The Top 23 Military Museums in the World

In today’s post, I’d like to share what I believe are the top 23 military museums in the world.

Personally, I love visiting museums. And military museums are my favorite. I suggest that if you get the opportunity, you make time to visit these museums and see what they have to offer.

I will tell you the museum, where it is located, and some tidbits of what you will see when you visit it. If you know of a museum not listed here that you believe should be, feel free to share it with our readers in the comment section at the end of this post.

Top 23 Military Museums

#23: The First Division Museum At Catigny

The First Division Museum is currently being redesigned and will reopen around late August of 2017. Located in Wheaton, Illinois, this museum takes us through the history of the 1st Division of the United States Army since its start in World War I.

Often the first unit of the U.S. Army to deploy and engage the enemy, the division has been characterized by an ability to learn systematically from experience and to distill this learning into techniques and methods to improve battlefield performance. Central to this learning has been the training of soldiers and the development of competent leaders at all levels. In the process the “Big Red One” (so called for the red numeral that has adorned its shoulder patch since 1918) has also been characterized by a remarkable esprit that has remained with the veterans long after their active service has ended. That human experience is an important part of the American national experience. The 1st Infantry Division’s contributions to this nation’s defense offer insights into the history of the Army and the United States. ~ First Division Museum

#22: Battleship Cove

This huge collection of Naval ships at the Battleship Cove Museum is located in Fall River, Massachusetts. The USS Massachusetts is docked here along with many other World War II ships that you can walk through and learn about.

The home to five National Historic Landmarks and Official Veteran Memorials on both state and national levels, Battleship Cove has been providing the preservation of both the military heritage of the New England region and that of the United States since 1965. A non-profit memorial and museum located in Fall River, Massachusetts, veterans, families, schools, Scouts, and interested visitors from around the world have walked the decks of these historic vessels and viewed the legendary aircraft on display.

Day visits, overnight camping experiences, and special events allow the public to immerse themselves in the exploration of the historic entities on exhibit and see for themselves the sacrifices made by both the military personnel who served on these amazing ships and aircraft and those who supported their construction and operation on the home front. ~ Battleship Cove Museum

Top Military Museums to Visit

#21: USS Lexington

This World War II aircraft carrier is docked near Corpus Christi, Texas. The ship has been turned into a complete museum and is open 7 days a week. If your in Texas, you should take a trip through this museum.

The USS Lexington arrived at Corpus Christi beach in 1992 as a result of active fundraising, strong community support, and the world’s oldest aircraft carrier has since served as a naval aviation museum, educational facility, and popular area tourist attraction. “The Blue Ghost” has remained self-sufficient, never receiving funds from government agencies. The revenue that keeps this national treasure open has come solely from grants, donations, admissions, Ships Store sales, special events, and the youth overnight program. ~ USS Lexington

#20: Bundeswehr Military History Museum

Located in Dresden, Germany, the Bundeswehr Military History Museum of the German armed forces. What is unique about this museum is that it does not glorify war but shows the upheaval war causes. This is a museum you should try to visit.

The Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr in Dresden is one of the most important history museums in Europe. The exhibitions focus on people and the question of the causes and consequences of war and violence. It sees itself as a forum for discourse on the role of war and the military in the past, present and future. The core tasks of the museum include collecting, preserving, researching and exhibiting historical objects relating to German and international military history. The MHM in Dresden presents an extensive permanent exhibition as well as various special exhibitions, which are accompanied by in-depth publications. In addition, the MHM offers a varied public cultural program as well as extensive educational offers for civilian and military visitors. ~ Bundeswehr Military History Museum

#19: Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

This museum is in Denver, Colorado on what was at one time, Lowry Air Force Base. It depicts all the years of Lowry and displays many of the fighter planes and bombers. Yearly, this museum has several special events, so you should check their website for details.

Wings Over the Rockies is a diverse community organization dedicated to unlocking our visitors’ dreams of flight through exhibitions, events and educational programming at two locations: Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum and Exploration of Flight. Each year these two locations welcome approximately 160,000 visitors representing all 50 U.S. states and 34 countries.

Transferred from the United States Air Force to a group of volunteers in 1994, Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is located in Hangar 1 of the former Lowry Air Force Base in eastern Denver, Colorado. Today, the museum boasts more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space dedicated to displaying iconic aircraft, space vehicles, artifacts, military uniforms and much more.

