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thedrifter
12-04-06, 08:53 PM
Missouri: New World War I museum

Mon Dec 4, 1:03 PM ET

World War I ended almost nine decades ago, only a handful of its U.S. veterans are still alive, and its towering monument here was closed for years because of neglect and deterioration.

But on Saturday, the "war to end all wars" takes center stage when the National World War I Museum opens, giving the public a chance to learn about — and from — the conflict that launched the United States toward superpower status.

"Unfulfilled needs, national ambitions, national culture clashes, all of the things that were in play in World War I are still with us today," said retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Stephen Berkheiser, executive director of the new museum.

"And that's one of the main points of having the museum, not to take events of 90 years ago and just put a spotlight on them. But basically to answer the question `Why should I know? Why should I care?'"

The wars that followed World War I had better visual records, making them more accessible to Americans. But the Great War was no less significant and also set the stage for current conflicts around the globe, Berkheiser said.

"It's a classic learning laboratory of the modern-nation state," said Berkheiser, who retired from the Marines after a 30-year career. "You get to the end and you ask yourself, `Is peace possible? Are we learning? Is the veneer of civilization getting any thicker?'"

In 1919, Kansas Citians raised $2.5 million in less than two weeks to build the Liberty Memorial in honor of those who served in World War I. The memorial opened in 1926 with a dedication by President Calvin Coolidge.

The new $26 million museum includes a glass floor raised several feet above a field of 9,000 red poppies, representing the 9 million combat deaths of the war.

Designed by Ralph Appelbaum, who also designed exhibitions for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Arkansas, exhibits at the National World War I Museum include battlefield equipment, from artillery guns to biplanes, as well as replicas of the trenches where doughboys fought and often died.

But in a bid to draw people into understanding more about the war than names and dates, the 30,000-square-foot museum built beneath the refurbished Liberty Memorial also features interactive study stations where visitors role play by waging war and peace, and the Horizon Theater, with its 100-foot screen playing World War I film footage above a full-scale tableau of no man's land.

"We need museums like this to help balance out people's discretionary time to give them other reality-based experiences to go along with the entertaining fictions that surround us," Appelbaum said.

The museum, funded by $20 million in city bonds with the remainder coming from federal and private sources, also reflects the sentiment of the era by displaying personal effects such as letters from home, a copy of a child's book, "Mother Goose War Rhymes" and the contents of one soldier's pocket: cigarettes, playing cards and a rosary.

There is little in the museum about generals, said curator Doran Cart, "because they have had their voice heard." The exhibits focus more on the soldiers, people at home, "real people who were affected by the war."

About 2 million Americans served in Europe after the U.S. entered the war in 1917. Relatively few veterans are still alive, and none are likely to attend Saturday's opening.

One who would like to be there is Albert F. Wagner, 107, of Smith Center, Kan.

"He would be there if he could," said Wagner's son, J.S. Wagner. The elder Wagner, a Marine in World War I, no longer travels. But at his birthday celebration last September, members of the local Marine Corps detachment serenaded him with the Marine Corps Hymn.

"He really perked up when he heard that," said his son. "He knows that."

On the net:

www.libertymemorialmuseum.org/

Ellie

greensideout
12-04-06, 10:10 PM
It's a first class memorial and a must see! An elavator will take you to the top of the ever burning tower with a view of Kansas City. The memorial has always had a museum on each side of the tower but now the museum has been expanded.

A few years ago there was a fly over of WW-I bi-planes to the SR-71 Blackbird and many of the war birds in between.

I grew up in the shadow of the memorial. I have taken my wife and children there several times through the years. I led three Veterans Day parades to the memorial and I spent many years of my life working next to it. Yes, I guess you could say that I am fond of those memories.

It's worth a trip to Kansas City to see the tribuite to our WW-I veterans that gave so much or gave it all. It's loaded with history to view. You won't be disapointed.

Semper Fi