Tucked away on Industrial Drive in St. Clair Shores is an unexpected gem that whisks families back to 1940s – when World War II was raging.
And, with Veterans Day upon us, November is a prime time to discover the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum, which first opened in May 2014 and aims to pay tribute to veterans and army vehicles.
“It’s nothing like most museums,” says director John Lind, a Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy veteran. “It’s hands on. (Kids) can come and touch the displays.” That includes the impressive military trucks just outside. There are many more vintage vehicles within, along with mannequins sporting authentic uniforms and period flags and posters covering the walls and ceiling.
During public hours, which are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays only, families can spend time with history for just $20 total (or $5/person). Kids get a spin in military rides like Willy’s Jeep, a 1942 green machine sporting a mounted (deactivated) bazooka.
Each truck comes with a story of how it was used in the war – and is one of the top attractions at the museum, says event coordinator Annaliese Johnson.
“(The museum) caters to people from any age and increases their knowledge and understanding of World War II,” says Johnson, who runs annual events from insightful chats by veterans to a ’40s-style swing dance in September.
Get there early for a chance to find “Kilroy” each week – and win a prize. This is a fun spin on the iconic “Kilroy Was Here” cartoon, featuring a bald man with a long nose, that WWII-era soldiers doodled in various places they were stationed.
“The museum is for everybody,” Lind says. And if your kid really gets into history, the affiliated 704 Tank Destroyer Battalion reenactment group is open to ages 16-plus and lets kids try out those uniforms and vehicles firsthand.
Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum
- Address: 22960 Industrial Drive West, St. Clair Shores
- Phone: 586-776-1976
- Hours: Open to public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays
- Cost: $5/person, $20/family
Veterans Day Event
See an array of military items and vehicles, including some from the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum.
- Location: Stahls Automotive Foundation, 56516 N. Bay Drive, Chesterfield Township
- Phone: 586-749-1078
- Times: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11
- Cost: Free; donations collected to assist Michigan veterans
Photo courtesy Annaliese Johnson