Located on a publicly accessible area of Fort Belvoir, Virginia
The National Museum of the United States Army opened on Veterans Day, November 11, 2020. It is the first museum to tell the entire history of the U.S. Army from 1775 to the present day. The museum is located on a publicly accessible area of Fort Belvoir, Virginia allowed the general public to easily access it without having to get a pass and go through a gate of the installation.
“The U.S. Army and the American Soldier forged the birth of our nation,” said Secretary of the Army, Ryan D. McCarthy. “The National Army Museum will be a place for members of the total Army family to gather and share their stories, while also creating an opportunity for visitors to connect with our nation’s history through the eyes and voices of individual Soldiers.”
The U.S. Army and the Army Historical Foundation (AHF), the official fundraising 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization for the museum established in 1983, partnered to establish the National Museum of the United States Army. The Army provided the land, roads, utilities, infrastructure, and exhibit work while the AHF raised money and constructed the building. The foundation manages retail, catering and events and the Army operates the museum.
“The museum is stunning, and it is an honor to present this history in a way that shows the connection between the American Soldier, the U.S. Army and the nation,” said the museum’s director, Ms. Tammy E. Call. The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges to the health and safety of visitors. To mitigate this free, timed-entry tickets are required and not walk-up tickets are available. “We have worked hard to ensure the safety of our staff and visitors, and we are excited to open the doors of this long-awaited national museum,” added Call.
The museum covers over 245 years of Army history and highlights soldiers from the past, present and future from the Regulars Army, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. “The Army is people. They are our greatest strength and our most important weapon system,” said the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James C. McConville. “The National Museum of the United States Army is designed to tell the compelling and heroic stories of our people and take visitors on an exciting journey through the history of the U.S. Army as told through the American Soldiers’ point of view.”
The museum has a wide variety of state-of-the-art exhibits. One of the first you encounter is the Soldiers’ Stories. It is a grouping of freestanding pylons with a soldier’s etched image and their biography. They are lined up in a formation and begin in the museum’s exterior to the entryway, into the lobby and end at the Army Concourse. The exhibit really highlights the diversity in the U.S. Army and shows both male and female soldiers and of different races. Other exhibits are based around various conflicts. Colonial Warfare covers the historical period from 1607-1835. It explores the forming of the Continental Army, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Army becoming a professional force.
In addition to the permanent exhibits the museum has space for temporary exhibitions. The Two Front War is a temporary exhibit and shares the rarely told story of Japanese American Nisei Soldiers during World War II. This history highlights the struggle of the Nisei and their courage. Highlights include receiving the Congressional Gold Medal as recognition of their service.
The museum’s Welcome Desk has a limited supply of audio tours. Bring your own personal headphones to use (standard headphone jack wireless not compatible) or use the museum’s which are sanitized after each use. The audio tours are free.
There is so much to see and do at the museum you may want to take a break. The Museum Café has a variety of options. During COVID-19 all tables are set six feet apart and a self-service contactless transactions option is available. The café is open 8 am to 3pm and you can preorder your food with a quick access app.
Army Action Center
For more interactive fun check out the Army Action Center: Virtual Reality and Motion Theater Experiences. It is currently open during the visitor day and offers a variety of experiences. Allow plenty of time for COVID-19 measures and special cleaning. The three experiences are:
Holdout! Bunker Defense VR
Up to four people at a time can participate in the HoldOut! Bunker Defense VR Arena. Don high-tech head-mounted VR goggles with simulated rifles which give a realistic recoil as you fire at your targets. The thrill increases with 4D effects such as floor vibrations and wind which simulates battlefield conditions. Compete with others as you take out artificial intelligent (AI) enemies.
Tank Commander Virtual Reality Transporter
Jump on the elevated motion platform and don electronic 3D goggles to feel like you a commanding a World War II Sherman Tank. Order your massive 75-millimeter gun to fire on enemy vehicles and gun nests. Collaborate with other tank commanders to advance your positions.
Wingwalker VR Adventures of an Air Show Stuntwoman
Simulate riding on the wing of a vintage ex-Army 1943 Boeing Super Stearman biplane. Watch a daring stuntwoman wing walk and show off for the air show crowd while you hang on as the plane dips and turns.
Army Action Pod Simulator
You can experience over 110 years of aviation history in this simulator which takes you from the birthplace of flight at Kitty Hawk to modern day jets. Learn about daring first flights, aviation’s golden age of air racing, the Tuskegee Airmen and much more.
Capture Your Visit
Remember your visit with a purchase from the Museum Store with a variety of Army themed merchandise and books. Make sure to visit the photo kiosk provided by Foto ATM. Print smartphone photos or personalize your images for social media.
The National Museum of the United States Army is open everyday except December 25 from 9 am to 5 pm.