Located roughly 19 miles south of Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, Exploration of Flight is a 15-acre campus set on one of the busiest general aviation airports in the nation. Through aviation-focused events, programming and exhibits, Exploration of Flight offers an immersive, educational experience for those fascinated by flight, and a unique perspective for those already in the industry. ~ Wings Over the Rockies

#18: French Foreign Legion Museum

This museum is at the French Foreign Legion headquarters in Aubagne, France. It takes visitors through the complete history of the Legion. You will see the many uniforms, weapons and other French Foreign Legion materials. So take a trip to France and see this museum.

It is located in a 1,200 m² building and tells the story of a military corps unique in the world and envied by many countries. The collection consists of memorabilia from the Legion’s founders, paintings, weapons, photographs, everyday objects and portraits. This sanctuary came out of the ground more than 40 years ago, in April 1966. It will be restructured in 2003 before being expanded in 2013 to become what it is today. It is the only State military history museum in the Bouches-du-Rhône department. Through the various collections and exhibitions, you are invited to relive the daily life of the men who left everything behind to serve and defend the French territory. You will be able to discover the memories of the Legion’s founders, paintings, photos, medals. ~ MarseilleTourisme

The USS Midway Museum

#17: USS Midway

This monstrous aircraft carrier was decommissioned in 1992. Docked in San Diego, California, you can tour this carrier and see how the sailors lived while protecting us from attacks from the ocean. I suggest you take time to go tour the USS Midway in Southern California.

The USS Midway was the longest-serving aircraft carrier in the 20th century. Named after the climactic Battle of Midway of June 1942, Midway was built in only 17 months, but missed World War II by one week when commissioned on September 10, 1945. Midway was the first in a three-ship class of large carriers that featured an armored flight deck and a powerful air group of 120 planes.

From the beginning of its service, the Midway played key roles in the Cold War. In 1946 it became the first American carrier to operate in the midwinter sub-Arctic, developing new flight deck procedures. The following year Midway became the only ship to launch a captured German V-2 rocket. The trial’s success became the dawn of naval missile warfare. Just two years after that, Midway sent a large patrol plane aloft to demonstrate that atomic bombs could be delivered by a carrier. ~ USS Midway

#16: U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum

If artillery is interesting to you, you have to make a trip to Fort Sill, Oklahoma near Lawton and visit this museum. Go through the history of Army artillery all the way back to the Revolution to now.

Opened June 2, 2009, the U.S. Army Artillery Museum tells the story of Artillery from 1775 to the present with over 70 guns and artillery pieces and numerous other artifacts from head gear and ammo to small arms and uniforms.

The Central Gallery features the four principle components of Artillery: Guns, Rockets, Forward Observation, and Fire Direction Control. The South Gallery history is from the 1700s to the 1900s. The North Gallery starts with World War I and continues to the present day Artillery, which includes a prototype of the M777 Howitzer. ~ U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum

#15: Istanbul Military Museum

I have not yet been there, but many people have told me that this is a military museum that is well worth visiting. You will see years upon years of the Turkish and Ottoman Empire military.

The museum is spread over several floors and is divided into various categories, such as war weapons, conquests and the Turkish War of Independence, each associated with a hall. In total, more than 5000 objects are exhibited here, which take you back to those days and illustrate the development of the military. Among other things, there are lances, daggers, pistols, tents, medals, shields, flags and paintings on display.

Another highlight is the Atatürk Hall, where the remarkable collection of the Ottoman general and state founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is exhibited. In addition, the fourteen swords of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and the equipment of his horse are particularly noteworthy. Furthermore, the collection also shows the famous chain, which was stretched across the Golden Horn by the Byzantines before the conquest of Constantinople, to prevent the invasion of the Ottoman army. ~ Istanbul Tourist Information

#14: CAF Airpower Museum

This museum displays numerous military aviation artifacts. Located in Midland, Texas, the CAF Airpower Museum is linked with the Commemorative Air Force and has the largest collection of World War II artistic nose panels in the world.

The CAF was founded to acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft which were flown by all military services of the United States, and selected aircraft of other nations, for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans.

