Notable battlefields, celebrated landmarks, and modern-day museums showcase historic moments throughout Pennsylvania. The Cumberland Valley region also has a rich and storied history that delights history buffs and invites them to explore and discover. One of our premier historical attractions is the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC).
The numbers at USAHEC are impressive. The facility houses 16 million military items, 350,000 unique military history volumes, and the largest collection of Civil War photography in the world. What makes USAHEC special is something much smaller and that's the individual stories that only they can tell. USAHEC focuses on telling the soldier's story, through their personal accounts, journals, and records displayed through informative and interactive exhibits. The expansive campus includes the Visitor and Education Center, the U.S. Army Military History Institute, and the Army Heritage Trail.
Inside the Visitor and Education Center, the Soldier Experience gallery gives visitors the opportunity to see through the eyes of a soldier during some of the Army’s most prolific battles and exercises – from the Spanish American War to current operations. In addition to hundreds of artifacts, guests can test their marksmanship at the digital shooting range, parachute into Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion, and experience a night attack during the Korean War.
In the second gallery, USAHEC''s newest exhibit -- "This Will Not Stand: The U.S. Army's Road to Victory During the Persian Gulf War" -- gives visitors a chance to discover the incredible story of the Persian Gulf War. It is the story of an Army ready to fight, a new world order being tested, the creation and deployment of one of the largest coalitions the world had seen, and a swift and decisive victory that has been studied and analyzed for almost three decades.
Other indoor exhibits include “A Call to Arms”, highlighting the history of the U.S. Army Reserve; the Omar N. Bradley Memorial Art Gallery, which features a rotating collection of artwork; "Courage, Commitment, and Fear" which focuses on the experience of the American soldier during the Vietnam War; and “Enter the War on Terror” and “On Patrol”, both of which are designed to enlighten the public on the experiences of soldiers deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Outside, the mile-long Army Heritage Trail provides an immersive experience where guests can explore 14 full-scale military exhibits highlighting nearly every era of Army history. Walk through a recreation of a WWI trench system, touch a Hellcat tank destroyer, or climb to the top of a guard tower on the Vietnam Fire Support Base for a view of the entire trail.
USAHEC also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including their lecture series and Army Heritage Days, a living history event, every May. Visitors can explore this impressive facility seven days a week. It is easily accessible off of I-81 in Carlisle. All exhibits are free and open to the public.
And, if you want to dig deeper into Cumberland Valley's military history, take a self-guided walking tour of the nearby Carlisle Barracks, established in 1757 and the second oldest Army Post in the United States. The Barracks was the home of the controversial Carlisle Indian Industrial School and is the current home to the prestigious U.S. Army War College.