Airborne & Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville, North Carolina
The soaring façade tells you something special is inside and this museum doesn’t fail. You enter the building under a canopy of paratroopers descending through a majestic five-story atrium, then pass through one realistic exhibit after the other. Consider the extraordinary detail of the “Blackhawk Down” Mogadishu exhibit. Delta Force soldiers are huddled against a shell-scarred walls as they plan their break out under enemy fire. One man is wounded, two are scanning the streets. Across the way is a bullet-ridden “Technical,” the rotor of the downed Super 61, and a wall of Mogadishu images. This is so real, so detailed that you can feel the tension in the air – how will they ever make it?
That’s the sort of attention to detail you’ll find throughout this immersive museum so plan your day carefully so you have time to take it all in. As you walk through the exhibits you’ll see large artifacts placed in realistic battlescapes with mannequins in combat poses. There is a Jeep coming out of a WWII glider, a tank moving forward with paratroopers landing behind it, a Huey coming in for a landing in a Vietnam LZ, a combat team on a Humvee, special operators of the skids of a Little Bird, and an ever-so-spooky Iraqi war “hide-sight.” All of the hardware are the real deal – tanks, helicopters, and Humvees.
The museum tops it off with an uber-realistic four-story video theater called the Vista Dome. Forget IMAX when you enter this one. The 24-seat Pritzker Simulator rocks and rolls you as you watch incredible footage (some of it animations) of the intense situations our special operators face. Two movies run all day – Army on the Move, and Experience The Legend. You’ll “jump” out of a cargo plane into a stomach-churning HALO jump (Hight Altitude Low Opening parachute jump), rope down into hostile urban territory from a helicopter gunship, race through enemy streets in a Ranger Buggy, deploy into a hot LZ in Vietnam, and fly into Normandy with the 101st Screaming Eagles.
Taken together, this destination is an action-packed portrait of the variety of dangerous missions our special forces are asked to undertake — from that first parachute jump in 1940, to today. Because it’s located adjacent to the Fort Bragg (the training base for our Airborne and Special Forces soldiers), don’t be surprised if the person next to you is a soldier from the base. There is a well-stocked gift shop for a souvenir. And check their web site – many of the exhibits are temporary.
Tuesday – Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sunday: 12pm – 5pm