More than just a collection of airworthy warplanes from the past, the CAF’s fleet of historic aircraft, known as the CAF Ghost Squadron, recreate, remind and reinforce the lessons learned from the defining moments in American military aviation history. ~ Commemorative Air Force

#13: National Museum of the United States Air Force

This is one of the most visited museums in the State of Ohio. It is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The museum displays years of U.S. Air Force planes, missiles, and other items.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the service’s national institution for preserving and presenting the Air Force story. Each year about one million visitors come to the museum to learn about the mission, history and evolving capabilities of America’s Air Force.

The museum is the world’s largest and oldest military aviation museum featuring more than 350 aerospace vehicles and missiles on display amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. Thousands of personal artifacts, photographs and documents further highlight the people and events that comprise the Air Force storyline, from the beginnings of military flight to today’s war on terrorism. ~ National Museum of the US Air Force

The United States Army Aviation Museum

#12: United States Army Aviation Museum

This museum is located at Fort Rucker, Alabama. You can see the largest collection of historic Army helicopters in the world. I really recommend a visit to Alabama and this great museum.

Army Aviation’s role of providing the indispensable vertical dimension to the modern battlefield has come to be universally recognized. For example, during operations in Grenada, Panama and the Persian Gulf region, Army Aviation played major and decisive roles.

One of the very first blows of Operation Desert Storm was struck by Army Aviation. Apache helicopters destroyed Iraqi early warning sites shortly before allied bombs began exploding over Baghdad. Then, during the 100 hours of ground combat, Army helicopters dominated night-time operations. ~ United States Army Aviation Museum

#11: Les Invalides

This series of museums are located in Paris, France and covers the complete history of French military. It also has a hospital and retirement home for war veterans. It is the burial place of Napoleon Bonaparte. I would say this is a must visit when in France.

The Hôtel des Invalides was commissioned in 1670 by Louis XIV in order to provide accommodation and hospital care for wounded soldiers. In 1815, after Napoleon’s abdication, over 5,000 survivors of the Great Army were listed there. Napoleon inspected the place and visited his men in 1808, 1813 and 1815.

The chapel of the Invalides was built at the end of the 17th century by Jules-Hardouin Mansart and contains Napoleon’s tomb. In 1840, during the ‘Return of the Ashes’, a law passed on 10th June ordered the construction of the Emperor’s tomb below the dome of the Invalides. ~

#10: USS Arizona Memorial

This memorial and museum is located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It is dedicated to the many service people who lost their lives in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It is a prime attraction for people visiting Hawaii.

The USS Arizona Memorial is built over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941, when their ship was bombed by Japanese Naval Forces. This loss of life represents over half of the Americans killed during the worst naval disaster in American history. ~ Pearl Harbor Historic Sites

#9: National Naval Aviation Museum

This museum recognizes all forms of Naval aviation over many years. It is located in Pensacola, Florida. The Blue Angels often fly demonstration performances there.

The National Naval Aviation Museum is the world’s largest Naval Aviation museum and one of the most-visited museums in the state of Florida. Share the excitement of Naval Aviation’s rich history and see more than 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Aviation. These historic and one-of-a-kind aircraft are displayed both inside the Museum’s over 350,000 square feet of exhibit space and outside on its 37-acre grounds. ~ National Naval Aviation Museum

#8: Imperial War Museum

This entrance is a series of 5 museums showing artifacts of years of war and conflict in England and all of Europe. They have 5 separate museums throughout England. 3 of them are in London. You should see these when you visit England.

IWM was founded on 5 March 1917 when the War Cabinet approved a proposal by Sir Alfred Mond MP for the creation of a national war museum to record the events still taking place during the Great War. The intention was to collect and display material as a record of everyone’s experiences during that war – civilian and military – and to commemorate the sacrifices of all sections of society. ~ Imperial War Museum

#7: Blue and Gray Museum

This museum is in an old railroad depot in Fitzgerald, Georgia. It shows the history of the town through the Civil War. While some people want all depictions of the Civil War erased, you cannot erase history.

Located in a historical railroad depot, the entire space of the Blue & Gray Museum has been renovated and redesigned to reveal the remarkable founding story of Fitzgerald and its roots in the Civil War. More than 1,200 objects, photographs, household items, memorabilia and rare artifacts are now displayed in new and refinished cases and in specially fabricated sections. Each item has been carefully coded to help the visitor understand its historical significance. Many important artifacts are on display for the first time. ~ American Battlefield Trust

#6: General George Patton Museum of Leadership

This museum that is located at Fort Knox, Kentucky houses many artifacts from General Patton. You can get to know the leader, the man… The military hero. I highly recommend a trip to Kentucky just for the honor of visiting this museum.

