Military History and Museums

Military History

The United States Armed Forced date back to 1775, when America needed a defense force to protect the original 13 colonies from a British invasion. Today, there are five branches:

  • The United States Army is the oldest (established June 14, 1775) and largest of the five branches. Soldiers are responsible for performing land-based military operations.
  • The United States Marine Corps is the smallest of the four branches under the Department of Defense. Marines provide both land and sea support to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and, in times of war, Coast Guard.
  • The United States Navy mainly operates from the waters (seas and oceans) providing protection both in the water and in the air.
  • The modern-day United States Air Force is the youngest of the five branches (established September 18, 1947). Before the modern-day Air Force was created, it was an arm of the U.S. Army, dating back to 1907. Airmen are responsible for carrying out aerial military operations.
  • The United States Coast Guard is the smallest of the branches and the only one that falls under the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard is multi-functional, with many peacetime missions. Coast Guard missions include: maritime search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, marine environmental protection and ports, waterways and coastal security. 


Military Museums

Military museums offer visitors insight into the history, defining moments, and current status of the branches of the United States Armed Forces:

  • The United States Army does not have an official museum but there are interactive exhibits available online as well as smaller, more focused museums located across the country.      
    • There is a plan in progress to develop a national museum in the Washington, DC area. 
  • The National Museum of the Marine Corps is located next to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia and features exhibits on the actions of Marines during World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
  • Located in downtown Washington, D.C., the National Museum of the U.S. Navy has exhibits on different navigational tools used by the Navy as well as artifacts captured by the Navy.
  • The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and features a collection of aircraft used throughout the history of the Air Force.
  • The United States Coast Guard Museum is located on the campus of the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and features artifacts from the nearly 230-year history of the Coast Guard.


Photo: National Archives