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Visit the Larry E. Smedley National Vietnam War Museum
Over 58,000 servicemen and women lost their lives in the Vietnam War. The Larry E. Smedley National Vietnam War Museum was established by a few veterans to remember the 2.7 million American men and women who fought in that war, including the 58,000 who gave their lives in service. Remembering the service, sacrifice, and valor of the fallen veterans and their families provides a glimpse into our nation’s history from the start in February 1961 to the ending in May 1975.
A statement on the museum’s Facebook page states:
“The museum is dedicated to future Americans from local schools and youth organizations to soldiers currently defending our great nation, in the hope that everyone passing through the gates will leave with a better understanding of past and present military conflicts.”
And indeed, those visiting the museum come away with a greater understanding and appreciation of that time period and the men and women who served.
Who was Corporal Larry E. Smedley?
Any war hosts heroes, usually a great many. Likewise, the Vietnam War proved many to be selfless, even to the point of sacrificing their own life.
Meet Larry Smedley.
Born March 4, 1949, Larry chose to leave his high school (Colonial High School, Orlando, FL) just days after his 17th birthday to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. After recruit training, he received promotions that led to his final one of Corporal on September 1, 1967. By all known accounts, he served well, owing to his military record.
However, on December 21, 1967, as he patrolled in Quảng Nam Province, his squad met with enemy action. Indeed, it seems the six-man squad the Smedley led noted an impending attack and moved to prevent it. Although he saved the five other men, he gave his own life in the process. They reported that he gallantly fought, single-handedly.
Corporal Larry E.. Smedley received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his gallant act of bravery.
Of course, many others served well, too.
The originators of the museum chose to honor this young Corporal from Orlando by naming the museum after him. However, they noted that he represents the many that served. In fact, they had the names of those from the Orange County, Florida region who died in the Vietnam War to honor them and their families. The names represent lives lost. But the wall they cover shows the memories, too.
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Located in the East Orlando area, the museum hosts a variety of displays. These include:
- the first dedicated monument to Fallen Vietnam War Veterans in the state of Florida which contains the names of the 167 men and women from Orange County, Florida who lost their lives in the war.
- statue of a K-9
- U.S. Navy Patrol Boat River (PBR), also known as “River Rat”
- Douglas A-4B Skyhawk aircraft, currently on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation (Pensacola, FL)
- Bell UH-1 (Huey) Dustoff helicopter
- jeeps and other transport vehicles
- detailed wall mural depicting the war environment
- room-size, to-scale, firebase re-creation (this took about eleven years to complete)
- educational media/research room with audiovisual capabilities
- many artifacts from the Vietnam War era
View the video below for a
Visiting the Larry E. Smedley National Vietnam War Museum
The museum is open to the public on Saturdays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Sundays from 10:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Private and educational tours can be scheduled with prior agreement and confirmation with the museum.
3400 N Tanner Rd, Orlando, FL 32826
The museum welcomes individuals, families, and groups. In fact, the exhibit makes a great school trip. Homeschoolers, too!
While the museum accepts donations of equipment, artifacts, and monetary donations, entry into the exhibit is free of charge. You might also stop in the gift shop to select a souvenir.
As with many museums, the Larry E. Smedley National Vietnam War Museum depends on word-of-mouth advertising. When we visited, we were encouraged to take photos, some of which you see on this page.
If you know of a Florida museum or other interesting site that you would like to see featured here, please contact us.