The National World War 1 Museum and Memorial is not a memorial to the war. Rather, it is a reminder of the results of the “War to end all wars”, which were peace, liberty, and rebirth. The five years of turmoil left the countryside scarred, and families broken. It did not extinguish the human spirit, which rose above all of this to help heal a world that had been dark for so many days. Unfortunately, our planet would once again be plunged into world war in just a few decades. (You can read about the WWII Museum here.)
We want to thank the World War 1 Museum for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.
A Monument To The Human Spirit
The same year that WWI ended, Kansas City leaders came together with a plan to construct a lasting memorial to those who served. By 1921, a site had been selected, and 100,000 people gathered for the dedication. Within five years, the memorial would be built, and an even larger crowd would be on hand for its opening. The museum served the city, and its visitors, for many years, but in 1994 it was closed due to structural concerns. A plan was made to revitalize, as well as expand the site, so that it could better showcase the growing collections of artifacts. During this period it was given the distinction of being proclaimed the nation’s official World War 1 Museum. It reopened in 2006 to much acclaim. We returned for an in-depth look at our nation’s most esteemed collection of WW1 artifacts and displays.
Into The Trenches
World War 1 was a battle fought in the trenches. Long series of trenches were constructed across the fields, and the battle of small gains was waged. The trenches were designed to slow the advance of the enemy, while offering limited protection from artillery. The trenches were often reinforced with wooden beams and sandbags, as well as guarded with barbed wire. Flooding was a concern, as well as infestation by various pests. Life in the trenches was difficult, and soldiers would often rotate through them in stays of up to two weeks. It is estimated that if all of the trenches dug out during the war were laid end to end, they would total over 25,000 miles long.
The Big Guns
To combat entrenchment, new guns were developed. These new weapons could throw shells higher, farther, and at a faster rate. A new “high explosive” shell design created an increased danger to the soldiers stationed in the trenches. Mortar style weapons became more commonplace, as they were able to lob the shells into the trenches. The addition of gas bombs increased the causalities significantly.
Various Modes of Transportation
In the early part of the 1900’s the world was going through a series of transportation changes. While the horse was still considered the mainstay for moving wagons full of supplies, gas powered engines were breaking ground in many areas. Railways had been in place for many decades, and were used to move troops to nearby towns. Supplying up to two million soldiers with the rations, ammunition, and other supplies became a daunting task. Motorized vehicles began filling the gap, but were limited by lack of roads, especially after heavy rains. This would be the last war that relied so heavily on animals for transportation.
War At Sea
For centuries battles had been waged at sea. World War 1 would see the ushering in of new technology in this arena, as well. Britain was the naval power of Europe, and Germany was striving to match. Ship design had moved from wood to steel, which allowed for larger guns to be carried. To counter the development of Dreadnoughts, torpedo boats became more advanced. Over time, these destroyers would morph into the submarine class, which allowed for increased stealth. These were first used to interfere with shipping traffic, but would eventually be used against smaller warships.
Interactive Displays at the National World War 1 Museum
The increased use of interactive displays at various museums has become more commonplace in the past few years. This allows guests to further immerse themselves in the subject matter at hand. At the National World War 1 Museum, they have included various stations, which allow guests to take a look behind the scenes of what was happening during wartime. One of our favorites was a long illuminated table that had a series of stations. Here we were able to see the inner workings of a machine gun or find out more about the use of camouflage. One of our favorite activities was designing our own patriotic poster. These pieces of propaganda were instrumental in engaging those at home in ways to help with the war effort.
Rise and Fall of an Empire
As we made our way through the museum, we learned the chronological history of what occurred throughout the world during this time period. Displays show the political, social, and economical impacts that rippled through the nations. Information is presented in an easy to understand approach, and plenty of staff members are available to help shed additional light on the exhibits. Tours are available for those interested, and short films highlight key events that led up to, and took place during the war.
Visiting An Original
After completing our tour of main halls, we headed over to the older section of the museum. The twin halls that were the original museum galleries are still used today. These days they mostly hold traveling exhibits, so it pays to check them out each time you visit the World War 1 Museum. During our visit, one held a display of posters. These important propaganda tools helped keep the folks at home connected with the war effort. The other hall held an exhibit that shed light on what was occurring around the war during the First World War. Both exhibits add an extra level of background information, which better explains the tone of the world’s mood during World War 1.
Waging A War On Hunger
As we made our way back from the older section, we came across the Over There Cafe. This in-house eatery offers guests a chance to eat like a soldier. The menu has items like Trench Stew, Army Goulash, and Chipped Beef, as well as a good assortment of handheld dishes. The dining area is adorned with flags of the Allied powers. Stop in for a meal or just some dessert. The monies are used to help fund the museum operations. Before we left, we spent some more time speaking with the volunteer staff members. Everyone we met was so helpful and informative. Be sure to interact with them during your visit. They are a wealth of information.
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