The National World War I Memorial and Museum is a great reason to make Kansas City a destination.

The inscription on the Liberty Memorial Tower sets the tone for your visit, “In honor of those who served in the World War in defense of liberty and our country.”

Maybe there are quicker ways to Pittsburgh after staying in Red Lodge, Montana, but they aren’t through Kansas City, Missouri. When you’re a barbecue man like my husband, you take the detour. Since I’m not a pork fan, I needed another reason to care about going to KC.

Connected Museums

We’ve been to the Smithsonian Museums and the Ugar-Hazy Center in Washington, DC. Oahu visits included the Pearl Harbor and Fort DeRussy Museums. The educations leave visitors with respect for the memorials and museums erected in deference to our Veterans. This WWI museum is in the same class and not to be overlooked.

My knowledge of World War I began when Jackie and I were in Wales. In Cardiff, outside the Welsh National Opera stood an evocative visual, In Parenthesis. There were 923 illuminated orbs representing poppies. When darkness descended, the poppies glowed bright red. The tribute to the Royal Welch Fusiliers killed at Mametz Wood in July 1916 during the five-month battle of the Somme was moving. That horrendous segment of the war resulted in over one million soldiers dead on both sides.

Field of poppies at Welsh National Opera, Cardiff, Wales
Field of poppies at Welsh National Opera

I’m currently reading, All Quiet on the Western Front. The book is a completely different and yet unifying viewpoint on the war. It is about soldiers not politics, people not economics.

The is educational and helps tie in things you think you know with what you ought to know.

National World War I Memorial Exhibits include:

Historical Facts and Details 

The conflict began in 1914 and did not officially ending until 1918. Thirty-six countries participated, 65 million soldiers fought, and 9 million of them died.

Field of poppies

So what is it about poppies and World War I? This link explain the poem by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae and his description of Flanders Field. The mournfulness stirs your emotions, spurring you to donate when the Veterans of Foreign Wars give away their poppies. Entering the exhibit area, you’ll walk over the Paul Sunderland Glass Bridge. Beneath your feet are 9,000 poppies representing the 9 million lost lives in the war.

Field of poppies by Paul Sunderland
Field of poppies

The Zimmermann Telegram

Did you know that the impetus to get the US into WWI was, in part, because Germany proposed an alliance with Mexico and even offered certain US territories to Mexico? Intrigued, click here to read about all the circumstances surrounding our joining the fray as well as the intercepted telegram. 

Why Doughboys?

Pittsburgh has a Doughboy statue in Lawrenceville, site of the arsenal. The museum cites this origination of the nickname, “Reconciliation with Mexico had just concluded in 1916 when marching foot soldiers in Pershing’s Expeditionary Force traveled south of the border to fight rebel Pancho Villa. Covered in white adobe dust, the foot soldiers were called “adobes” or “dobies” by mounted troops. Within a few months, these dobies, or Doughboys, were redeployed to Europe.

The Crater

Hard to believe, but the museum has recreated a crater caused by a 17” Howitzer shell that landed on a French farmhouse. It was eerie, as were the full size trenches we could glimpse through slits in the walls.

The Structure of the National World War I Memorial

Memory and Future

These entrancing Assyrian Sphinxes bookend the Liberty Tower. Memory faces east toward France and the battlefields while Future faces west. Each are shielding their eyes from the horrors of war and the unknown of our futures.

Liberty Memorial Tower

The tower is 217 feet tall and has four carvings around the top, each 40 feet tall. These Guardian Spirits are named Courage, Honor, Patriotism, and Sacrifice.

Visiting the National World War I Museum and Memorial was an eye-opening education. The displays are thorough, wide-spaced to allow the visitors to have easy viewing, and highly evocative. You’d be hard pressed to take a tour and exit without having your emotions stirred.

Online Exhibitions

If you don’t find yourself with Kansas City on your travel list, check out their online option. It includes:

“Make way for Democracy!” about the lives of African Americans during the war.

“The Christmas Truce of 1914,” we’ve all heard about this, haven’t we? The spontaneous singing of Christmas carols and the exchange of their meager provisions. 

And more about the volunteers, the nurses, and the battle of the Somme, in “They Shall Not Pass.”

When you Visit

  • Location: 2 Memorial Drive, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Fee: $16/per adult except on Wednesday where all tickets are $8
  • Duration: At least two hours
  • Tours: There are guided group tours and Acoustiguide Audio tours


Read, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park