General Patton exemplified the uncompromising determination of a born leader. He was relentless in the pursuit of victory from his command of the 1st Provisional Tank Brigade in World War I to his legendary career in the Mediterranean and European Theaters of World War II. Patton’s name was revered by his comrades and struck terror at the hearts of his enemies.

In our exhibit halls, not only will you discover stories from Patton’s prolific military career, but you’ll also find an exclusive collection of artifacts spanning all the way back to his childhood in California and his participation in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden.   ~ The General George Patton Museum

#5: U.S. Naval Academy Museum

This wonderful museum is located at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. You can view relics and learn about the complete history of the U.S. Navy.

The U.S. Naval Academy Museum welcomes more than 100,000 visitors annually from all over the world. Located in Preble Hall on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy, the Museum offers two floors of exhibits about the history of seapower, the development of the U.S. Navy, and the role of the U.S. Naval Academy in producing officers capable of leading America’s sailors and marines. ~ United States Naval Academy

#4: National World War I Museum

I guarantee that you will be in awe as you walk across the glass bridge over 9,000 red poppies representing the soldiers who gave their lives. Located in Kansas City, Missouri, I highly recommend you visit.

Soon after World War I ended, Kansas City leaders formed the Liberty Memorial Association (LMA) to create a lasting monument to the men and women who had served in the war. In 1919, the LMA and citizens of Kansas City raised more than $2.5 million in just 10 days. The equivalent of more than $35 million today, this staggering accomplishment reflected the passion of public sentiment for the Great War that had dramatically changed the world. ~ The National WWI Museum and Memorial

#3: National World War II Museum

Located in the center of New Orleans, Louisiana, this museum takes us through the War that changed the world. Just like the World War I museum, this is a must see. So just travel South after seeing the World War I museum and see this museum too.

Offering a compelling blend of sweeping narrative and poignant personal detail, The National WWII Museum features immersive exhibits, multimedia experiences, and an expansive collection of artifacts and first-person oral histories, taking visitors inside the story of the war that changed the world. Beyond the galleries, the Museum’s online collections, virtual field trips, webinars, educational travel programs, and renowned International Conference on World War II offer patrons new ways to connect to history and honor the generation that sacrificed so much to secure our freedom. ~ The National WWII Museum

#2: National Museum of the Marine Corps

This museum is only about 10-years old and shows the history of the U.S. Marine Corps. It is located in Triangle, Virginia and gets around 500,000 visitors yearly. I suggest you check it out.

The Marine Corps has stood in readiness for America since the Continental Congress authorized its creation during the early days of the American Revolution. Always at the ready when the order has come to “send in the Marines,” the historic accomplishments and contributions of the Marine Corps are numerous and legendary. However, the story of these valiant actions and loyal service is largely untold. The United States Marine Corps is the only branch of the military services that has yet to build a significant museum to share its story with the world. ~ National Museum of the Marine Corps

#1: National Infantry Museum

Okay, maybe I am slightly biased since I was an 11 Bravo, but you absolutely need to travel to where I completed basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia and see this museum that shows the history of Army infantry.

The National Infantry Museum is in Columbus, Georgia and not on base, so travel there and tell them I sent you. (like that will help… LOL)

The National Infantry Museum emphasizes the values that define the Infantryman, as well as the nation he protects: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. It preserves and displays one of the greatest collections of military artifacts in the world, with 190,000 square feet of galleries standing on a 200-acre tract just outside the United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) at Fort Benning, Georgia. The MCoE is one of the Army’s largest installations, the home of the Infantry and Armor schools, as well as Ranger School, Officer Candidate School, and Airborne School. ~ The National Infantry Museum

Final Thoughts

Museums are a great way to learn about history. Make a plan of visit these museums… I know you will be glad you did.

If you didn’t see a military museum listed here you think should be, feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you for visiting and will you please share this post with your social media friends and family? Thanks.

Suggested Reading:

  1. Top 20 Military Friendly Cities
  2. 31 Places To Visit In Europe On Military Leave
  3. The Military District of Washington: 13 Cool Facts
  4. Good Goals for Army Officers: 12 Things to Strive For
  5. Military Friendly Places to Retire

If you enjoy museums as much as I do, you should check out the book you see below. You can order it on Amazon.

the museum book

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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