The National World War I Memorial and Museum is a great reason to make Kansas City a destination.
The inscription on the Liberty Memorial Tower sets the tone for your visit, “In honor of those who served in the World War in defense of liberty and our country.”
Maybe there are quicker ways to Pittsburgh after staying in Red Lodge, Montana, but they aren’t through Kansas City, Missouri. When you’re a barbecue man like my husband, you take the detour. Since I’m not a pork fan, I needed another reason to care about going to KC.
We’ve been to the Smithsonian Museums and the Ugar-Hazy Center in Washington, DC. Oahu visits included the Pearl Harbor and Fort DeRussy Museums. The educations leave visitors with respect for the memorials and museums erected in deference to our Veterans. This WWI museum is in the same class and not to be overlooked.
My knowledge of World War I began when Jackie and I were in Wales. In Cardiff, outside the Welsh National Opera stood an evocative visual, In Parenthesis. There were 923 illuminated orbs representing poppies. When darkness descended, the poppies glowed bright red. The tribute to the Royal Welch Fusiliers killed at Mametz Wood in July 1916 during the five-month battle of the Somme was moving. That horrendous segment of the war resulted in over one million soldiers dead on both sides.
I’m currently reading, All Quiet on the Western Front. The book is a completely different and yet unifying viewpoint on the war. It is about soldiers not politics, people not economics.
The is educational and helps tie in things you think you know with what you ought to know.
National World War I Memorial Exhibits include:
Historical Facts and Details
The conflict began in 1914 and did not officially ending until 1918. Thirty-six countries participated, 65 million soldiers fought, and 9 million of them died.
Field of poppies
So what is it about poppies and World War I? This link explain the poem by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae and his description of Flanders Field. The mournfulness stirs your emotions, spurring you to donate when the Veterans of Foreign Wars give away their poppies. Entering the exhibit area, you’ll walk over the Paul Sunderland Glass Bridge. Beneath your feet are 9,000 poppies representing the 9 million lost lives in the war.
The Zimmermann Telegram
Did you know that the impetus to get the US into WWI was, in part, because Germany proposed an alliance with Mexico and even offered certain US territories to Mexico? Intrigued, click here to read about all the circumstances surrounding our joining the fray as well as the intercepted telegram.
Pittsburgh has a Doughboy statue in Lawrenceville, site of the arsenal. The museum cites this origination of the nickname, “Reconciliation with Mexico had just concluded in 1916 when marching foot soldiers in Pershing’s Expeditionary Force traveled south of the border to fight rebel Pancho Villa. Covered in white adobe dust, the foot soldiers were called “adobes” or “dobies” by mounted troops. Within a few months, these dobies, or Doughboys, were redeployed to Europe.
Hard to believe, but the museum has recreated a crater caused by a 17” Howitzer shell that landed on a French farmhouse. It was eerie, as were the full size trenches we could glimpse through slits in the walls.
The Structure of the National World War I Memorial
Memory and Future
These entrancing Assyrian Sphinxes bookend the Liberty Tower. Memory faces east toward France and the battlefields while Future faces west. Each are shielding their eyes from the horrors of war and the unknown of our futures.
Liberty Memorial Tower
The tower is 217 feet tall and has four carvings around the top, each 40 feet tall. These Guardian Spirits are named Courage, Honor, Patriotism, and Sacrifice.
Visiting the National World War I Museum and Memorial was an eye-opening education. The displays are thorough, wide-spaced to allow the visitors to have easy viewing, and highly evocative. You’d be hard pressed to take a tour and exit without having your emotions stirred.
If you don’t find yourself with Kansas City on your travel list, check out their online option. It includes:
“Make way for Democracy!” about the lives of African Americans during the war.
“The Christmas Truce of 1914,” we’ve all heard about this, haven’t we? The spontaneous singing of Christmas carols and the exchange of their meager provisions.
And more about the volunteers, the nurses, and the battle of the Somme, in “They Shall Not Pass.”
When you Visit
- Location: 2 Memorial Drive, Kansas City, Missouri
- Fee: $16/per adult except on Wednesday where all tickets are $8
- Duration: At least two hours
- Tours: There are guided group tours and Acoustiguide Audio tours
I’ve never been to Kansas City. I drove from California to the East Coast, but went through OK, AR, and TN, missing Missouri altogether. It’s amazing that those of us alive now have never been through a world war. My grandmother just passed away and she was born in 1920, so she remembered World War II. But even that generation is mostly gone. Museums like this serve as good reminders. And with all the current political tension, I hope we aren’t in a situation like this any time soon.
