Fort Leonard Wood

April 4, 2024


Home to Heroes, History & Happenings on Route 66

There is more to the history of Pulaski County, Missouri than Route 66. Located in the heart of the Ozarks, this 33-mile stretch of America’s most historic road is full of lush landscapes, memorable museums, and wanderlust moments just waiting for you to explore. But be sure to add Fort Leonard Wood to your list of must-do activities. Its sheer size as a military center and impact on our nation’s history tell a tale you don’t want to miss.


A Military Training Center That Almost Didn’t Exist

Fort Leonard Wood and Pulaski County have a rich history that dates back to before the Unites States became involved in WWII. In 1940, Lebanon, Iowa, was originally slotted for the location when the War Department was gearing up for a new training center in the Seventh Corps Area.

That area’s lack of groundwater led the Army to look at alternate sites. The Ozarks quickly made their shortlist, and in December 1940, construction crews broke ground. This crew successfully built nearly 1,600 buildings and over five million square feet of training space in just six months!

During WWII, more than 300,000 U.S. Soldiers trained at Fort Leonard Wood. After the war, however, Fort Leonard Wood was placed on the inactive list and mainly used for summer training by National Guard units. But in 1950, the need for more training facilities was sparked once again with the Korean War. This led the Army to reactivate Fort Leonard Wood, and its future as an invaluable training facility for the U.S. Armed Forces was set in motion.


Home to Countless Heroes

Today, Fort Leonard Wood is a premier Army Center of Excellence, training more than 80,000 military and civilians each year. It is also home to the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: 1) U.S. Army Engineer, 2) Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear, 3) and Military Police.

Training isn’t limited to just Soldiers, though. Airmen, Guardsmen, Sailors, and Marines also train at Fort Leonard Wood. Needless to say, with multiple military graduations held each week, countless military careers have begun here.

Fort Leonard Wood has also grown in size over the years. It now encompasses around 63,000 acres of land, 2,690 buildings, and 16.8 million square feet of facilities for its unique and highly technical training and support activities.


Four Military Exhibits with Free Admission

Fort Leonard Wood Museum is open to visitors, provided you follow the regulation guidelines for getting onto base. And with three military museums and a WWII complex right next to each other, you’ll definitely want to check this out.

The John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex houses three separate museums in one location: The U.S. Army Chemical Corps Museum, the U.S. Army Engineer Museum, and the U.S. Military Police Corps Museum. Museum tours are self-guided and at no cost to visitors. Next door, as an added bonus, is the WWII Company Area. You can walk around the complex grounds which replicate Fort Leonard Wood as it was in the 1940s.

Here is a little more about what you can expect to see at each location:

The U.S. Army Chemical Corps Museum

This 9,000-square-foot gallery features artifact exhibits, immersion dioramas, graphics, and text that showcase the history of the Corps from 1917 to the present.

U.S. Army Engineer Museum

This 10,000-square-foot gallery presents the history of the Army Corps of Engineers from the American Revolution to the modern era. Gallery features include the development of American Army engineering equipment, topographic engineering, landmine warfare, tactical bridging, special weapons, and much more.

U.S. Army Military Police Corps Museum

This unique museum collects and preserves the material history of the Military Police of the U.S. Army from 1775 to the present. The museum also promotes the heritage and traditions of the Military Police Corps Regiment and the values of the U.S. Army to Soldiers and civilians through public exhibits, educational programs, and branch training support.

WWII Company Area

This group of restored, temporary mobilization buildings exemplifies the many structures erected across the Unites States between 1939 and 1945. In 1941, at the peak of construction at Fort Leonard Wood, a building was finished every 45 minutes. During WWII, Fort Leonard Wood housed five infantry divisions, an artillery brigade, and an Engineer Replacement Training Center that trained over 250,000 Soldiers.


Delve Deeper into History 

The military tributes extend well beyond Fort Leonard Wood. Explore the African American USO Chimney in Saint Robert which pays tribute to the sacrifices and commitment of Black Soldiers who served or trained in U.S. Army units at Fort Leonard Wood during the 1940s. Additionally, the Saint Robert Military Tribute and Freedom Rock Display in Saint Robert, unveiled in 2017, honors the history of Fort Leonard Wood using over 20 locally sourced boulders as captivating canvases.

Conclude your historical journey with the American Heroes Tour. This tour guides you through Pulaski County to view patriotic sites and memorials dedicated to honoring our country's service members. Access the American Heroes Tour brochure or follow the online version for an enriching experience.


Take the Fun Off-Base Too

There's a lot to do in Pulaski County beyond Fort Leonard Wood! Cast your fishing line into the spring-fed waters of the Big Piney River, the beautiful Roubidoux River, or the swift-flowing Gasconade River. Or, grab a canoe, kayak, or raft and take a float trip down the Pulaski waterways! Float trips are available through multiple outfitters and range from three to 51 miles, but the five to six-mile options are among the most popular.

Route 66 is another popular activity in Pulaski County with plenty of quaint, unique, and wacky stops along the way. Grab the Route 66 Historic Driving Tour brochure for turn-by-turn directions to all the best places and background info.

With its rich history, Route 66 lure, and surrounding outdoor attractions, Pulaski County, Missouri is the perfect place for a weekend getaway. But if that isn’t enough to convince you, one of the best things about the destination is that it’s easy and convenient to get to. Pulaski County is a short driving distance from St. Louis or Kansas City, and there are direct flights from major cities like Nashville and Dallas into the Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport. So, pack your bags for an unforgettable experience!

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