  A Pershing tank is discovered fighting in war-torn streets of Seoul.  On Toktong Pass in the Chosin Reservoir, you encounter Marines who are cold, tired and short of ammunition and you experience the frigid coldness of the Chosin Reservoir.  

And last but not least is In the Air, on Lane and Sea: The War in Vietnam.  It was a long conflict, fought in hamlets, cities, jungles and rice paddies.  To the sounds of a pilot talking to a marine on the ground, visitors embark on a trip by CH-46 helicopter to Hill 881 South at Khe Sanh - a hot landing zone.  Small arms fire hits the helicopter  and the crew chief instructs everyone to get out quickly.  Rotor wash blows on the passengers' necks as you enter the hot landing zone.  The space is warm; the sounds of war are all around.  A wounded Marine makes his way toward the helicopter; another Marine lies dead in the austere and dangerous scene.

This was by far one of the best museums that I've ever been to and it was so moving!  From the very beginning when you watch a short film of veterans of all ages talking about what it is like to be a Marine and "Once a Maine...Always a Marine" through all the galleries, there were several times that I was moved to tears.  

Of course, what is a visit to a museum without a visit to the gift shop and this one had a little bit of everything...related to the Marine Corps that is.  In the center of the gift shop is this AWESOME figure made out of Legos of the flag raising at Iwo Jima.  Wow!

We stayed right up until it closed and when we left we walked around to the side where there was a path that led to the chapel and a couple of monuments.

Lieutenant General John Archer Lejeune
The Osprey Memorial - were were living here at Lejeune when this happened in 2000.
Iron Mike


Anonymous said...

I want to take my Papa there! He would be in heaven. He lights up when he is near anything Marine. The phrase "Once a Marine Always a Marine" is my Papa all the way.

Stacy said...

Wow! What an amazing museum! I totally want to go now too! Looks like you had a great time and I loved all the pictures!
And b/c I'm a total foodie - did they also serve tradition 1775 era food at the tavern as well?