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Preview – Visit – The National World War I Museum

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Remembering the Great War
The National World War I Museum Features Turn-of-the-Century Firearms and an Arsenal of Historical Knowledge

George Santayana’s aphorism is often cited because it holds much truth: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That’s why the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, stands as a beacon of freedom and is committed to inspiring public involvement and informed decision making among present and future generations — lest we forget the sacrifice and courage of those who served in WWI.

The United States’ entry into the First World War in April of 1917 helped change the tide for the Allies and ensured the defeat of Germany and the Central Powers. While no one American city can claim to have played a greater role in the war than any other, Kansas City was chosen to be the site of the Liberty Memorial, which was dedicated in 1921.

The dedication event was attended by military leaders of the five main Allied nations — marking the first time these five were ever together in one place: Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium, Admiral Earl Beatty of Great Britain, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, General Armando Diaz of Italy, and General John Pershing of the United States.

Construction of the Liberty Memorial was completed less than five years later, and it officially opened on November 11, 1926 — eight years after the guns fell silent. That could have been the end of the story, and while the impressive 217-foot-tall structure lights the night sky, it was long felt that more could, and dare should, be done to remember those WWI veterans. Over the years came calls for a World War I museum, and at the same time the memorial faced the ravages of age.

In 2004, the dream of a museum actually became a reality. That year saw two major milestones: The passage of a $20-million bond initiative to fund the construction of a new museum; and former President George W. Bush’s signing into law a bill that designated the Liberty Memorial as the National World War I Museum, officially designated by the 108th Congress. In 2006, the same year that the museum opened to the public, the site was deemed a national historic landmark.

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