If you’d like to see more than 500 fully restored military vehicles, artillery pieces, naval vessels, and aircraft dating from 1897 to the present, it’s time to start making plans for a trip to Wyoming.
The National Museum of Military Vehicles, a world-class military history museum just outside Dubois, Wyoming, opened in August 2020, but COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions delayed its grand opening. The situation now, however, is different, and the museum’s grand opening will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 28.
The focus of the 140,000-square-foot museum, which emphasizes the American experience in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, is “to tell the stories of how these vehicles were used and to remember the valor of service members who fought, and sometimes died, in them,” explains Dan Starks, the museum’s founder and chairman.
Starks, who is the former CEO of St. Jude Medical, and his wife, Cynthia, have privately funded the $100 million museum.
“We hope the community can help us honor those who have served our country with valor as we pause to celebrate and say ‘thank you’ for the tremendous amount of work and support that has brought the Museum to where it is today,” Starks said in a statement. “The pandemic slowed us down, but we’re running on all cylinders now.”
A Clear Need To Tell Stories
The idea for the museum started small and grew slowly, Starks explains. Indeed, the first vehicle Starks acquired was a World War II Sherman tank he intended to have restored so he could drive it in the local Fourth of July parade.
“From that seed, it became clear to me that the story surrounding these vehicles really resonated with a broad cross-section of Americans,” Starks said, according to Wyoming Public Radio. “As my collection began to expand, and as word of mouth spread, and more and more people asked to come see the collection, it became clear that this was of enough interest to enough people that we needed to put this collection in a public location, be called a museum and organize our stories and make it available to everyone who’d be interested.”
Starks eventually began acquiring vehicles from around the world.
“Probably half of the vehicles I acquired were in the U.S. when I acquired them, but the other half, about 250 of them, were in various locations overseas — ranging from Australia to South America to most countries in Europe and Canada,” Starks continued. “Some of these vehicles I just would stumble across and some of these vehicles I found in auctions as museums shut down.”
National Museum of Military Vehicles Galleries
Since the National Museum of Military Vehicles contains so many vehicles, it’s logical that they are arranged in numerous galleries.
General George C. Marshall Gallery
First, there’s the General George C. Marshall Gallery, which tells the story of the American experience in World War II. The exhibit begins with stories of amphibious landings and the specialized vehicles that were instrumental for successful landings in southern France, North Africa, Italy, and throughout the Pacific Theatre.
General Lewis “Chesty” Puller Gallery
The General Lewis “Chesty” Puller Gallery, which explores the American experience in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, features a number of internationally significant military vehicles.
“The story of the Pusan Perimeter is told and remembers one of the first major engagements of the Korean War,” the museum explains. “The battle included forces from the Republic of Korea Army (ROK), United States, and the United Kingdom who became trapped in a tiny corner of South Korea with their backs against the sea.”
General George S. Patton, Jr. Gallery
Then there’s the General George S. Patton, Jr. Gallery, which “explores America’s first mechanized combat action in the history of the United States Army, with an emphasis on the use of military vehicles, including tanks, during World War I,” the museum explains. “Exhibits in this gallery will rotate from time to time and include small display cases and vehicles.”
Unknown Soldiers Weapons Vault
Finally, the Unknown Soldiers Weapons Vault features more than 200 historically significant firearms, including the rifle that fired the first shot at Bunker Hill. Other highlights include a revolver once owned by Wyatt Earp, General Patton’s .45 sidearm, and the entire Winchester firearms collection from 1866 to 1966.
Outdoor Wall of Reflection
Visitors can also see the Outdoor Wall of Reflection, where an M60 Main Battle Tank is prominently displayed. The Wall of Reflection itself features several quotations “to remind visitors why we honor and thank our veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States of America,” the museum explains.
National Museum of Military Vehicles Grand Opening Celebration
The museum’s grand opening will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 28.
The event will feature multiple guest speakers including Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, retired Lieutenant General Roger Schultz, who is president of the Army Historical Foundation, and William “Doc” Schmitz, who served as commander-in-chief of the VFW from 2019 to 2020, and, of course, Starks himself.
After the ceremony, there will be numerous vehicle demonstrations — including free tank rides on an M60 Tank, M48 Patton Tank, an M47 Patton Tank, and an M51 Super Sherman.
Range safety officers will supervise an outdoor shooting range where visitors can fire fully automatic weapons supplied by the museum. Eye and hearing protection will be offered for free; however, there will be a fee for ammunition.
Finally, museum access will be free on the 28th to celebrate the grand opening.
If you’d like to plan a visit but can’t attend the grand opening, the National Museum of Military Vehicles’ summer season begins May 25, 2022. In the summer, the museum will be open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Learn more about the National Museum of Military Vehicles, including how to buy tickets in advance, here.
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