A Very Special Military Museum

We visited one last place in Nebraska before we left, and it was very special.  Lee loves military museums, so I call them out to him as we travel.  We don’t always have the time to see them as we travel, but the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles looked like a quick stop off off of I-80 and was completely free.  I will say the parking lot was a bit of a challenge, so proceed with caution, but if you can get in the museum was a hidden gem.  First of all, the museum was started by Vietnam vets and the gentlemen working there were all veterans.  Personally I love that, and whenever we run across museums that are manned by people with experience the place gets extra bonus points from me.  It also had an outstanding gift shop (another huge point in it’s favor), with lots of unique items.  This one had tons of models of military vehicles which are not something you see very often nowadays.  Sure you can buy them online, but it was nice to see them in person.

Finally, the place was massive.  It didn’t look so big when we entered, but it is a huge warehouse full of vehicles and the yard out front is covered with them as well.  It’s impossible to really convey the size and diversity with this post, but I will give it a try.  I am sure Lee will jump in and add to this which will help. I honestly didn’t think I would get him to leave 🙂

(The museum was started as a non profit in 1986 by four veterans, with the goal of preserving historic military vehicles. They began taking their vehicles to Veteran’s Day celebrations and parades and letting veterans ride in them and even drive them. The response was so gratifying and overwhelming that they continued to comb the midwest for vehicles to restore and preserve. Many of the vehicles were obtained from farmers who used them in the 40’s and 50’s when tractors were in short supply. They would drive and repair them until they couldn’t keep them going any longer and then park them as windbreaks and leave them to rust away. Heartland has given new life to these old machines, and today there are over 60! They have an incredibly extensive library of hundreds of technical manuals from manufacturers to achieve  accurate restorations. They also focus on getting the paint schemes correct and preserving original insignia and accessories. – Lee)

(This stop was originally supposed to be a visit to the “Fall of Saigon” memorial that they have, and is pictured below, but it turned out to not just be a quirky roadside statue, but an entire museum. The funny thing is we were so amazed by the museum that we somehow completely missed the Saigon memorial. We’ll have to stop by another time to see it in person. Here’s a picture of the event that inspired the memorial, and their memorial of it. – Lee)

The iconic image from the actual event.

The thing we set out to see, but never did!

(In the picture below you can see the museum is right off the interstate, so very easy to get to. – Lee)

The parking lot is to the side and the odd triangle shape. For us we could park along the side but it was tight turning around.

(In this picture you can get a better idea of the odd parking lot. If there aren’t many cars in the lot you can get turned around and park along the top line of the parking lot, or you can just do what I did, and pull straight in then back up along that top line. – Lee) 

When you walked around to the front you saw how big it was

 

With tons of vehicles lines up in the front facing the freeway.

 

We started inside with the gift shop and signed their register book.

 

One of many interesting models for sale

Once you walked through the doors there were so many vehicles.  I found it very interesting even though military vehicles isn’t really my thing.  Lee was really into it. Here is a sample of some of the ones that we found the most interesting.

This is an Airborne scooter, designed to be dropped by parachute along with paratroopers. It also had a rear pintle allowing it to pull a small trailer.

 

This snow wagon was designed to rescue downed fliers in the Arctic and more importantly, and Norden bomb sights in downed aircraft. The Norden was highly classified and its secrets were fiercely protected. Fewer than 300 of these were produced and fewer than 20 exist today. The front tires could be replaced with the skis you see mounted on the side.

 

This is a 1982 General Dynamics prototype, one of only three in existence. It would eventually become the HumVee.

 

A 1944 Kuebel Wagen, ambulance version. The Porsche designed German version of the Jeep.

 

1943 Schwimm Wagen, an amphibious vehicle. Very rare.

 

 

 

They even had several helicopters in the building which was amazing.  My favorite was a small MASH helicopter in the back and the beginning of a MASH area they were creating…still and all.

The still is to the right of the sign.

 

This was in beautiful condition.

 

The Huey, the most famous helicopter in the world.

The best vehicle was an M3 Bradley that you could crawl into.  Wow those spaces were tight, but it was very interesting.  I don’t know that I have even been inside a tank before. I was able to crawl through once but then clambered out in the front.  For me it was tough with the claustrophobia and I can’t even imagine being in there with 3 other people.

One of the seats.

 

Entrance

 

The driving was interesting. Pretty standard.

 

Interspersed throughout the areas were other small exhibits.  They had one on military food for example.  It was all a bit haphazard, but obviously done with love.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

I thought this small ship model was interesting. Used to teach people the different ships.

 

And I very much appreciated this sign in one of the corners. If you have never looked up the cost of war I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with those numbers.  Not being political.  It’s important that we know what things cost, in money and lives.

 

When we were finished inside I stopped and talked to the volunteers and told them we went all over the country looking at museums and they should be really proud of what they had built here.  I meant it and if you are passing by I highly recommend a stop.  It is a donation fee and we left $10.  It was totally worth that and more.  After we finished the inside I went and got the dog and together we all checked out the outside.  Lots of huge vehicles including several tanks and Jack enjoyed the exercise.

1989 Hellfire Missile Launcher

 

Bradley M2

 

M60-A1 Battle Tank. 105mm Main gun.

 

Sherman tank

 

WWII Ambhibious “Duck” supply ferry.

 

 

(Jack was happy to be outside, but didn’t seem to care much about all the hardware of war. He’s a lover, not a fighter. – Lee)

Next up we see Kansas and we get that state sticker.  We are definitely on a roll!

 


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3 thoughts on “A Very Special Military Museum

  1. Am anxious to learn what you’ll want to see in Kansas. There are a few good choices, just depends on your route. Dodge City? Abilene? Monument Rocks? Hope you have good things to say about Kansas as most just consider it a “flyover” state. I have always “favored” the Tallgrass Prairie/Flinthills region. Enjoy Kansas!

  2. We are currently in the east and visiting most of the National Park battlefields; Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, we found it very interesting that in each war more soldiers died from disease rather than war injuries. I wonder if that was taken into account on the Cost of War picture you posted. What is astonishing to me is the population growth. Thanks for your great post on the museum, we will definitely visit it. Becki

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