By Bill Sniffin. Photos/Video by David Miller, Cynthia Starks, Neversweat Photography
Huge crowds attended the opening of the $100 million National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois this past weekend.
Holding what founder Dan Starks called a soft opening, large crowds visited the gigantic facility for free over the first three days it was open.
“The experience has been very gratifying,” Starks said. “We have had lots of tears, guests getting choked up, and lots of appreciation.”
“We have 100 parking spaces in our lot and ran out of parking space,” he said.
The 140,000 square foot complex — which was self-funded by Starks and his family — holds more than 200 military vehicles with expansive exhibits that tells the stories of the military campaigns that featured these vehicles.
Starks said the facility has three goals:
— To honor the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans.
— To preserve the history of what happened during these wars.
— To provide an educational experience.
The vast array of vehicles goes beyond the killing machines of tanks, artillery, and flamethrowers. It also includes dozens of the machines that made the wars winnable.
Starks likes to discuss how the Red Ball Express helped secure the victories. This was the supply chain that seemed to provide endless amounts of food, ammo, and war machines as Allied troops marched toward victory.
He said he wanted to show how America was able to convert its massive manufacturing expertise to enable the Allies to fight two different wars in different parts of the world and win both in just three and a half years.
Near the middle of the building’s interior is an amazing vault, unlike anything west of the Smithsonian. It will hold his $10 million collection of historical weapons, including a rifle fired at Custer’s Last Stand and a pistol used by General Pershing in World War I.
The collection includes 270 Winchester rifles. The vault has a safe door that would look just right at the national mint.
The facility will have meeting rooms and members of the Wyoming legislature are convening there in October.
It also has the Chance Phelps Theatre, named for the brave Dubois Marine who died April 9, 2004 in Iraq. The movie Taking Chance was about that soldier.
There will be large library with one of the world’s largest collections of manuals and other information about military vehicles.
Admission is $15 for adults and free for all veterans. Under 18 is $10. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. It is located eight miles south of Dubois of U. S. Highways 287/26.
Face masks and social distancing is required of visitors.