Each year on November 11, Americans honor and celebrate the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have served this country to protect our freedoms. And while this year’s Veterans Day looks a little different (many of the annual in-person Veterans Day events, commemorations, and wreath-layings have either been canceled or moved to virtual experiences), November 11, 2020 marks the highly-anticipated grand opening of the National Museum of the United States Army.
The museum, located on a publicly accessible area of Fort Belvoir in southern Fairfax County, is the first comprehensive and truly national museum to capture, display, and interpret more than 245 years of U.S. Army history, bringing that history to life as told through the eyes of the American soldier.
The museum is free to the public, but timed-entry tickets are required. Here’s how to request yours. (Can’t wait for your visit? Don’t miss the Virtual Grand Opening Ceremony live streaming on November 11 from 2-3pm EST.)
Here are 10 of the must-see exhibits and features of Fairfax County’s newest museum, the National Museum of the United States Army.
The Army Theater’s 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 – broadcast on a 300-degree screen with external sensory elements.
Don’t miss: “Of Noble Deeds” is shown multiple times a day and does not require an additional ticket.
Experiential Learning Center
The Experiential Learning Center (ELC) offers a unique and immersive learning space where visitors of all ages can develop skills and have fun with Geography, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (G-STEM).
Don’t miss: In the Training Center, there are five learning stations where you simulate the work of Army Soldiers, from engineering bridge building to aerial vehicle operations. And in the Action Center, transport yourself into Army experiences through a series of virtual reality simulations.
"Founding the Nation" Gallery
The "Founding the Nation" Gallery covers the Army’s history from the colonial period through 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.
Don’t miss: The 6-pounder gun was one of the most popular light field pieces in the Revolutionary War and was mounted on a wooden carriage pulled by horses or oxen.
"Preserving the Nation" Gallery
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.
Don’t miss: The 12 Pounder Cannon, dubbed the “Napoleon,” was able to fire to a range of 1,700 yards and was a popular weapon for the Union light artillery.
"Nation Overseas" Gallery
The "Nation Overseas" Gallery explores the Army’s first venture onto the world stage, from operations in China to the Spanish-American War, and 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.
Don’t miss: Visualize trench warfare in the WWI Immersion Space, where cast figures, lighting effects, imagery, the sounds of distant battle, and the FT-17 Renault “Five of Hearts” Tank draw you in.
"Global War" Gallery
The "Global War" Gallery portrays the Army’s role in World War II, from both the European and Pacific Theaters, the technology of the conflict, and the development of the atomic bomb.
Don’t miss: The Higgins assault boat (or a Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP)), is one of six remaining that are confirmed to have landed at Normandy on D-Day. Plus, the M4 Sherman “Cobra King” Tank, the iconic American tank of WWII and the first to break through enemy lines at the pivotal Battle of the Bulge.
"Cold War" Gallery
The "Cold War" Gallery recounts a time when the United States faced numerous global challenges. American Soldiers manned a defensive line in Europe that deterred a potential attack, while on the other side of the world, the Army fought wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Don’t miss: Suspended from the gallery’s ceiling is the iconic UH-1B “Huey” Helicopter, which arrived in Vietnam in 1962 as aerial ambulances.
"Changing World" Gallery
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 most current conflicts. The Global War on Terror portion follows the progression of operation in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Don’t miss: The M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle was the lead vehicle in the 2003 charge from Kuwait to Baghdad and was essential to gaining control of several key positions before the advance into the city.
Army and Society Gallery
Consisting of five major and distinctly themed areas, 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.
Don’t miss: Key exhibits, such as the Wright Flyer and the AN/FPN-40 Radar set, illustrate the Army’s contribution in driving the development of critical technologies, some of which are reflected in our daily lives today.
The Medal of Honor Experience
The Medal of Honor Experience invites visitors to explore the history of the Medal of Honor and learn about the award recommendation process and hierarchy of Army awards that recognize heroic actions.
Don’t miss: The adjacent outdoor Medal of Honor Garden, which identifies and honors Army recipients of the nation’s highest award for valor – a peaceful space allowing visitors the opportunity to reflect on the values exemplified by the medal’s recipients.
Know Before You Go:
- Timed-entry tickets are required; book in advance at theNMUSA.org.
- The on-site gourmet café is available during visitor hours and offers local, sustainable menu offerings.
- The museum will be open daily, 9am – 5pm, every day of the year except for Christmas Day.
- Parking and admission are free.
- Health and safety guidelines are routinely updated and can be found here.
- The museum is committed to providing an accessible experience for all visitors; find accessibility accommodations here.
We can’t wait to hear about your experience at Fairfax County’s newest attraction. Share your excitement and experience in the comments below or tag us on social media using #FXVA or @VisitFairfax.
*Photos courtesy National Museum of the United States Army/Duane Lempke.