Located in Columbus GA, GA, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center displays exhibits and artifacts related to the history of the United States Army’s infantrymen, spanning conflicts from the American Revolution through the Global War on Terrorism. The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center was originally housed inside Fort Benning in a former Army hospital facility. By 2008, the museum’s collections had grown significantly, prompting the search for a larger permanent museum facility.
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A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the National Infantry Foundation, was formed in order to raise funds for the new museum, located near Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence. In June 2009, the new 190,000-square-foot facility opened, managed as a partnership between the Army and the National Infantry Foundation. In 2011, the museum was the recipient of a THEA Award for Excellence by the Themed Entertainment Association, and was selected by USA Today readers in 2016 as the nation’s best free museum.
Today, the museum celebrates the history of United States Army infantrymen throughout the country’s history, from the American Revolution through the present day. Six indoor exhibit areas chronicle the major eras of American conflict and service, beginning with the Last 100 Yards exhibit, which contains full-scale dioramas of major battles in the Infantry’s history, from the American Revolution’s Battle of Yorktown through the Normandy landing on World War II’s D-Day and the combat arena in the middle east during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. All mannequins in the exhibit’s diorama feature cast sculptures of active duty soldiers.
Inside the Fort Benning and Columbus Connections Gallery, the training environment of Inouye Field is brought to life. Four chronological exhibits detail the history of Infantrymen’s involvement in 20th century American conflicts, including The International Stage, which documents the World War I era, World at War, detailing American involvement in World War II, The Cold War, and The Sole Superpower, examining America’s role in global conflicts as the world’s leading military power since the fall of the Soviet Union.
A number of special collections galleries are also offered, including the Hall of Valor, which commemorates more than 1,500 recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest award presented to American soldiers. A Family Gallery honors the families and loved ones of service members, the sacrifices they endure, and the support they provide for troops. An Armor and Cavalry Gallery is a 3,500-square-foot exhibit space honoring the Infantrymen’s compatriots in the Armored and Cavalry regiments, and a Ranger Hall of Honor and Officer Candidate School of Honor recognize extraordinary servicemen inducted into their respective Halls of Fame.
Outside the museum, the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall remains on display through 2019, presenting a ¾-scale replica of Washington, D.C.’s Vietnam Wall on the Mall. The names of more than 58,000 soldiers killed during the Vietnam War are displayed at the moment, located next to the museum’s permanent Vietnam Memorial Plaza. On the Patriot Park campus, the World War II Company Street recreation displays seven historic Fort Benning building replicas from the World War II era, including a barracks, mess hall, supply room, chapel, and sleeping quarters for soldiers, all designed and furnished in their original 1940 style.
In addition to the museum’s exhibits, a Giant Screen Theater presents films pertaining to military and natural history topics for an additional fee. Three DownRange Combat Simulators, including a Black Hawk helicopter, a Humvee, and a non-combative evacuative mission simulator, offer a chance for visitors to reenact the daily missions of service members. The Soldier Store, operated by military supplier Ranger Joe’s, sells a variety of military-themed merchandise, and the Fife and Drum Restaurant and Bar offers classic American bar fare in a full-service atmosphere.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Guided tours are offered for school and scout groups, requiring a ratio of at least one educator for every 10 students present. Tours may be tailored to curriculum standards or other group needs, such as merit badge completion requirements.
A new memorial project for 2017 will honor the 7,000 service members who have died in combat as part of the Global War on Terrorism since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. When completed, the memorial will feature eight granite panels engraved with service member names, along with nine bronze figures depicting an Infantry squadron and panels chronicling the history of the conflict. A dedication ceremony in October 2017 will highlight guest speaker General John Abizaid, the longest-serving commander with the United States Central Command and an influential advisor for recent conflicts in the Middle East.
1775 Legacy Way, Columbus, GA 31903, Phone: 706-685-5800