There may be quicker ways to get back to Pittsburgh from a long stay in Red Lodge, Montana, but they don’t take you through Kansas City, Missouri and when you’re a barbecue man like my husband, you take the detour.

Since I ate a salad at Q39, not being a fan of pork, I needed another reason to care about going to KC.

The National World War I Memorial and Museum is a great reason to make Kansas City a destination.

The inscription on the Liberty Memorial Tower sets the tone for your visit, “In honor of those who served in the World War in defense of liberty and our country.”

Liberty Tower

We’ve been to the Smithsonian Museums and the Ugar-Hazy Center in Washington, DC, the Pearl Harbor and Fort DeRussy Museums on Oahu, and have a great deal of respect for the memorials and museums erected in deference to our Veterans. This WWI museum is in the same class and not to be overlooked.

The beginning of my knowledge of World War I began when Jackie and I were in Wales last year. In Cardiff, outside the Welsh National Opera stood an evocative visual, In Parenthesis. There were 923 illuminated orbs representing poppies. When darkness descended, the poppies glowed bright red in tribute to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers killed at Mametz Wood in July 1916 during the five-month battle of the Somme. That horrendous segment of the war resulted in over one million soldiers dead on both sides.

I’m currently reading, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which is a completely different and yet unifying viewpoint on the war. It is about soldiers not politics, people not economics.

The National World War I Memorial is educational and helps tie in things you think you know with what you ought to know.

Exhibits include:

Timeline

With historical facts and details to educate, such as the conflict beginning in 1914 and not officially ending until 1918, thirty-six countries participated, 65 million soldiers fought, and 9 million of them died.

Field of poppies

So what is it about poppies and World War I? This link helps explain the poem by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae and his description of Flanders Field. The mournfulness will stir your emotions and spur you to donate the next time you see the Veterans of Foreign Wars giving away their poppies.

Entering the exhibit area, you’ll walk over the Paul Sunderland Glass Bridge. Beneath your feet are 9,000 poppies representing the 9 million lost lives in the war.

The Crater

Hard to believe, but the museum has recreated a crater caused by a 17” Howitzer shell that landed on a French farmhouse. It was eerie, as were the full size trenches we could glimpse through slits in the walls.

The Zimmermann Telegram

Did you know that the impetus to get the United States into World War I was, in part, because Germany proposed an alliance with Mexico and even offered certain US territories to Mexico? If you’re as intrigued as I was, click here to read about the circumstances surrounding our joining the fray as well as the intercepted telegram.

Why Doughboys?

Pittsburgh’s Doughboy statue is in Lawrenceville, site of an arsenal. The museum cites as origination of the nickname, “Reconciliation with Mexico concluded in 1916 when marching soldiers in Pershing’s Expeditionary Force traveled south of the border to fight rebel Pancho Villa. Covered in white adobe dust, the soldiers were called “adobes” or “dobies” by mounted troops. Soon, these dobies, or Doughboys, were deployed to Europe.”

The Structure

Liberty Memorial Tower

The tower is 217 feet tall and has four carvings around the top, each 40 feet tall. These Guardian Spirits are named Courage, Honor, Patriotism, and Sacrifice.

Memory and Future

These entrancing Assyrian Sphinxes bookend the Liberty Tower. Memory faces east toward France and the battlefields while Future faces west. Each are shielding their eyes from the horrors of war and the unknown of our futures.

Visiting the National World War I Museum and Memorial was an eye-opening education. The displays are thorough, wide-spaced to allow the visitors to have easy viewing, and highly evocative. You’d be hard pressed to take a tour and exit without having your emotions stirred.

 

Online Exhibitions

If you don’t find yourself with Kansas City on your travel list, check out their online option. It includes:

“Make way for Democracy!” about the lives of African Americans during the war.

“The Christmas Truce of 1914,” we’ve all heard about this, haven’t we? The spontaneous singing of Christmas carols and the exchange of their meager provisions.

And more about the volunteers, the nurses, and the battle of the Somme, in “They Shall Not Pass.”

Check it out.

Location: 2 Memorial Drive, Kansas City, Missouri

Fee: $16/per adult except on Wednesday where all tickets are $8

Duration: At least two hours

Tours: There are guided group tours and Acoustiguide Audio tours

Ambulance

Life in a trench

Trench