By Dick Camp
One of the world’s great military museums is also one of the newest: the National Museum of the Marine Corps (known as the “Marine House” by those who staff it), located just outside the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia––about 40 miles south of Washington, D.C. on Interstate 95.
The museum’s striking building and 135 wooded acres offer not only a respite for travelers but an opportunity to honor the service, commitment, and sacrifices made by all Marines throughout the Corps’ 235 year history. Guests are warmly welcomed to share its hospitality. Since opening on November 10 (the Corps’ birthday) 2006, over 1.7 million people have enjoyed visiting the museum.
The museum’s self-guided tour encompasses six unique spaces:
Leatherneck Gallery. The core values of the Marine Corps—honor, courage, and commitment—echo from the marble walls. A gleaming mast rises 210 feet high, and a Curtiss Jenny, two Corsairs, and a Harrier fly overhead inside the glass dome. On the deck, in a full-size diorama, an amphibious tractor tackles a coconut log wall as startlingly lifelike figures hit the beach at Tarawa; nearby, a helicopter disembarks Marines onto a Korean battle scene.
Making Marines. Follow recruits through boot camp from the recruiting station and bus ride, from the first haircut to graduation. Meet your drill instructors and spend some close-up and personal time with them. Lift a pack, do some pull-ups, and qualify on the M-16 laser rifle range––and learn that every Marine is a rifleman.
Uncommon Valor: Marines in World War II. Recall hard-fought battles across the Pacific: Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Iwo Jima. Look for a Wildcat and Avenger patrolling the skies. Just outside a Japanese-held cave, a Sherman tank stands ready. Receive your briefing before boarding a Higgins Boat to land on the beach at Iwo Jima; the Corps’ most sacred icon in this gallery is the actual flag raised on Mt. Suribachi.
Send in the Marines–The Korean War. Follow the Marines in this “forgotten” war. Land at Inchon, fight in the streets of Seoul, brave the cold at “Frozen Chosin” Reservoir (a huge diorama in which the air conditioning is purposely set low to give you a physical chill as well as an emotional one), and endure the tedium and tension of the “see-saw” years of the war. A Sikorsky helicopter and Panther jet tell stories of the Marines’ innovative use of aircraft, while a Pershing tank fights an urban battle.
In the Air, on Land and Sea–The War in Vietnam. It was a long conflict fought in hamlets, cities, jungles, and rice paddies. In a recreated village (this time, with real heat to convey the tropical atmosphere of Vietnam), find the weapons of this war. Learn about how helicopters made all the difference! Onboard a CH-46 helicopter, you will be inserted on Hill 881 South at Khe Sanh—in a hot landing. An A-4 Skyhawk serves as a movie screen, while an Ontos and a captured Soviet artillery piece add realism to the gallery.
Gulf War on Terrorism: The U.S. Marine Corps in Today’s Fight. Images from Combat Camera personnel take you from the acts of terrorism of September 11, 2001, to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These photographs capture powerful images that add personality and emotion to battlefield scenes.
There is also a restaurant, gift shop, and cinema on the premises.
No doubt about it––a visit to the National Museum of the Marine Corps is one you and your family will long remember.
National Museum of the Marine Corps
18900 Jefferson Davis Highway
Triangle, VA 22172
(adjacent to the Quantico Marine Corps Base)
Free admission and free parking
Open every day (except Christmas)
9:00 am – 5:00 pm