(This article by Teresa Otto originally appeared in Military Officer, a magazine available to all MOAA Premium and Life members. Learn more about the magazine here; learn more about joining MOAA here.)
COVID-19 packed a powerful punch affecting all aspects of life, including travel. But you don’t need to leave the comfort and safety of your home to learn about our nation’s military monuments and museums. Virtual access to America’s finest military museums is at your fingertips. Rich online resources provide a balm for both lifelong learners and those aching from pent-up wanderlust.
Tune into one of “Pershing’s Own” U.S. Army Band’s concerts on Facebook as you browse these websites and enjoy the virtual tours and exhibits they offer.
Tom Hanks narrates a video tour of Washington, D.C.’s World War II Memorial, closely inspecting the monument’s features and describing the meaning of the bronze wreaths, ropes, bas reliefs, and Freedom Wall stars.
In Bedford, Va., the National D-Day Memorial is equally rich in symbolism. Statues of soldiers struggle through the reflecting pool with their weapons held high, just as they did when they landed at Normandy’s beaches. The memorial’s video and virtual education programs are shown here.
The Korean War Memorial is on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The website covers components including the mural wall, which has 2,400 portraits etched into black granite, and 19 steel soldiers of all ethnicities that served in this war.
A narrated tour of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial explains the monument’s construction, how servicemembers’ names are organized, and what happens to mementos left at the wall — some 400,000 in all since the black granite wall’s 1982 dedication.
The Navy, Naval Aviation, Marine Corps, and Air Force museums are also virtually open.
The National Museum of the U.S. Navy’s website shows visitors collections beginning with the American Revolution and continuing to an exhibition on the 60th anniversary of undersea exploration to the Mariana Trench.
The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., spotlights over 100 displays, ranging from the PB2Y Coronado’s cockpit to lunar landings. Experts post History Up Close aircraft lectures on Facebook.
Narrated virtual tours of the National Museum of the Marine Corps cover all permanent exhibits. Displays span the Corps’ 200 years of service. The museum’s website has an educational video library for lifelong learners.
Virtual visitors to the U.S. Air Force National Museum explore the early days of flight, through World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War. The tour continues with space and presidential fleet exhibits.
While not a brick and mortar museum, the American Battlefield Trust’s website provides 360-degree virtual tours of historic battlefields from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War.
The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa., contains a wealth of educational resources under its Learn and Explore tab. You’ll find show-and-tell videos about museum artifacts and lectures by historians.
Philadelphia’s American Revolution Museum offers a comprehensive virtual tour with narration and impressive zoom capabilities to zero in on individual displays.
The National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, shares online exhibits. These multimedia displays touch on a wide variety of World War I topics from rations in “War Fare” to life in the trenches to the “Christmas Truce.”
New Orleans’ National World War II Museum highlights both temporary and permanent collections of the Pacific and European theaters, D-Day, Merchant Marines, and the homefront.
Teresa Otto is a writer who lives in The Woodlands, Texas.