June 14, 2021 – Flag Day
246th Anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Army
244th Anniversary of the official acceptance of the Stars & Stripes as the U.S. Flag
75th Birthday of (former) President Donald J. Trump
And BTW, the grand re-opening of the National Museum of the U.S. Army in Fort Belvoir, Va! The museum was originally opened on Nov. 11, 2020 (Veterans Day) but was closed shortly afterwards due to the corona virus.
AMERICA’S ARMY MUSEUM
In 1814, with the War of Independence still fresh in the minds of Americans and the War of 1812 still being waged, Congress enacted legislation directing the Secretary of War, the precursor of today’s Secretary of Defense, to gather symbols of combat from the young nation’s military struggles. The British invasion of Washington D.C., and the subsequent burning of the White House, the Capitol building, and many other federal buildings would occur just four months later. Such was the start, some 200 years ago of what is now the National Museum of the U.S. Army.
As the Army’s national landmark, the National Army Museum is an enduring effort to tell the Army’s story and honor the accomplishments, sacrifices and commitment of American Soldiers.
The Museum is the first comprehensive and truly national museum to capture, display, and interpret over 245 years of Army history. The Museum brings to life that history in times of war and peace as told through the eyes of Soldiers.
The Museum also offers educational experiences illustrating the Army’s role in building and defending our nation, humanitarian missions, and technological and medical breakthroughs built on Army ingenuity.
The construction and maintenance of a national museum of this scale was and is a massive undertaking. The Museum is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the nonprofit Army Historical Foundation. The U.S. Army designated the Army Historical Foundation (armyhistory.org) as the official fundraiser to support the building’s construction on federal land—an 84-acre site at Fort Belvoir, Va. (15 minute drive from Mount Vernon, 25 minute drive from Reagan-National Airport, 30 minute drive from the Washington Monument).
A combination of Foundation and Museum contracts brought the Museum to life. Architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP, designed the building and Clark Construction Group, LLC, began construction of the 185,000 square-foot facility in 2017. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coordinated the site preparation, road construction, and utility installation.
Exhibit designers Christopher Chadbourne & Associates and Eisterhold Associates Inc. created the Museum’s story line and exhibit design. Design and Production, Inc. fabricated and installed the gallery exhibits. The Scenic Route, Inc., designed, fabricated and installed the Experiential Learning Center, the Army Theater and the Medal of Honor Experience. In total, over 30 different organizations brought their expertise to this important project.
While a joint construction effort, the U.S. Army now owns and operates the Museum. The Foundation will continue its fundraising role in support of Museum programs and will manage all retail, catering and special event services.
VISION AND VALUES
The National Museum of the U.S. Army preserves and honors the accomplishments, sacrifices and commitment of American Soldiers. As America’s Army Museum it is home to all Soldiers: past, present and future.
The Museum mirrors the seven core values of the Army and Soldiers.
Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, and our Soldiers.
Fulfill our obligation to provide America and the international community with the comprehensive story of the Army.
Treat our visitors with respect and dignity.
Share the incredible stories of selfless service and sacrifice of the Soldiers.
Pay tribute to our Soldiers who have made honor a matter of daily living and highlight the stories of Soldiers who have received our nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor.
The National Museum ensures that our actions are right, legal and moral.
The National Museum will tell the stories that are hard and at times controversial. We explore these with our visitors freely and without fear.
EVERY SOLDIER HAS A STORY
The Museum provides an engaging setting in which to tell the extraordinary stories of Soldiers. Freestanding pylons—each with an etched image of a Soldier’s face and accompanying biographical information—are aligned in a formation, stretching from the Museum’s exterior into the building’s entryway, through the Lobby, and to the Army Concourse. These personal accounts of ordinary men and women from all historic periods offer Museum visitors a unique perspective of the Soldier’s experience.
The Army Theater provides visitors with an immersive introduction to the U.S. Army and to the Museum. The film, Of Noble Deeds, explores what it means to truly be an American Soldier.
