Sunday, April 20, 2008

National Museum of the Marine Corps

I've wanted to go see the National Museum of the Marine Corps since it opened last year. Finally convinced someone to go with me. Mike, being a Navy guy, wasn't too thrilled, but went to please me. He said it was a nice museum but he probably wouldn't go back anytime soon.

Even the trash cans remind you where you are. Just in case you get confused.
Yes, the building is to remind you of raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima.
Here Mike the Navy Guy stands in front of Iron Mike the Marine.
About a dozen of these line the walkway up to the entrance.
Mike's favorite airplane, beside the P-3.
I was totally blown away by the museum exhibits. This is an INCREDIBLE museum. Mike was speed walking through it, so there was very little chance to read even a tenth of the information, and there is a ton of it. Even walking fastish, it took about an hour to walk through it all. But what's amazing is not the sheer volume of recorded history, but the amazing presentation. There were some seriously creative people involved here, and probably quite a bit of money. But it is VERY well done. The museum is very three dimensional... don't just look at the walls! You must also look up to see suspended helicopters, planes, and manequins fast rapelling.
In addition, the path takes you through several very nice life size diaramas. These scenes are immersive. In one scene, you're in Korea in winter. The floor is textured like frozen mud with bootsteps in them, the room is enclosed so they can super chill it, and it has fans that gust wind at you in sync with the sound of wind. The sky has animated gunfire with tracers. The only thing you're missing is smell.... it has sight, sound, and feel. In another scene, you are in the cargo area of a chinook with the tail ramp down. It's very hot and loud with engine noises. As you step down the ramp carefully, they have strong fans that simulate the rotor wind. You walk out into a bunker with piled ammo boxes, a manequin in a body bag, and medical personnel getting ready to load casualties into the helicopter you just got off of. In yet another scene, a docent herds a bunch of you into a steel room made up as a compartment in a ship. A film projects onto a three dimensional model of Iwo Jima, briefing us "Marines" on how we'll be in the green landing wave on the south tip of the beach. Very well done. At the end of the briefing, we're herded into a lifesize landing craft, with movie screens that start at shoulder level and go to the ceiling, showing actual footage of how it looks to ride one in to the beach...the waves coming at you, the ships bombarding the beachhead, the gunfire hitting the steel plates around you. The floor doesnt move, but the film has enough motion in it to make you grab the sides to stay upright. Then the front of the landing craft lowers to let you into the next room, just as if you were actually charging the beach. The picture below is Mike in a different landing craft that is on the 'beach' near a bunker.

There are films projected on the bottoms of planes on the ceiling, on bus windows, on wall-size screens that seem to be the wallpapered walls of a family room as the family listens with horror to the news coming out of Pearl Harbor. So, this is not a quiet boring has something for every sense but smell. Maybe they should add something about the smells of combat. The website says they have a firing range simulator and a flight simulator. Didn't see those and I would love to go back and find them.

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