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Military Museums: To Honor Those Who’ve Served

National World War II Museum

New Orleans

Based in the heart of New Orleans, the National World War II Museum provides an in-depth look at everyday life during one of history’s most defining wars, challenging guests to consider some of the moral dilemmas members of society faced at the time.

“It can be very emotional,” said Michelle Moore, assistant director of communications. “Most people have connections to the war in some kind of way.”

Inside the Campaigns of Courage pavilion, “The Road to Berlin” takes visitors on an immersive experience through the European Theater of the war, and “The Road to Tokyo” explores the Pacific Theater. This past June, the museum opened an exhibit called “The Arsenal of Democracy,” which centers on the American homefront.

“Now people can get an even bigger picture of what it was like to be an American during that time,” said Moore.

Groups can step into a 1940s-era living room with a ration book and a radio, as well as a kitchen where Americans would have prepared fruits and vegetables from their Victory Garden. Other sections shed light on racial divisions in the country, women in the workforce and the development of the Manhattan Project.

The museum offers an exceptional 45-minute 4-D film called “Beyond All Boundaries” that was produced by Tom Hanks. Groups can take advantage of a Behind the Lines tour for a trip inside a Sherman tank as well as exclusive access to artifacts in storage.

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Dayton, Ohio

The history of aviation comes alive at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The museum houses over 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles, from the fledgling models of the Wright Brothers to modern designs like the B-12 stealth bomber, the only one of its kind on permanent display in the world.

Many of the galleries examine the role of the U.S. Air Force in global conflicts such as World War II, the Cold War and the Korean War. With dozens of authentic aircraft positioned throughout the exhibits, groups will encounter planes that once helmed crucial military campaigns, like Operation Rolling Thunder in Vietnam.

One of the best features of the museum is the interactive quality of the displays and simulations. Guests can enter a 140-foot-tall silo to survey the Missile Gallery or step inside a full-scale NASA space shuttle in the Space Gallery. In the I-360 simulation, players take on the roles of pilot and gunner in a simulated air battle; the Morphis MovieRide takes up to 12 passengers on a virtual journey through outer space.

During the Behind the Scenes tour, groups are taken by shuttle to hangars where aircraft restoration projects take place. Dining services are available in the Valkyrie Café or the newly renovated Refueling Café.

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

Frederick, Maryland

As the bloodiest war in U.S. history, the Civil War forced medical professionals to find innovative and sometimes brutal techniques to care for the thousands of wounded soldiers left in its wake. Groups can learn about these practices in detail at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland, which offers new insight into a dark and desperate passage in America’s history.

The museum’s comprehensive collection includes invaluable Civil War artifacts, like the diary of a young Union soldier and Clara Barton’s roster of missing men. Visitors can take a self-guided tour, or schedule a guided tour accompanied by a group activity or scholar-led discussion. Special programs such as a white glove tour or an amputation demonstration are available upon request.

Guests can choose from a variety of educational activities to enhance their visit. During Telling Tales, a resident storyteller regales listeners with colorful Civil War folklore, reminiscent of the way soldiers once gathered around campfires for conversation. Artifact Investigation reveals some of the methods that historians use to uncover secrets of the past.

Groups of 10 or more are asked to schedule tours at least two weeks in advance.