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Museum Review: National Museum US Marine Corps


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The_Chieftain #1 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 16:55

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This week in 1945 saw the iconic raising of the flags on Mount Suribachi during the fight for Iwo Jima. Given that it seems to be one of the more significant events in US Marine Corps history, I figured this would be a good opportunity to go and review the Marine Corps museum.







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So, I duly suited up in my contamination suit, and entered Marine territory, Quantico, VA.

It’s certainly easy to get to, right off I-95 and only a short drive from D.C. It looks like there will be a series of museums on that stretch of roadway, the National Museum of the US Army is going up just up the road, as is the Americans in Wartime Museum.

Now, often times you’ll hear a building described as taking inspiration from something. Sometimes, like the Canadian War Museum, you can actually accept the inspiration as truth. Other times, you are wondering what the architect was smoking that he thought it looked similar to. For the NMMC, however, one doesn’t need to have it explained. Just looking at the structure leaves you in no doubt the inspiration was the second flag-raising on Suribachi.

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Being a US government museum, admission is of course free. Just wander in the front door, stop off at the information desk for a map, and you’re in the rotunda.








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It doesn’t seem to be part of the tour per se, more a setpiece to put you in the mood. Nice and airy, surrounded by quotes carved into the walls about how great the Marines are. (Well, what did you expect them to say?). The tour of the museum itself starts in a little door in the corner. Well, it would be a corner if the rotunda wasn’t round. At least it’s marked.








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You get about three feet in when you are presented with a dilemma. To the right is a bus (well, the front half of it) and yellow footprints. Obviously the Basic Training exhibition. To your front, a fighting top. To the left, a hallway. Worse, there’s also a cinema option, which is a short ten minute thing about the meaning of being a Marine.








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OK, I like flashy lights and noises. I go into the Basic Training section. If you want, you can go into a booth and get yelled at by DIs in stereo (There’s a male DI booth and female DI booth). The exhibit is reasonably compact, and reasonably enough more suited to the 12-14 year old segment. After all, they are the potential recruits in a couple of years. Brief description of basic training, with varous ‘games’ to play, such as ‘lift this rucksack’ or ‘inspect this manikin, how many uniform violations can you find?’








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I think I preferred the equivalent exhibit at the Army’s National Infantry Museum. It was a bit more matter-of-fact and more closely aligned with the 17-18 year old demographic. I’m sure there was a conscious decision made for the two differing methods.








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Anyway, come back out, and hop across the hallway to the fairly innocuous entranceway on the other side. This traces the Corps through the days of the Age of Sail, with micro-artefacts, dioramas, and textual information. It’s interesting enough.








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The Civil War does get a bit of a mention, but the Marines were not a significant factor. There is also a bit about the Confederate Marine Corps, which I have to say is a piece of military history I was unaware of but makes sense.

The layout is common to a number of musea today, ‘compartments’ of exhibits in which you access from a main corridor, then meander around in a path before being deposited back into the corridor. It works.

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There is a long timeline on the one side of the central corridor. Above and alongside the corridor are various displays to include aircraft hanging from the ceiling. As in many examples, the surrounding environs prevent you from getting a proper look at the exhibit, so it’s as much a matter of providing atmosphere as being an exhibit in itself.








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There are certainly some interesting larger exhibits, such as this King armoured car. Probably the most intriguing, and I’m sorry I can’t show it properly with a still photo, was this depiction of Belleau Woods in the Great War section.








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This little piece display was a fantastic example of the use of technology, combining two-way mirrors, 3D models and a computer projection system. Descriptive and immersive. (What we have here is an animation of the Marines charging across the field and getting mowed down by German machineguns being superimposed onto one of the 3D models). I could definitely see more of these things being used, I wonder how much time and money they cost?

Wasn’t overly impressed by most of the rest of the WWI section, though, but certainly it hits all the highlights and all the artefacts are exhibited clearly and well labelled.

There are a number of large dioramas in the various sections in which one can feel a little more immersed, and they’ve done a good job of them. The Korean War snow diorama is decidedly chilly. If you’re wearing short sleeves, you may not want to hang around for the full five minutes. I particularly liked the Vietnam firebase, though.

