I have long been fascinated by our nation’s military history, and one might say I’m a World War II buff based on the number of novels, biographies, and other media I’ve consumed on the subject. While I’ve made it to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and the U.S. Navy Museum in D.C., there are still plenty of other military museums on my travel bucket list. Here are the places I plan to visit in Texas over the coming year:
Having lived in Houston for years, I can’t believe I’ve never made the trip to see the USS Lexington, which is permanently docked just a few hours away in Corpus Christi. Nicknamed the Blue Ghost, this massive warship was commissioned in 1943 to serve during the height of conflict in World War II. Sent to the Pacific Theatre, the Lexington was critical to the Allied victory over the Axis forces as the aircraft carriers planes destroyed hundreds of aircraft and blew up hundreds of thousands of tons of enemy cargo. After the war, the Lexington served for several more decades, until it was finally decommissioned in 1991 and turned into a museum in 1992.
Fort Hood – 1st Calvary Division Museum
Fort Hood sits just outside Killeen, approximately halfway between Austin and Waco. The area commands the attention of Killeen’s best movers, like these, thanks to the thousands of military personnel and their families who get PCS orders to relocate to this city of a base. One of the largest military bases in the U.S., Fort Hood has some 217,000 residents, including nearly 45,000 active duty members and officers. Just about as big as Texas, it’s also the only base in the country that can house two fully armored divisions. Since September 11th, the base has been closed to visitors with the exception of the 1st Calvary Division Museum. This museum pays tribute to the history of the 1st Calvary Division, which has faithfully served its country through several wars since its founding in 1921. Visitors can stroll through and take an up close peek at helicopters, planes, and tanks that were used in combat. Interestingly, Fort Hood was originally constructed in World War II as a base for testing and mobilizing tank destroyers.
National Museum of the Pacific War
Chester W. Nimitz was born in 1885 to a family of German immigrants in Fredericksburg, TX. This boy from humble beginnings would go on to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy and later become the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Forces in World War II. The National Museum of the Pacific War, formerly called the Admiral Nimitz Museum, was built to honor the 8 million Americans who served in the Pacific Theater fighting Japanese forces under Nimitz’s command. Since its inception in 1964, the museum has grown to cover 6 acres with highlights that include the Japanese Garden of Peace, 40 media installations, and 900 artifacts.
Texas Military Forces Museum
The Texas Military Forces Museum sits inside Austin’s Camp Mabry, a 375-acre complex close to the heart of downtown. Originally used as a campsite for the Texas Volunteer Guard, Camp Mabry was later used as a training site in World War I and headquarters for the Texas Defense Guard during World War II. Today, Camp Mabry hosts the U.S. Army Reserve and Us. Marine Corps Reserve and the Texas Military Forces Museum. This 45,000 square foot museum has everything you’d want to know about Texas’ storied military history, from 1823 through the present.