The Top 100 Military Sites in America
L. Douglas Keeney
Lyons Press, Lanham, Maryland, 2018, 288 pages
Book Review published on: January 24, 2020
L. Douglas Keeney’s book The Top 100 Military Sites in America presents recommendations for visiting military-related sites across the country. The book is organized by state and lists each site with a brief description of interesting facts along with the site’s address, operating hours, website, and photos for some. His writing style is very energetic and personal, and it makes the reader want to visit and experience the sites. The book lists many of the well-known sites such as the USS Intrepid in New York City and the World War II Museum in New Orleans, as well as lesser known, off-the-beaten-path sites such as former secret Nike Missile site HM-69 near Homestead, Florida, and the Russell Military Museum in Russell, Illinois, which is family operated and very much hands-on. Keeney does list several unique, active experiences such as Stallion 51 in Kissimmee, Florida, where one can ride in and take the stick of a real World War II P-51 Mustang aircraft in flight, and the PT-305 patrol-torpedo boat ride across Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana. For many of the sites, Keeney provides tips on what to see and the order to see exhibits; he also puts some of the sites in context of the time they were built. At the end of the book, Keeney does rank order several sites in a “Best of the Best” section by categories such as “best formerly secret” and “military base tours.” The majority of the sites are U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and Cold War related, but the author also includes Air Force sites and sites dedicated to other wars. As a military enthusiast, I very much enjoyed reading and learning about several new interesting places in our history that I will visit in my retirement. It should be noted that the included sites are mainly museums, and there are no battlefields in the book.
As with any ranking list, the book is naturally subjective, but the author does base his ranking and suggestions on research and his personal visits to many of the sites. However, the list does have a few issues. The author lists at least five battleships to tour when he could have selected one and maybe added the relatively unknown Cold War Museum at Vint Hill, Virginia, founded by Francis Gary Powers Jr. The author omits any sites from Idaho, Iowa, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wyoming. The Iowa Gold Star Museum, Idaho Military Museum, or the Fort Ethan Allen in Vermont would be nice additions to represent those states and highlight the service of those citizens. The author also omits Puerto Rico, which has a very much unknown but proud military history, best exemplified by the Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan.
I would recommend the book for the military enthusiast who likes to travel, but many of the same sites can be found online in Trip Advisor. I would find the book more interesting if it omitted the more well-known museums and listed the “top 100 lesser-known military sites” known mainly to locals. The book does serve as a good bucket list for the military enthusiast traveler.
Book Review written by: Col. James Kennedy, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Belvoir, Virginia