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To enter that diorama, one has to go through half a CH-46. (They cut it down a bit for space). They’ve got speakers hitting you with engine noise, the floor vibrates, and it even ‘smells’ right. Anyone who’s flown a CH- will know what I mean, that combination of hydraulic fluids, oils, jet fuel and exhaust. I don’t know if they actually had heaters emitting engine exhaust, but if not, it was so immersive that I certainly believed I could feel it. Extremely reminiscent of my doing the same thing out of CH-47s. Far and away the best ‘entrance’ to a diorama I’ve ever seen, though perhaps because I could ‘fill in the sensory blanks’ from experience and memory (Shame the rest of the firebase was a little less interesting). The Inchon one is optional, and probably worth the miss.








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Yes, there are tanks. Shame we were never allowed to paint naked ladies on our tanks when I was on them. Also not quite sure how the sandbag ended up between the numbers 1 and 2 roadwheels. Maybe a hard left turn?








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Although I didn’t ask, I presume that the museum has plans to expand. As I look at the satellite view, they can easily add more on to the arc. The reason I make this presumption is that the museum sortof stops at the turn of the century. There’s a big board with the 9/11 timeline on it, but not much else. Pretty much the only significant 21st Century observation I saw was on the floor of the Rotunda in what didn’t look anything as much an exhibit as an afterthought. I’m pretty sure the Marines have been doing something in the last decade, it’s a little disappointing that this modern museum doesn’t have much about it. Then again, I did overhear one mother talking to her son as they were reading the 9/11 timeline “Oh, this happened before you were born…” Maybe it’s for the best.








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A gift shop, of course, exists near the exit, with a nice lego display. Nothing there that particularly caught my attention to purchase, though. But then, I’m not a Marine.

Overall, budget 3 to 4 hours to properly tour this museum. Definitely required visiting for anyone with an interest in the Corps, the facility is modern, clean, and does a reasonably good job of getting its point across (Which, let’s face it, is selling the Marine Corps), even if it ‘misses’ on occasion. When the US Army museum opens up in 2015 a few minutes along the road, it will make an interesting comparison. And also a much more appealing destination to spend the whole day!

One last question, though. This is a statue on the grounds of the museum. What does Fort Benning have to say on the matter?








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ODAAT_chatbanned #2 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 17:19

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Very cool...thanks for sharing.  God bless our soldiers

anonym_0CLLcV5vPvPb #3 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 17:29

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Where's R. Lee Ermey when you need him!  :Smile_veryhappy:

Victorinox3 #4 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 17:29

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I've been there... it was cool.

Vollketten #5 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 17:33

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another museum on the list to visit one day, nice read thank you.

46Gunz #6 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 17:49

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Thanks for the review, good job.  As a retired Marine, I am very proud of how well the museum covers the Marine Corps history.  I was stationed here at Quantico and since I retired I still live here, about 15 miles from the museum.  I have actually volunteered several times helping to restore vehicles for the displays.  I really enjoy working on these vehicles from the past.  Also, my job in the Marine Corps was a CH-46 Helicopter Mechanic/Crewchief and I totally agree with you on the CH-46 display.

usmcmoose #7 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 17:53

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FYI: the "Iron Mike" statue, from Wikipedia:
Quantico’s Iron Mike is officially titled Crusading for Right.[4] It depicts a World War I Marine holding a 1903 Springfield rifle, wearing a pack with a bayonet.[5]

At the end of the war, US Army General John J. Pershing commissioned the French sculptor Charles Raphael Peyre (sometimes Raphael Charles Peyne) to commemorate the service of the US Army’s "doughboys". The sculptor, unaware of the differences between the branches of service, used a Marine private as a model and included the Eagle, Globe and Anchor insignia on the helmet. When Pershing saw the finished product, he insisted that the Marine Corps insignia be removed. The artist would not allow his work to be censored, so the Army declined to buy the statue.

Finally, Marine Corps General Smedley Butler raised enough money to buy the statue and had it installed in front of the headquarters building at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virgina.[6] The statue was begun in 1918 and first exhibited at the Exposition des Beaux Arts of the Grand Palaise des Champs-Élysées, in Paris in May 1919. Marine Officers and Enlisted donated money to purchase the statue, and it was sited in front of the Base Headquarters, Building 1019, in Quantico, Virginia, some 75 miles from DC and a bit off the tourist trail. Three tablets were erected in the memory of the officers and men of the 6th Machine Gun Battalion, 5th Regiment and 6th Regiment, United States Marines, "who gave their lives for their country in the World War in 1918" by the Thomas Roberts Reath, Marine Post No. 186, American Legion, on November 10, 1921. On December 8, 1921, the statue was dedicated.

