The National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia

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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