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Ottumwa Stories: Celebrating Our Military Connections

Published July 2, 2024

With July being the month of Independence Day, it's a great time to recognize and celebrate the brave men and women who have fought for our country. In Wapello County, we have several military connections for visitors to see and pay tribute to these courageous individuals.

Wapello County Freedom Trail

The Wapello County Freedom Trail is made up of five memorials to those who have served and continue to serve in the United States Armed Forces. Together, the Civil War Soldier in Ottumwa Cemetery, the Wapello County Soldiers' Monument in Central Park, the All Veterans Memorial in Greater Ottumwa Park, the Freedom Rock in front of Bridge View Center and the Iowa Heartland History Connection create a touching and powerful trail through history. 

Civil War Connections

Iowa contributed the highest percentage of its population to the Civil War efforts of any state, and Wapello County proudly preserves several connections to this pivotal time in American history. in addition to the previously mentioned Civil War Soldier and Wapello County Soldiers Monument, visitors can also explore two other monuments in the area. Eddyville is home to the Soldier in the Park, honoring local men who served, and Agency also has a monument dedicated to their community heroes.

Wapello County is also the final resting place of four notable figures from the era. Curtis King, who holds the distinction of being the oldest documented man to serve in the Union Army at 80 years old, is buried along Highway 63. Additionally, the county is honored to be the final resting place of three Medal of Honor recipients.

Museums

In Wapello County, you'll find three museums with military history. The Iowa Heartland History Connection, as mentioned earlier, is home to two military exhibits that highlight the history and local connections of the Korean War and Vietnam Wars. Just north of Ottumwa by the airport, you will find Naval Air Station Ottumwa which served as a training base for naval pilots during WWII. The base has longed been closed but now serves as a museum that preserves the history of the base and naval aviation. West of Ottumwa, you will find the Antique Airfield and Air Power Museum which houses parts, models, and aircraft from various eras of aviation history including both World Wars.

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