I knew the museum covered Korea, and that a big chunk of that was about Fox Company, so I thought I'd check it out.
This is part of a life-size diorama showing a Fox mortar crew. It's in a large room where the tracers fly in, artillery lights up a distant hill, explosions rock the floor and the taped voice of an actor playing the CO calls in artillery strikes. They also lowered the AC to simulate the cold these Marines had to endure.
Which, I'm really sorry to report, was one of the lamest goddamn things I've ever witnessed. These men fought through nights of 30-below temperatures. Guns froze. Grenades didn't go off. Almost all the men suffered from frostbite.
Dropping the AC so a bunch of flip-flopped, T-shirt-wearing tourists could get a little chill is bullshit. Sorry. It's a nice try, but no cigar for this one. And I know I'm a geek about these things, but I wanted more about this battle, not just a cold room with mannequins and special effects.
The museum tries to illustrate with these dioramas the significant battles that shaped the Marine ethos, from Guadalcanal and Iwo to Hue and Khe San. But for some reason, they gloss over WWI and the battle that gave the Marines their nickname, Devil Dogs.
My first imporession of the museum was OK. They really tried to make it interesting and instructive, even giving people a taste of boot camp.
But the more I thought about it, the more it all seemed like that chilly room. It's a santitized view of service. We see pink wounds on mannequins but no dead. They write about the mines in Vietnam, but not about the horror of Bouncing Betties that tore through young men's thighs and genitals.
There is none of the sad brutality of combat. We're told about sacrifice, but it's held at a distance. It's as if they took to heart Tim O'Brien's observation that if we told young men the truth about war, no one would ever sign up again.
One oversight that really struck home was the display of Marine and Navy insignias that represented the dead of Iwo Jima. There were more than 5000 of them stuck to a large sheet of plexiglass.
No names, just insignia, as if the emotions we feel at the Wall in DC are inappropriate here. I know, I looked for the name of a young Marine private named Prosper Terrenoire and he wasn't there. That's because in this museum, war is fought without death. They display numbers of dead, but you don't see their faces.
And I think that's a disservice to the men and women of the Corps. I think we owe them a museum that not only celebrates their honor, duty and valor, but shows us why those are rare and important virtues, worthy of our reflection and admiration.
I wanted to like this museum. I really did. But I think our Marines deserve something better. I think they deserve a museum that isn't afraid to show what it really means to be a Marine.