The National World War One Museum


In my humble opinion the National World War One Museum in Kansas City is the best military museum I have ever visited.  Now I have not been to every military museum in the world, but it is not for a lack of effort. 

In fact, I still have not lived down the fact we spent our wedding day touring the First Infantry Division Museum in Cantigny (Naperville), Ill.

Courtesy of the U.S. Army I have traveled all over this country and half of the rest of the world.  This has given me the opportunity to go to many museums, yet I still have a long list that I still hope to get to see.   But, I will come back to that.

In 1994, I was in Kansas City for several days of business.  From my hotel room I noticed a monument on a hill that reminded me of the Ossuary at Verdun.  On the last day there I walked over to see what it was about. 

Much to my surprise there was a relatively small World War One museum  in the concrete structures on the top of this World War One Memorial. 

It looked as though it had been built many decades before, and the only things that really stand out in my memory, where the murals all of the way around the rooms.  I had time, so I leisurely examined every exhibit in the place.  It was during the day, and in the middle of the week, so absolutely no one else was in there, save a young woman who served in a capacity of importance, Curator? Director?  The museum was nice, but I would have placed it near the top of the endangered species list.

In 2006, a co-worker of mine told me of this impressive museum he had visited in Kansas City that was strictly World War One.   I assumed it to be the same especially from the description of the outside.  However, the inside was very different.

Research time.  It is absolutely amazing , they dug out the hill behind the memorial down about three stories and built a brand new large modern facility.  It is truly fantastic, and no words I can say could begin to do it justice, but I will give it a try.

As you enter you walk over a glass floor that is suspended above a field of poppies , think: Flander’s Field.  The exhibits cover the whole war starting with the escalation and mobilization in Europe, thoroughly addressing all of the key nations involved, not just the U.S.  There are a vast assortment of types of displays as well, including many full size dioramas.   There is a research library, meeting rooms, and a very good snack bar.  If you are like me and read every narrative on every exhibit, this will be an all day experience, so the snack bar is important.  You just have to experience it to appreciate it.

I don’t know how the people behind this endeavor got the support to make it happen, but I am sure glad that they did.  One thing is for sure, it was not the collective lobbying power of the existing World War One Veterans, at most maybe ten at that time.

Post Script: It embarrassing to admit this, but I must confess that to date I have not been to the D-Day Museum or the new Infantry Museum.

List of a few of the many other excellent Military Museums:

The West Point Museum, Highland Falls, New York
National Air & Space Museums-especially the new building at Dulles International Airport
The National Army Museum (of the British Army) in London
Museum of the French Army in Paris
Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms in Whitehall in London
House of Terror –at Adrassy ut 60, Budapest Hungary
USS Olympia – Philadelphia—a  unique opportunity to see Admiral Dewey’s flagship from the battle of Manila. This is probably an endangered species.   Not many displays but it is the last of its’ kind!

Only disappointment in my travels was the Imperial War Museum.  It is probably great for research, but it didn’t have as much “stuff” as I had anticipated–I had probably built up my expectations too much.