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.
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.
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.
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.