Today, a recreation of this statue stands in front of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, outside the Quantico base. On that statue's base is the name "Iron Mike". The original statue remains in front of Butler Hall, home of the Marine Corps Training and Education Command.

Daigensui #8 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 17:59

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View PostThe_Chieftain, on Feb 23 2013 - 16:55, said:

So, I duly suited up in my contamination suit, and entered Marine territory, Quantico, VA.


The usual rivalry  :Smile_teethhappy:


Thanks for the review. Now I'm interested in going there.

46Gunz #9 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 18:14

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Oh, forgot to mention.  They are planning to expand and add more to the museum in the future.  You should see how many exhibits and displays they have waiting to be restored.  I'm talking about hangers and warehouses full of weapons, vehicles and aircraft.  Chieftain, if you would like to see some of the unrestored tanks, I still have a contact over at the museum if your interested.

Scolopax #10 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 18:33

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You see the error they did on the Pershing's information board?  Called the prototype the T36e1 (an obvious typo.)  Not something that'd matter to your standard visitor, but still something to catch.

whitedragonking #11 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 18:46

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"Naked ladies on the tank" lol. i would of done it anyways and hide it under cammo.

Meplat #12 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 19:20

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IIRC these folks are working on an Ontos, and need help locating engine parts.

It's an earlier one, with the militarized 361Chrysler V8.
I have some of the ignition bits they need, but they are dedicated to the XM-410 I'm working on.

Armored_Furyan #13 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 19:24

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Thanks for sharing.  Very Cool place!

I purchased a brick in the walk way in honor of my father's 30 years service as a Marine!!

Edited by eweiler, Feb 23 2013 - 19:24.


BlackSunRising #14 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 19:26

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thank you for visiting the marines museum if you step this way youll see how merica won ww1 and 2 and saved the world.  and here youll see how we won vietnam and here we saved merica from iraqs plan to rule the world here youll see how we stopped the afghans from ruling the world too. thank you for visiting. god bless democracy and the land of the free. may we impose our policy on eveyone one day.
jk.. nice pics

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venomjoe #15 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 19:33

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Nice

46Gunz #16 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 19:41

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View Posteweiler, on Feb 23 2013 - 19:24, said:

Thanks for sharing.  Very Cool place!

I purchased a brick in the walk way in honor of my father's 30 years service as a Marine!!
Do you remember how much it cost?

Destroyer_Monssen #17 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 19:44

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Thank you for the virtual tour, Chieftan.  I only wish my Dad was still alive so my brother and I could take him there.  He was in the 1st Marine Divison ("The Old Breed") in WWII, fought at the battles of Guadalcanal, New Guinea and was wounded (in the hand) on Peleliu in the Palau Islands, for which he was awarded a Purple Heart.  He passed away almost two years ago.

Edited by Newshawk, Feb 23 2013 - 19:49.


smegatread #18 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 19:44

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Thank you for the overview of the Marine Corps museum.
Granted not all museums are gonna WOW everybody in the same way...
But I do think there may be a slightly "jaded" view in your reviews.

That is ok we Marines are used to that...

"Those that know us love us or fear us...those that don't...will never understand"


"Lead, follow, or get out of my way" USMC 2/8 WPNS

nixter #19 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 19:56

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Chieftain

I request that you consider visiting the resting place of the lone remaining American T95. I'd like to see a picture of it with a person standing next to it to show the true size of the thing. The T95's seen in World of Tanks seem to have been scaled down to fit onto the various streets and bridges. I imagine that this beast is quite large in real life. I read that it was designed to withstand direct hits by large calibre shore batteries, this tank was unique in its design and original purpose. It would be more at home used as a shore defense in World of Warships than a TD in World of Tanks.

Love reading your posts Chieftain, keep up the good work.

anonym_8c6WUbf6C7MT #20 Posted Feb 23 2013 - 20:12

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Awwww, wish I could of seen you. Was just there with my friends. :( But why  didn't you guys take some pix of the Sherman?




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