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What's on Display

Exhibits

The Center is a tribute to the brave men and women who defended our freedom during the 20th Century.  A visit to the museum is a powerful, emotional experience. Through exhibits, displays, and presentations, the museum strives to honor all branches of the service by telling the personal stories of their war experiences.

Begin your museum experience by watching our 17 minute introductory movie in the Pearl Harbor Theater.  Stand in a replica WWII control tower and look down on the centerpiece of the museum; a P-38 Lightning plane restored with Richard Bong’s “Marge” markings.  Then watch a movie with authentic P-38 footage in our Quonset Hut Theater.   From a mock WWI trench display to a replica nuclear rocket, to memories of the homefront, the museum features dramatic and thought provoking displays throughout.

Richard I. Bong Story

This exhibit documents Richard’s life growing up on a farm in Northern Wisconsin and his rise to become a nationally known war hero and Medal of Honor recipient. Meet the family that guided him to adulthood and produced the driven yet down-to-earth man he would become. Through pictures and personal artifacts you will get a sense of Richard Bong’s childhood, witness his courtship with Marge, and follow his military career from training to test pilot. You can read more about Richard’s life on his biography page.

Coming soon – an exhibit overhaul that will feature personal items belonging to Richard Bong never before seen on exhibit, as well as a large map display that chronicles his military activities in the South Pacific.

World War II

This exhibit explores the captivating, sobering, and moving stories of how Twin Ports’ men and women experienced the challenges of World War II. It features hundreds of artifacts, military vehicles, interactive displays, and at the center, our restored P-38 airplane set in an immersive South Pacific setting.
Examine the experiences of those on the home front and how women contributed to the war effort. Families grew victory gardens and dealt with the challenges of rationing. Learn about the national role the Twin Ports played in shipbuilding where workers mobilized to assist in wartime production.

Read the stories of those who served and died in the European and Pacific Theater. Learn about the contributions of the Merchant Marines, who had a higher percentage of losses than any of the other branches of the military. Listen to the stories of those soldiers who fought and witnessed the atrocities overseas in our oral history kiosk.

This exhibit honors our “greatest generation” and provides insight into some of the people and events that shaped the outcome of WWII.

Korean War

From 1950-1953, thousands of Americans fought a harsh war on the Korean peninsula against an extremely determined enemy. The roots of the Korean War, also known as “the forgotten war” can be found in the immediate aftermath of WWII when Russian forces began pouring into the Korean peninsula. When Moscow supported the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950, President Truman committed limited U.S. forces to help. The battle for Korea was the first US combat action of the Cold War.

Our Korean exhibit features the personal stories and photographs of local men who served in the war. Read the first-hand account of Stan Smith, who was wounded in action in a firefight on night patrol and see the collage of photos that depict life on the Korean front.

Vietnam War

For many Americans the war in Vietnam was the defining event in their lives. It was a conflict that defined an era and divided families. It brought violence both to Vietnam and to the home front. At its peak, over half a million U. S. servicemen were in Vietnam and by the end of the war over 58,000 had sacrificed their lives for their country.

Personal histories of local veterans tell the story of the Vietnam War through pictures and artifacts, including weapons, field equipment, and original war video footage. A collage of images such as men relaxing in the barracks, on patrol, and of course filling sandbags, set the scene for the soldier experience in Vietnam.

Cold War

After World War II, the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its satellite states began competing for supremacy in a decade’s long battle known as the Cold War. A clash of very different ideologies, capitalism versus communism, formed the basis of the power struggle that dominated international politics for almost 50 years.

This exhibit explores the Twin Ports’ role in protecting the country’s borders during the Cold War through maps, photos and artifacts. The exhibit features the flight suit and personal equipment belonging to Brigadier General Ray Klosowski. A fighter pilot with over 6,000 hours of flight time, he was the commander of the Minnesota Air National Guard and Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame Inductee. You will learn about the contributions of the Duluth Air Force Base, with their nuclear armed aircraft ready to scramble at a moment’s notice. Get up close and personal accounts of the Cold War service of many of our local men and women who served in all branches of the military.