When we visited the National Museum of the US Navy a couple of weeks ago, the guard at the gate asked us if we had been to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA,...yet. We hadn't, but after waxing so
eloquently about how worthwhile it was, he made us promise to go as he was certain we would be sorry if we did not. After such an impassioned sales pitch how could we not assure him we would visit and soon? Last weekend we kept that promise and made the 45-minute drive to what turned out to be, in fact, a very well-done, thorough, engaging, and educational museum.
This is not the best picture of the building's facade, but it was really hot and super sunny when I snapped this so there were no do-overs.
Our visit began with a 20 minute film about the Marine Corps. It was the only real propaganda we encountered, and even then it was fairly toned down. On the armrests of each seat in the theater were these little gold plaques. Each said something different and many were placed there in honor of a former Marine.
We were joined in the theater by a host of new recruits, so new, in fact, that their uniforms don't yet say "MARINES."
The museum starts from the "beginning" describing how the Marines got their start and what life was like as a sailor in the 18th century. Bottom line -- not great.
Thankfully, there were many kid friendly exhibits.
There were also lots of opportunities to dress up and pretend to be Marines from various eras of their history.
Caleb was not as keen to dress up as Isaac, but he was intrigued enough by this garb to put it on.
The main exhibit progressed chronologically through the major campaigns of the Marines and along the way there were several of these "Be a Marine" stations.
This visit definitely tested our knowledge of US military history. The boys had endless questions and expected us to be at the ready with accurate and complete answers.
Some of the stations were equipped with stools,
and some were not.
The museum is laid out in a circle and the exhibits really are well thought out. There is so much to see and a fair amount is interactive. One could easily spend days inside and still not see/read/experience everything on display.
About halfway through the exhibits, Isaac started to get a little restless. Luckily, we found Chesty's Corner, a fun place for kids to take a break, color, read, and just relax. Chesty is a dog named for Chesty Puller, the most decorated Marine in US history.
After a brief respite, we joined up again to view the Iwo Jima exhibit. This is the actual flag raised by the Marines once Iwo Jima was secured. We also met a veteran of Iwo Jima who works as a docent in the museum and he shared some very interesting trivia with us. Many of the battle ships that ferried Marines to Iwo Jima and other engagements in the Pacific, were damaged at Pearl Harbor. But, in between December 7, 1941, and 1944, 15 of the 17 ships that had been bombed at Pearl Harbor were put in dry dock, repaired, at put back to sea. Only the USS Arizona and the USS Utah were too far damaged to be repaired -- of course, those two ships were sunk and now rest forever as a reminder of that terrible day.
5,391 Marines, 209 Navy, and 1 Coast Guard (he was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time) were killed at Iwo Jima. This wall represents each of their sacrifices. The museum docent instructed me to move a few steps back, use the camera's flash, and take a shot of the memorial wall. When we looked at the photo later, it revealed this image of Mt. Suribachi.
After the WWII exhibit Isaac, Claire, and I sort of blitzed the Korea and Vietnam galleries and the 9/11 exhibit so he could go back to Chesty's corner and play some more.
But, we did stop long enough to get a couple of shots of various things that interested him.
Our last stop before departing was the museum's rotunda.
There are huge exhibits in the rotunda to demonstrate Marines in action, as well as several full-size aircraft suspended from the ceiling that have been used over the years by this particular branch of the armed forces.
In addition, the perimeter of the rotunda is encircled with statements made about the Marines by members of the other branches of the armed services.
In the end, the guard at the Navy Yards was right, this is a great museum and we were glad to have visited.