Sunday, June 27, 2010

An Overlooked Museum - US Naval Museum - Adjacent to Nationals Ballpark

I would never have thought to visit this museum because I wasn't aware it even existed! I'm hoping this article will inspire visitors and residents alike to visit a repository of relics and history that rivals the Air and Space Museum just a few miles away - and you won't have to deal with hordes of school kids that seem to ricochet off one another like marbles and yell at decibel levels not yet measured by science!

Front The Navy Museum Building

The US Navy Museum is on a still working base and that might be part of the reason more people don't visit. The idea of pulling up and going through a check point might deter some but those people will be missing out on an array of historical artifacts, displays and interactive exhibits that adults and children (OK, boys - my daughter was not especially thrilled - Barbi was never in the Navy) will love. Once you arrive (see below for logistical info.) in front of the of the U.S. Navy Museum, overlooking the Anacostia River you'll first want to board and tour the decommissioned destroyer Barry (DD-933), which sits Willard Park.

Willard Park is home to an array of naval artifacts from different eras. The majority are naval ordnance captured by the U.S. Navy. Willard Park also provides visitors and employees with a small picnic area. Interesting artifacts in Willard Park include: Civil War 100 pounder cannon from CSS Atlanta captured by the U.S. monitor Weehawken, 6 in. 30 calibre deck gun from U.S. battleship Maine sunk in Havana Harbor 15 February 1898, the 36,000 lb. propeller from battleship USS South Dakota, a 14-inch naval railway gun - one of only eight built at the Washington Navy Yard for use in Europe in World War and a fascinating bathysphere from the Alvin undersea exploration vehicle.

The inside the of museum traces US naval history from the war of independence until the present day. My favorite part was sitting in the AA guns which swivel around and move up and down allowing the Walter Mitty in all of us to imagine they're single handedly taking on the Japanese flying suicide bomb - the festively colored Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka("cherry blossom"), a specially built rocket-powered kamikaze aircraft which dangles from the ceiling. The range of artifacts and "war trophies" is impressive, as are the displays. The last time I went I had the pleasure to meet and chat with a group of Pearl Harbor survivors who were paying tribute to their comrades and reminiscing.

The National Museum of the U.S. Navy was established in 1961 and opened to the public in 1963. As one of 14 Navy museums throughout the country, it is the only one that presents an overview of U.S. naval history. Permanent and temporary exhibitions commemorate the Navy's wartime heroes and battles as well as its peacetime contributions in exploration, diplomacy, space flight, navigation and humanitarian service.

Hey look (pic below), we've been fighting in the Middle East, well North Africa, since the Nation's founding - the Pasha of Tripoli declared war on the United States in 1801, and in 1815 President James Madison asked Congress to declare war on Algeria. American merchant ships were in great danger at this time because there was no national navy to protect them abroad. These "pirates" from North Africa were enslaving our sailors and merchants until the founding father's had enough and went over to "get some". Thus the Marine verse about the Shores of Tripoli...

Visiting the National Museum of the United States Navy >View

The National Museum of the United States Navy is open to the public free of charge and is located on the historic Washington Navy Yard in southeast Washington, D.C. The Museum is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekends and holidays. The Museum is open every day except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

Individuals above the age of 16 are required to have a valid government-issued ID card, such as a driver’s license, State ID, passport, or Common Access Card (CAC). Guests accompanied by children under the age of 16 will be responsible for those children. Large handbags and backpacks may be searched by Security.

Personal vehicles are permitted on weekends ONLY. Vehicle registration and proof of insurance or rental agreement are required. During the week, parking is available for a fee in the lot adjacent to the Navy Yard at the intersection of 6th and M St SE.

Entrance Gates >View

  • 6th St SE and M St SE
    24/7 gate. Visitors should park in the pay lot on M St. across from the gate on weekdays as vehicular traffic is not allowed to the Museum. Visitors may drive in through the 6th and M St. gate on weekends. This gate is also the entrance for buses arriving on weekends.
  • 9th St SE and M St SE
    Military and DoD employees only, Monday-Friday
  • 11th St SE and O St SE (1022 O St SE)
    Bus Entrance, Monday-Friday
  • Via Metro (Subway) Metro System Map

    The U.S. Navy Museum is accessible by both the Navy Yard (green) and Eastern Market (blue and orange) metro stations.

    • Eastern Market Metro Station (Orange/Blue Line)
      Exit the metro station and walk south on 8th St SE for 0.5 miles. Turn right onto M St SE and continue for two more blocks. The museum visitor access gate is located at the intersection of 6th St SE and M St SE.
    • Navy Yard Metro Station (Green Line)
      Exit the metro station via New Jersey Ave and walk east on M St until you come to 6th St SE. The museum visitor access gate is located at the intersection of 6th St SE and M St SE.

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