I hope you get to do another drive like that, Erica. It’s an amazing way to see our country. I’m glad that you got to have such a long time with your grandmother–that’s a treasure for sure!
Yes, I hope we avoid this, too.
I’ve only seen the outside of the National World War I Memorial and Museum. It was a hot day during my move from Idaho to North Carolina, and the dog was in the car. I wish I could have gone in. My grandpa went on the German Death March in WWII. I have the diary he kept and once transcribed it and did some research on it for a methods class I took in grad school. I need to find a place to get that paper published.
You were very wise to not leave your dog in the car, Jeri. The museum is captivating and you’d have lost track of time! I am sorry to hear that about your grandpa and am intrigued by his story. Yes, publish!
World War 1 was such a huge tragedy, in terms of lives lost, because it consisted of generals who thought of pre-mechanized warfare, and the advancement of technology in battle. There were examples of Calvary charges into machine gun nests. Add the use of chemical warfare, and you can see where a soldier was nothing but a pawn in a horrible war. Unfortunately, it seems we do not learn from our lessons, we just get better at killing.
Yes, William … it seems we can’t learn many lessons, which is so sad. I’ve been trying to watch Ken Burns’ Vietnam series, but gosh it makes me so sad.
What an amazing looking museum. I had never heard of it either, but then I know very little about World War I. In fact, most of what I know about World War II I learned as an adult. My father served under Patton but refused to ever discuss it or even allow us to watch documentaries about it the entire time we were growing up. Not sure when I’ll get out that way again, but I would certainly welcome the opportunity for a visit. Thanks!
Your dad sounds like he handled the war the same way so many veterans have. Jerry Yellin (see book reviews) didn’t talk about the war for decades. Thank goodness for us he turned into a prolific author and speaker on the subject–and why we need to stop getting into them.
Rose Mary — I had never heard of this monument and so thanks for the introduction. I read the story in the link you sent to Catarina. Despite only officially declaring war just the year before the war ended, I was amazed that the U.S. sent 2 million troops to Europe and 50,000 died. Those are astounding numbers.
We may have been “late” to the war, Jeannette, but I agree that 2 million troops is a staggering number to have sent. I hope that you get to visit the museum some day. I would repeat it.
I’ve always wanted to see Kansas City but have never been there. I’d go for both the museum and the barbecue.
You and Alex would travel well together, Ken–history, a cold brew, and great bbq. 🙂
Very glad that your hubby sought this out as a place to stop and visit. I am also very glad that we have these memorials in our country to remind us of how many have lost their lives to secure our freedom.
Me, too, Jackie. It was such a good museum. I’d go back and do a docent tour in order to learn even more. Freedom, on every level, always has a great cost, doesn’t it?
Thank you for giving us some history on the world wars. I have always taken an interest in events of the past; some horrific and some good. 9 million men were killed – it does not bear thinking about. Mothers lost their sons, women lost their husbands, children lost their fathers.
Phoenicia, there is so much to learn. We’re lucky that a couple of local amateur historians are doing a lecture series this winter on WWI. I’m sure to learn much more that I didn’t know. My husband and I have been watching Ken Burns’ new series on Vietnam. I don’t think I can watch it anymore for the very reason that you mentioned–all that loss and for no valid reason.
My husband would certainly enjoy this war museum. I think I’d be off with your husband to the BBQ as my interests are definitely centred on my stomach.
We four could travel well together, Doreen! You and Alex could eat and Reg & I could explore. 🙂
Such wonderful and informative tributes to the soldiers. The soldiers are wiser than the politicians. If only the Christmas truce would have ended the war…..
Wouldn’t that have been amazing, Carol? For the troops to have ended it all. I had a German friend once who told me this story–seems it impacted everyone. Except the politicians.
Have never been to Kansas City and hence not visited the World War I memorial and museum. Interesting that you have such a memorial in the US considering that the American involvement was, unlike in world war II, relatively small .
I’m not sure why you think our involvement was small, Catarina. Perhaps this link will help explain: http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/u-s-entry-into-world-war-i