“The Marines Have Landed and the Situation is Well at Hand” (Richard Harding Davis) The engraved quote looming overhead in the enormous Leatherneck Gallery sums up the experience of the National Museum of the Marine Corps. From the moment you see the steel and glass structure resembling the raising of the flag at Iwo Jimo rising above the tree-lines as you drive down I-95 near Quantico, you know you are about to become a part of something different. If you are expecting to visit a passive museum filled with dusty cases and lifeless exhibits, think again.
This museum actively incorporates all your senses and emotions in into a personally transformational experience. Many exhibits put you right in chaos of battle as orders are being shouted over the bombarding sounds of gunfire. An immersion gallery allows you to feel the cold of a snowy battlefield, while a Marine calls for medivac over the airwaves. Places like Inchon, Chosin Reservoir, Guadalcanal, Cape Glocester, and Peleliu, that are known to most people only through history books, become more real. The museum portrays actions that may not be politically correct, but they are historically accurate. It does not glamorize war but promotes heroism and what can be accomplished when men work together as one unit.
Nothing inside is incidental right down to the tootsie roll wrapper lying at the foot of a Marine inside a display case to the tire tracks in the “sand”. Just like the Marine Corps “attention to detail” is apparent in every exhibit. Action emerges from all angles throughout the building. Observation points allow you to look above, below and around. From Marines disembarking from a helicopter, to sweat glistening off the back of a shirtless Marine, visitors are drawn into the scenes that unfold before them. Contributing to the realism is the fact that the models are not mannequins but actual life-casts of real Marines in the actual MOS that they are performing.
The “Making of Marines” exhibit takes visitors through the process of becoming a Marine starting with a virtual bus ride of a new recruit to begin the 13-week boot camp experience, to an up-close and personal visit with your very own virtual drill sergeant. This hands-on experience is as close as many will get to the actually understanding the sights, sounds and feelings that run through the minds of new recruits as they progress toward earning the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor symbol of the Corps. Even the most casual observer can’t help but leave with a newfound respect for everything that goes into the “Making of a Marine”.
The Museum offers the unexpected as well. Visitors have the opportunity to see the actual flag that was raised at Iwo Jima, an Academy Award (Oscar) awarded for the 1944 short film “With the Marines at Tarawa, and even watch Bugs Bunny singing to encourage moviegoers to buy bonds during WWII. If hunger strikes, the museum offers the opportunity to dine in the Mess Hall or grab a beer at Tun Tavern. Of course, to satisfy the shopper in your group, there is always the Museum store, for that special must-have gift item.
No matter how great the act of heroism, the emphasis is on every Marine. There are no statues, no names on the large portraits overhead, just story after story of great achievements obtained by dedicated and well-trained individuals who have earned the title of Marine. As you complete your visit, the overall impression you are left with is that of the core values of the Marine Corps – honor, courage and commitment. Ooh-Rah!
Directions: From I-95 take exit 150A to Rt. 1 (Jefferson Davis Hwy). Turn right on Rt. 1. The museum is approximately ¼ mile on the right.
Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM Daily
Tours: Free audio tours or docent-led tours at 10:00AM, 12:00noon and 2:00 PM, reservations not necessary.
For more information visit: www.usmcmuseum.org