By Josh Weiner
After three months of closure, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle is set to reopen its doors to the general public on April 1.
According to museum director Lin Ezell, it was a very difficult decision to close the museum for so long, but it was necessary to do so in order for such substantial infrastructure updates. This period has resulted in the addition of two significant aircraft to the museum: a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber plane from the World War II era and a UH-34D model helicopter used during the Vietnam War.
“It’s not very often that we are able to add an aircraft in this manner,” Ezell says. “We had to take the front of the building off, move the aircraft in and replace the front entrance.”
One of the primary objectives was to more thoroughly document the Marine Corps’ military past, especially during the Vietnam War, a period Ezell says had previously been underrepresented in the museum’s Leatherneck Gallery.
“There wasn’t anything in the central gallery that represented Vietnam warfare,” she says. “To honor the Vietnam veterans, we swapped out a Korean War airplane with this new helicopter.” Two Korean War-era aircraft remain installed in the Leatherneck gallery.
Scott Yost, a retired Marine who now serves as campus facilities manager at the museum, agrees that doing this was worthwhile.
“A large contingent of Vietnam veterans comes through here, and we wanted to honor them and to get their contributions recognized as soon as they walk through the door,” Yost says.
Ezell says that the Museum wanted to make this Vietnam-era helicopter especially impressive by presenting it in a dynamic, lifelike fashion. The new tableau represents a scene from Operation Starlite in 1965, with the helicopter hovering just above a rice paddy as mannequin recreations of Marines and a Corpsman jump out.
The other major new aircraft in the central gallery is the World War II dive bomber, which crashed into a lake in 1944 and took many years to properly refurbish. It was a very important model for both the Navy and the Marine Corps during the 1940’s, and played an especially critical role in the destruction of Japanese carriers during the Battle of Midway in 1942, one of the most significant turning points of the entire conflict.
“If you’re an aircraft or World War II enthusiast, you will know about this aircraft and absolutely want to come see it,” says Ezell.
As much of a breakthrough as these new additions were, they are actually “one small piece of a very large project,” according to Ezell. She says that the museum aims to double in size over the coming years, with new galleries that will document the Marine Corps’ history in the post-Vietnam war era.
Yost served with the Marines at several points during this period, including Operation Desert Storm in the Middle East and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. He says he is excited for the museum to exhibit the Marines’ role in these conflicts in great depth, and looks forward to the upcoming phase of renovation and construction. “You never see the same thing on two different days,” he says.