Military Museum owner thinking about Ukraine

Bill Sniffin

Wyoming’s foremost military historian hosted the grand opening of his massive 140,000 square foot museum south of Dubois Saturday – but he couldn’t help thinking of the Russia invasion of Ukraine.

Dan Starks is proud of his new museum which might be the best museum in the world in detailing how World War II was won and how the Korean and Vietnam Wars were fought. 

The crowd of 5,000 that showed up for the grand opening of the National Museum of Military Vehicles was thrilled by what they experienced.

Perhaps the main message expressed at his museum is how American manufacturing ultimately made it impossible for any other country to triumph over the USA during World
War II. 

And that causes Starks to keep thinking about the war in Ukraine. 

“Today when we look at that history of 75 years ago – of course, we should have intervened earlier back then. Too bad we waited too long. Eventually that war took over everything,” he said. 

“And now it’s another thing to have the exact same thing happening right in front of our faces,” he said. “It is instructive to remind people today that everything seems so difficult to find the best policy in the face of Putin. Well, just imagine the exact same question back then with Japan and Hitler?” 

A primary focus of his museum is how American manufacturing was our secret weapon in winning World War II.  Now Starks worries that we have lost that edge. He said he has heard that we are sending 7,000 of our 21,000 supply of Stinger missiles to Ukraine. “We have no way to build any more of them. These were built in 2002.”

But last Saturday all eyes were focused on the museum. There were tank rides, a shooting gallery with really big guns, some ceremonial events, a Black Hawk helicopter, five food trucks plus Gov. Mark Gordon and the first lady Jennie. 

The museum hosts the largest private collection of military vehicles in the world. Starks and his wife Cynthia have been collecting these for years. The way the equipment is displayed tells the amazing stories about World II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, too.

When it was first announced, the National Museum of Military Vehicles was viewed as one of Wyoming’s next great museums. Now that it is open, it is obviously much more than that. It is one of America’s great museums. 

The $100 million museum had to postpone its grand opening because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Founders Dan and Cynthia Starks have self-funded the project entirely on their own. 

They are passionate about how the United States won World War II.  During one of the rare tours that he presents, Dan starts off his narrative by describing the state of the American military at the start of World War II.

“We just lost most of our ships in Pearl Harbor,” he says. “Our Pacific army was in the Philippines. Pretty soon, the Japanese bombed the heck out of them and forced them into surrender. We lost 75,000 of our finest young men,”
he said.

“Across the other ocean in North Africa, we joined the British in an attempt to attack the German General Rommel.  He routed us. Rommel captured 183 American tanks and just destroyed our expeditionary force. We retreated over 50 miles to get away from the Germans, leaving all of our equipment behind. It was a disaster.”

But from that lowly beginning, Starks said, America figured out a game plan to defeat enemies at two fronts, the Germans in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific. How they did it is described in great detail in his new museum. 

Starks has huge murals detailing how America used its vast manufacturing capability to gradually provide enough tanks, trucks, airplanes, and other items to keep a 12 million-member Army supplied. Plus, the USA was supplying other countries like Russia, Britain, and Australia. Examples of all this are on display at the museum.

Starks, 67, who is not a veteran, has such a high degree of respect for those who served that he sees this project as his life work. 

Besides the main museum facility, the Starks built a large building just off Main Street in Dubois to hold many of their vehicles and to be a shop to keep them running. Cynthia has also built a bowling alley, arcade, and bakery in downtown Dubois. 

“We love Wyoming. This is our great adventure,” Starks concluded. 


Bill Sniffin is a retired newspaper publisher who has penned a number of books about Wyoming. Check out additional columns written by Bill at, and find volumes from his coffee table book series, which have sold over 30,000 copies, for sale at the News Letter Journal.


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