The Minnesota Military Museum is located less than an hour north of St. Cloud in Camp Ripley, an Army National Guard Training facility. Drive through the main gate of this sprawling military post and you will soon find the museum, a smallish building with a yard full of items that don't fit in the building. Think helicopters, planes, tanks, and artillery pieces. It looks like Patton's yard sale!
Once inside we met Bea, who gave us friendly guidance, and later filled us in on all things military. The displays take you on a chronological tour of Minnesotan military history, beginning with the early forts, (one of which was Fort Ripley on the Mississippi River) the Civil War and the Indian Wars, and taking you through the modern day. During the 1860s the Minnesota soldier fought 2 wars at the same time, the Civil War and the Indian War with the Dakota. During the Civil War the 1st Minnesota fought bravely at Gettysburg.
The Museum has cannons and uniforms, and memorabilia of all shapes and sizes, much of which was donated by the men and women who were there, and came home to tell their stories. Camp Ripley itself has been a training and testing area for the U.S. Army, and has been host to some historic events, including the naming of the "Jeep".
One of the more moving displays is that of the 34th Tank Company from Brainerd. Attached to the 194th Tank Battalian and deployed to the Phillipines in July 1941, they were involved in World War II at the outset, and were captured by the Japanese. They became part of what is known as the Baatan Death March. Of 61 men only 29 returned home. Another stirring display involves the Congressional Medal of Honor displays and Citations near the entry and gift shop.
Every conflict and action is accounted for here, with authentic firearms, bayonets, helmets and documents. There is a convincing re-creation of a paratrooper in the door of a C-47 (circa D-Day) and soldiers in full dress for every other era where Minnesota has played a part. Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm.
Then there is the Weapons Rooms! German, Japanese, Russian, Vietnam, Iraq. 1800s, WWI & II. The Luger collection alone is impressive, and all museum quality. Well, it is a museum after all. Some obscure items I had never seen displayed before, and I've been to the Smithsonian, and Gettysburg.
This is a great place for a few hours or a day, with or without the kids, but if you want your kids to see some history and get an idea of what it is to be an American soldier, anytime betwenn 1842 and 2010, this is the place. If you like gadgets and gizmos, they have some here! I can't wait to get back and see all the stuff I missed while looking at the other stuff!