Semper Fidelis (“Always Faithful” or “Always Loyal") is well known as the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps, shortened to Semper Fi in Marine contexts.
In this nearly 120,000 square foot building, scenes of major events in American history are shown from the perspective of Marines who participated.
The museum is under the command of the Marine Corps University, a group of accredited higher-education schools at Quantico, VA. In the late 1980s, Congress authorized each service branch to develop its own national centers to house and interpret their history for the American public. The Commandant of the Marine Corps agreed to the public/private venture created to develop the Museum in 1997. Construction began in 2004 and was completed in 2006.
The Museum is clearly visible from surrounding areas by its signature 210-foot stainless steel spire. This soaring skyward design is symbolic of the iconic flag-raising on Iwo Jima by U.S. Marines. Other interpretations include swords at salute, aircraft climbing to the skies or a howitzer at the ready.
The Making Marines Gallery presents the unique experience of boot camp where enlistees are transformed into Marines.
In exhibit galleries, the use of multimedia technology takes visitors onto the beach at Iwo Jima, through a frigid winter Korean night on watch against possible attack, and into a hot Vietnam “LZ” (landing zone). Combining artifacts, such as the original flag raised on Iwo Jima, with documentary films, combat art, and recordings of Marines telling their own stories, the galleries recount the wartime experiences of many U.S. Marines.
Among the over 1,000 artifacts displayed are planes, tanks, weapons, vehicles, and uniforms. Interactive exhibits immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of Marines from enlistment to battle. Future expansion to over 200,000 square feet will add more exhibit galleries, large-screen theater, art gallery and studio, displays, and classrooms.
The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation raised donations to pay for the $60 million vertical construction of the building The Marine Corps used appropriated funds to pay for the design and fabrication of the exhibit space, about $30 million. The estate of Alfred Lerner was the single largest donor with over $10 million. Lerner, a former Marine Corps pilot, was a billionaire banking and real estate investor and owner of the Cleveland Browns pro football team.
If you want to visit. The National Museum of the Marine Corps is located off I-95, 36 miles south of Washington, DC, and 76 miles north of Richmond, VA. It's open 9:00 a.m. to 5: 00 p.m. daily except Christmas Day. Museum admission is FREE. Guides throughout the museum (former U.S. Marines) are helpful and knowledgeable about the collections.