Growing up, I was fortunate to have my grandfathers play a significant role on my life. Both veterans of the Second World War, I listened to their stories of their time in the service… although truthfully, they both suffered for years afterward from the horrors of what they witnessed in the war, and I only learned later of the true sacrifices they made for their country. My maternal grandfather was in the U.S. Army in the European theater, fighting against the evil that was Nazi Germany. My paternal grandfather served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Pacific, supporting US Marine Corps soldiers in their battle across the Pacific against the Japanese Empire. With such a strong influence from them, it should come as no surprise that so many of the destinations of this blog have involved military museums, especially ones involving WWII. This Saturday, I found my way to a new destination, a small museum that was filled with countless artifacts from this conflict.
Located in Natick, Massachusetts, the International Museum of World War II was established in 1999. Originally a private collection owned by a local individual, the museum has since become an invaluable repository of knowledge about this war. A space of only 10,000 square feet houses vehicles, weapons, artifacts, original documents, and displays focusing on the United States of America, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan. Upon arrival, you pass through a metal detector and then the staff ask you to fill out a waiver – unlike most museums, you are able to pick up and handle many of the items on display, although there is a (small) chance of injury from handling such old equipment, so the waiver is required if you wish to enter. From there, you are transported into the 1940s, and the horrors of the war. With Veterans Day falling next week, I thought it would be appropriate to pay this museum a visit.
Photography is permitted, with one major exception. The museum requests that you not take photographs of items bearing Nazi insignias. As one of the docents shared with me, Neo-Nazis had recently come to the museum, taken numerous photographs, and posted the images to social media in order to glorify the Third Reich. Horrified that the collection was being used to honor the evil actions of Hitler’s Germany, the staff requests visitors to avoid sharing images of certain items. Although it is strictly by the honor system, I certainly complied. Among the objects I saw in this section were original Waffen-SS uniforms and flags, personal effects of Adolf Hitler including his tea cups and personal mirror, Eva Braun’s china, personal correspondence between Hitler and his generals, the chair from his cell in Landsberg Prison where Hitler was incarcerated for a year after a failed coup in 1923, and most grim, a strip of fabric from the sofa where Braun and Hitler committed suicide in 1945.
The International Museum of World War II is a fantastic, but little-known, gem in Massachusetts. Entrance is $25 for adults, $20 for senior citizens, $15 for children under 18, and World War II veterans can enter for free. The museum is open for walk-in visits on Friday and Saturday from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. Although open on Wednesday and Thursday, you must call ahead on those days to schedule a visit. If you are in New England and are interested in this fascinating, if horrific, period of world history, this museum is a must-see location. Thank you for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!