It includes footage of Soldiers and current Army operations along with re-creations of some of the Army’s most significant battles.
The Theater’s 300-degree screen and external sensory elements envelop the viewer in sight, sound and movement.
Of Noble Deeds is shown multiple times every hour and does not require a ticket.
One showing every hour is presented with limited sensory elements and closed captioning.
Exiting the theater, you proceed to the extreme left to begin the Permanent Galleries. Up to 60 minutes can be allotted for each gallery.
FOUNDING THE NATION
The Founding the Nation Gallery covers the Army’s history from the colonial period to the War of 1812. Visitors explore 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.
PRESERVING THE NATION
A New Birth of Freedom
The Preserving the Nation Gallery gives visitors 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 exhibit includes a fragment of the regimental flag of the 54th Mass USCT (portrayed in the movie Glory); General U.S. Grant’s kepi; the Regimental Colors of the 12th Infantry, Corps d’Afrique; General William T. Sherman’s slouch hat; and the sword used by Captain Abner Doubleday at the attack on Fort Sumter.
Entering The World Stage
The Nation Overseas Gallery 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. Visitors also encounter an immersive exhibit, portraying the Army’s advance during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive which prominently features the FT-17 Renault “Five of Hearts” Tank.
Confidence In Courage
The Global War Gallery portrays the Army’s role in the Allied victory during World War II. Visitors learn about the European and Pacific Theaters, technology, the Army’s air war, and the development of the atomic bomb. Key artifacts include 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.
Out of the ashes
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. Suspended from the ceiling is the iconic UH-1B “Huey” helicopter.
The Changing World Gallery chronicles 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 overall theme, Changing World recognizes that—while the last two decades have been a time of near-constant conflict—it is the individual Soldier that must endure the challenges of war in an ever-changing environment.
THE ART OF SOLDIERING
Our Soldiers in Art
This area is a temporary, rotating exhibit space. The Museum’s first exhibit, The Art of Soldiering, showcases highlights from the U.S. Army’s Art Collection. It visually depicts the experiences of the American Soldier from the Civil War to the present through art produced on the front lines. Visitors encounter a new perspective, learning about warfare through the artistic expression of those who were present.
ARMY AND SOCIETY
We Are One
The Army and Society Gallery examines the relationship between the Army and the American people. It is here that visitors discover the Army’s role in shaping the national character. Key artifacts, such as the 1918 Standard B Liberty Truck and the AN/FPN-40 Radar set, illustrate the Army’s contribution in driving the development of critical technologies.
MEDAL OF HONOR
Beyond The Call
The Medal of Honor Experience invites visitors to explore the history of the Medal of Honor as it relates to the Army, and to learn about the award recommendation process and hierarchy of Army awards that recognize heroic actions. Located on the Museum’s third floor, this area also includes an interactive kiosk, “What Would You Do?” This experience portrays the stories of five Medal of Honor recipients and prompts visitors to make choices and then compare their decisions against what occurred in the real scenario.
The adjacent Medal of Honor Garden overlooks the Museum Campus.
The outdoor garden identifies and honors Army recipients of the nation’s highest award for valor. Recipient’s names are permanently etched in granite along the south wall of the garden. This space provides visitors the opportunity to contemplate the values exemplified by the Medal of Honor recipients – Valor, Gallantry and Intrepidity
Museum hours: Open daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Closed December 25
Ticketing: Free timed-entry tickets are required and can be reserved at theNMUSA.org
Parking and Transportation: Parking is free with dedicated spaces for buses and oversized vehicles. The Fairfax County Connector bus route 334 includes a stop at the Museum.
Location: 1775 Liberty Drive, Fort Belvoir, Va, 22060
William S. Connery lives in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County in Virginia. He is the author of two History Press books: Civil War Northern Virginia 1861 and Mosby’s
Raids in Civil War Northern Virginia. His father (PFC Charles A. Connery) served in the artillery in the Sixth Army during World War II.