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The National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia

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Columbus – Yesterday I visited the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning in Columbus, GA. I love military history, but I’ve always been more interested in naval military history and the history of air combat so this visit was quite a learning opportunity. The National Infantry Museum tells the story of the US Army Infantry from the Revolutionary War to the present day and includes a section on the history of Armor and Cavalry as well. It also tells the story of Fort Benning, the Rangers, and the Officer Candidate School. Behind the museum is a World War II Company Street  featuring strutures, including a chapel, saved from Fort Benning’s history and relocated to the museum grounds. The museum also features a Walk of Honor and a 3/4 scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

The first display in the museum is the “Last 100 Yards.” You walk up a 100 yard long ramp that represents the last 100 yards of an infantryman’s fight featuring battles from the Revolutionary War to our present wars in the Middle East. It truly is a magnificent display; you walk through the fight for Redoubt 10 at Yorktown, across the bridge at Antietam, through the World War I Battle of Soissons, through the fight for Pointe du Hoc on D-Day, at the Airborne landing at Corregidor, at Hill 180 for Millett’s bayonet charge during the Korean War, at LZ X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley during Vietnam, and in the midst of a night reconnaissance mission in Iraq. The display uses equipment displays, lights, sounds, and videos projected against the surroundings to put you in each battle. While walking the 100 yards, you not only see what the American infantryman has been through, you learn how he has and warfare have developed over the last 250 years.

Lt. Colonel Alexander Hamilton leads his men against Redoubt 10 at the Revolutionary War Battle of Yorktown

Lt. Colonel Alexander Hamilton leads his men against Redoubt 10 at the Revolutionary War Battle of Yorktown

As you cross the bridge over Antietam Creek you face a Confederate Infantryman

As you cross the bridge over Antietam Creek you face a Confederate Infantryman

The American attack in the World War I Battle of Soissons

The American attack in the World War I Battle of Soissons

Rangers at the bottom of Pointe Du Hoc during the D-Day Invasion at Normandy

Rangers at the bottom of Pointe Du Hoc during the D-Day Invasion at Normandy

The parachute landing during at Corregidor Island in the Philippines during World War II

The parachute landing during at Corregidor Island in the Philippines during World War II

Millett's bayonet charge at Hill 180 during the Korean War

Millett’s bayonet charge at Hill 180 during the Korean War

You walk through the landing at LZ X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley during the Vietnam War

You walk through the landing at LZ X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley during the Vietnam War

Walking through a night reconnaissance mission in Iraq

Walking through a night reconnaissance mission in Iraq

The museum has a huge collection of artifacts, weapons, equipment, vehicles, and memorabilia that covers the history of the US Army from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan. Many are things you just don’t get to see very often.

Porthole from the USS Maine; the Maine's explosion helped spark the Spanish-American War

Porthole from the USS Maine; the Maine’s explosion helped spark the Spanish-American War

Flags, weapons, and artifacts from the Philippine Insurrection

Flags, weapons, and artifacts from the Philippine Insurrection

A World War I Renault FT tank; it was found in a Kabul scrapyard and restored for display in the museum

A World War I Renault FT tank; it was found in a Kabul scrapyard and restored for display in the museum

An M-3 Stuart tank with a horse cavalryman alongside; I thought this an excellent display highlighting the transition from horse Cavalry to Armor

An M-3 Stuart tank with a horse cavalryman alongside; I thought this an excellent display highlighting the transition from horse Cavalry to Armor

An M-113 armored personnel carrier in use during the Vietnam War

An M-113 armored personnel carrier in use during the Vietnam War

The item on the right in this photo is one of Benito Mussolini's epaulets

The item on the right in this photo is one of Benito Mussolini’s epaulets

American flag handmade by US POWs during World War II

American flag handmade by US POWs during World War II

Hermann Goering's Marshal's baton

Hermann Goering’s Marshal’s baton

A bust of Adolf Hitler and a chunk of Hitler's marble table

A bust of Adolf Hitler and a chunk of Hitler’s marble table

Davy Crockett tactical nuclear recoilless gun. Perhaps one of the most insane weapons every devised

Davy Crockett tactical nuclear recoilless gun. Perhaps one of the most insane weapons every devised

Somali flag captured by 3/75 Rangers in Mogadishu; if you've read or watched

Somali flag captured by 3/75 Rangers in Mogadishu; if you’ve read or watched “Blackhawk Down,” you’ll recognize some of the names and callsigns on it

This display recreates a photo taken during the operation in which Saddam Hussein was captured

This display recreates a photo taken during the operation in which Saddam Hussein was captured

Behind the museum is a Walk of Honor that features memorials and monuments placed by and for various US Army Units. The most striking, emotional, and moving is “United in Sacrifice,” commissioned by the 25th Infantry Division Memorial Fund. It features soldiers from different wars of the modern era before the boots, rifle, and helmet of a fallen comrade. The detail and emotions in the facial expressions and postures of the soldiers is incredible. The way a soldier from history reaches out toward a soldier of today is striking. POW/MIA bracelets. dogtags, and flags placed on the rifle by visitors just magnify the impact of the memorial. Another favorite was a memorial to fallen snipers. If you visit the National Infantry Museum, the Walk of Honor is something you should not miss.

United in Sacrifice

United in Sacrifice

Flags, POW/MIA bracelets, and dogtags placed on United in Sacrifice by visitors

Flags, POW/MIA bracelets, and dogtags placed on United in Sacrifice by visitors

The detail and emotion of the soldiers in United in Sacrifice is incredible

The detail and emotion of the soldiers in United in Sacrifice is incredible

A soldier from history reaches out to a soldier of today

A soldier from history reaches out to a soldier of today

Memorial for fallen snipers

Memorial for fallen snipers

The National Infantry Museum is an outstanding museum. There is something for everyone, from someone who knows nothing about military history, who will learn much about the American Infantryman to the military history geek who will enjoy the massive number of displays. It’s worth the visit just for the opening “100 Yards” and it just gets better from there. It doesn’t just tell the story of the US Army Infantry though units and things, it tells the story through the stories of individuals – from the common Infantryman to the General Officers; you learn not just about the Infantry but about men and their deeds and courage. The quantity and quality of the displays and collection reminds me of the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola and it compares favorably to it. For anyone interested in Military History, the National Infantry Museum is a must visit. I spent five hours walking through the exhibits and could have spent many more – I’m thrilled that this was on my choices for this year’s visits.


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