Offering a compelling blend of sweeping narrative and poignant personal detail, the National World War II Museum features immersive exhibits, multimedia experiences, and an expansive collection of artifacts and first-person oral histories, taking visitors inside the story of the war that changed the world, New Orleans, Louisiana
The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world — why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today — so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Offering a compelling blend of sweeping narrative and poignant personal detail, the National World War II Museum features immersive exhibits, multimedia experiences, and an expansive collection of artifacts and first-person oral histories, taking visitors inside the story of the war that changed the world. Beyond the galleries, the Museum’s online collections, virtual field trips, webinars, educational travel programs, and renowned International Conference on World War II offer patrons new ways to connect to history and honor the generation that sacrificed so much to secure our freedom.
Why is the D-Day museum – which became the National World War II Museum — in New Orleans? Because as President Dwight D. Eisenhower stated to Dr. Stephen E. Ambrose, noted World War II historian, author and professor at the University of New Orleans: “Andrew Jackson Higgins is the man who won the war for us. Without Higgins designed boats that could land over open beaches the whole strategy of the war would have to be rethought.” Fact: in September 1943 — the very middle of the war — the American navy totaled 14,072 vessels. Of these boats 12,964, or 92% of the entire U.S. Navy were designed by Higgins industries; 8,865 were built at Higgins plants in New Orleans. By wars end 20,094 boats had been built by 30,000 new Orleanians at the seven Higgins plants in New Orleans. This explains why the National World War II Museum is located in New Orleans.
Founding of the National World War II Museum: Stephen Ambrose, (1936-2002) PhD, inspired and guided the early development of The National D-Day Museum with his close friend, Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, a colleague in the History Department at the University of New Orleans and Vice Chancellor of the University. Ambrose’s role as founder of the institution that would later become The National WWII Museum was strengthened in many ways by his celebrity as a bestselling historian who was sought after as a speaker and film consultant.
“Ambrose’s work for the Eisenhower Center, specifically his work with D-Day veterans, inspired him to found the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans [with Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller]. Ambrose initiated fundraising by donating $500,000. He dreamt of a museum that reflected his deep regard for our nation’s citizen soldiers, the workers on the Home Front and the sacrifices and hardships they endured to achieve victory. He secured large contributions from the federal government, state of Louisiana, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and many smaller donations from former students, who answered a plea made by Ambrose in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. In 2003, Congress designated the museum as ‘America’s National World War II Museum’, acknowledging an expanded scope and mission for the museum.” — Wikipedia
An anti-aircraft gun from World War II in the lobby of the The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
A small group of us had an insider’s opportunity to visit the museum when we were in New Orleans, starting with breakfast in the museum’s Stage Door Canteen on the premises, followed by a presentation on the founding and operations of the museum by President and CEO, Stephen Watson, plus insights into the exhibits by a senior historian. Before visiting the exhibitions, we began our immersion in World War II history with a screening of the museum’s award-winning 4-D film, Beyond All Boundaries – produced and narrated by Tom Hanks — in the Solomon Victory Theater. The movie gave us an overview of the war on every front. Next we toured the Arsenal of Democracy Galleries where the exhibition gave us insight into the monumental efforts on the Home Front in America and to the beaches of Normandy – focusing on the thousands of men and women who made the Allied Forces victory in World War II possible. To understand the timeline and decisive strategies and battles of the War in the Pacific, we then toured the Road to Tokyo exhibition in the Campaigns of Courage Pavilion (alternatively, some in our group toured the Road to Berlin exhibition). We ended our visit to the museum with a curated tour of the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center filled with tanks, trucks and WW II Airplanes, along with photographs of all of the nearly 500 U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor recipients for their service in World War II.
Throughout his presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke directly to the public using informal radio speeches or “Fireside Chats”; addressing listeners as “my friends,“ Roosevelt provided news of Allied military progress and setbacks, inspiring Americans and keeping them united; The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
While the message conveyed in this 1942 propaganda poster is that racial unity is necessary for victory, African American workers often experienced discrimination and inequality, The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
As industry began mobilizing for war, many factories continued to refuse to hire African American workers. Under pressure from civil rights leaders, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 on June 25, 1941. Hailed as the first federal action to promote equal employment opportunity, the order banned racial discrimination in defense industries. This allowed many black Americans to move and find jobs in growing industrial areas around the country. With economic opportunity, however, came conflict. While some African Americans were welcomed in their new communities, others became victims of racial violence and rioting.
Part of the exhibition on World War II in the Pacific Ocean arena, The Road to Tokyo, this ship’s bridge and navigation equipment had introductory movies playing on the window screens, The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
Guadalcanal, part of the Solomon Islands, was the first major island (land) offensive by the Allied Forces, led by the United States, to stop the Japanese in their march across the Pacific Ocean to the southeast to take Australia – the expected short battle in the summer of 1942 ended up lasting 6 months until February 1943, The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana; see our blog post on the Island from our visit there in 2017: “The Guadalcanal WW II Campaign, Guadalcanal Island, Solomon Islands”
The battle at Iwo Jima was another milestone battle in Admiral Halsey’s strategy of island hopping across the north Pacific Ocean from Midway to Tokyo; the photograph of six United States Marines raising a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945 became one of the iconic images of the war; The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
Some of the World War II airplanes in the collection of The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana, on display in the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, which is the now largest building on the museum campus, having opened in 2013 (paid for by a major grant from Boeing Company along with a then larger grant from the U.S. Department of Defense with Congressional approval)
The F4U Corsair first entered combat in 1943 and gave Allied naval aviators a winning edge against their opponents.; renowned for its speed, ruggedness and fire power, the Corsair excelled as both a fighter and an attack aircraft supporting ground forces; the F4U-4 variant, with its more powerful engine, was the ultimate corsair to see service during World War II, The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
The Tuskegee Airmen — the popular name of a group of African American military pilots (fighter and bomber) who formed the 32nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces – flew these P-52 Mustangs; when the pilots painted the tails red, the nickname “Red Tails” was coined; The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
Dive-bombing requires exquisite maneuverability and accuracy to fly at steep trajectory and hit a moving target; the Douglas SBD Dauntless, the Navy’s primary dive-bomber at the war’s start, earned its reputation — and helped earn victory — at the 1942 battle of Midway, sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers; by some accounts, the Dauntless sank more Japanese ships than any other plane; The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
The B-17E is the airplane dubbed “My Gal Sal”, famous for having been lost over Greenland and recovered 53 years later, The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
A portion of the two walls of the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center that displays photographic portraits of all of the nearly 500 U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor recipients for their service in World War II, The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
General Douglas MacArthur’s fervent wish for the future, at the end of the fighting in the Pacific Theater that ended World War II, The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
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