A Washington, D.C.-area museum dedicated to the history of the U.S. Marine Corps reopens today with expanded facilities and new exhibits, including one honoring Marine helicopter combat operations during the Vietnam War.
The National Museum for the Marine Corps closed last March to begin adding 117,000 sq ft of space and new exhibits that include a tableau featuring a restored Vietnam-era Sikorsky Aircraft
UH-34D. The tableau depicts a platoon of Marines disembarking that helicopter under fire during Operation Starlite in 1965.
Also known as the Battle of Van Tuong, Operation Starlite is considered by the Marines to be its first major ground operation during the Vietnam War, as well as a major victory for U.S. forces. Although more than 50 U.S. troops were killed and hundreds more were wounded during the battle, the Marines pre-emptively assaulted a major Viet Cong regiment, forced its retreat and killed more than 600 of its numbers.
The battle also was a milestone in the history of U.S. military helicopters. In “Leatherneck: Operation Starlite: The First Battle of the Vietnam War,” Otto J. Lehrack said Starlite marked the Marines’ first use of a combined helicopter and amphibious assault doctrine. “Although the Marines had used helicopters as far back as Korea, and the Corps had practiced combined operations of this sort time and again, this would be the first combat operation of its type,” said Lehrack.
In addition to the helicopter tableau, the museum also will display on April 1 a restored WWII-era SBD Dauntless dive bomber hanging from the soaring glass of the Museum’s central gallery.
Construction is scheduled for completion in 2017, and completion of all exhibitions are expected by 2020.