One Tank Travels: Exploring Central Arkansas

As I began researching this topic, I was amazed at the number of outlets in the area that protect and display the state’s military history. There are numerous war and veteran memorials all over Arkansas ranging from monuments to stadiums and auditoriums. With no disrespect to them or their importance, this trip is just about the Central Arkansas museums.

The obvious place to start is the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History in Little Rock because of General Douglas MacArthur’s legacy. The museum in located in the historic tower of the Old Arsenal, a National Historic Landmark. The birthplace of General MacArthur in 1880, the building now houses a museum of Arkansas’s military heritage from Territorial days to present. Inside you can’t help but notice a salute to the Jeep. Who knew this indispensable tool during World War II would become a popular sports vehicle over a half-a-century later.

Probably the best-known Arkansas Civil War soldier is David O. Dodd, often called “boy martyr of the Confederacy.” An impressive stained glass full-size portrait of Dodd on display here will stop you in your tracks. Also paying homage to the conflict is an Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Historical Marker located on the museum grounds.

Over in North Little Rock, the history of the Arkansas National Guard and Camp Robinson are exhibited in the Arkansas National Guard Museum. The guard dates back to 1804, one year after the Louisiana Purchase. At the time, Arkansas was a part of the Indiana Territory, where the governing body made most males answerable for military service. When the Arkansas Territory was created in 1819, Territorial Governor Izard laid the foundation for an Arkansas militia. The guard has been around ever since, service the state and the country. Learn about their all-important roles in maintaining the freedoms we enjoy today. Other topics covered in the facility range from the Early Years, War With Mexico, the Civil War and Reconstruction to the Spanish American War, Mexican Border War, the two World Wars, Korea, Little Rock Central High School Crisis, the Gulf War, and the Global War On Terror.

Also in North Little Rock is the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum on the shores of the Arkansas River. Established to commemorate America’s rich naval and maritime heritage, the museum includes Arkansas’s naval history, information on maritime trade on the Arkansas River, and the USS Razorback. The sub is a veteran of five combat patrols during World War II, sinking Japanese vessels, capturing Japanese POWs and rescuing American pilots who had been shot down. At the end of WWII, she was one of only 12 submarines selected to be present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrender was signed. You’ll also find a research library, a theatre, and the USS Snook Memorial. You can also go “down under” for tours, and rent the sub for group overnight stays and birthday parties. Group tours are available.

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History is located in the site which in World War II was the location of the administration building of the Jacksonville Ordnance Plant. It now has a 4,500 square feet building, with an additional 10,000 square foot area of new construction behind it.

The museum is the result of total volunteer efforts with permanent and special exhibits located in the galleries. It explores both battlefield and home front, with displays on the Civil War in Arkansas including the nearby Battle of Reed’s Bridge, the WWII-era Arkansas Ordinance Plant, a 3-D Gulf War outpost; an interactive Titan II Missile Launch Control exhibit; a 360-degree C-130 virtual tour; and the Mighty-Mite, the smallest jeep ever produced. A store, media presentation and projection rooms and a research/library room round out the facility.

Expand your trip beyond Central Arkansas by visiting the Walnut Ridge Army Flying Museum; the Veterans Military Museum in Hardy; the Aviation Cadet World Museum in Eureka Springs; the Fort Smith Air Museum, the General W.O. Darby House Tour Home & Museum, and Fort Chaffee Museum District all in Fort Smith; and the Arkansas Air and Military Museum in Fayetteville.

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