2050 34th Way N, Largo, FL 33771
Admission: Adults: $17.95, disabled veterans/seniors: $14.95, children 5-12: $12.95; children under 4, retired or active military: Free
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It's World War I and all is not quiet on the Western front. The sounds of explosions and gunfire envelop you. A young soldier in a bunker tries to summon help with a field radio and carrier pigeon. The night fog creeps into the trench, but you feel protected behind the walls of dirt and sandbags. That is until you spot the Red Baron flying above.
The diorama is one of many portholes to the past at the Armed Forces History Museum, a 35,000-square-foot treasure hunkered down in the middle of an industrial park in Largo .
John Piazza, the museum's founder and president, began collecting military memorabilia nearly 50 years ago after someone gave him a couple of grenades following his service in the Marines.
Since then he has amassed thousands of unusual relics and equipment from all over the world: a gas mask for a horse, a rare medal presented by Adolf Hitler, two chairs that belonged to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor), and a fleet of Japanese large-scale model ships from the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!
As visitors weave their way through time, they'll experience the attack of Pearl Harbor from the flight deck of the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi. They'll see Utah Beach after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, a French village in ruins, a paratrooper caught on a spire of the St. Mere Eglise church, and a German outpost.
Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Desert Storm and Iraq are represented, too, with additional dioramas under development.