Our first goal to be realized upon our arrival in New Orleans was visiting the World War II Museum…
This museum is huge and you can’t just wander through it glancing at physical artifacts. The amount of detail and information presented is almost overwhelming. We were ‘fortunate’ in a sense as large portions of the museum were closed pending the upcoming opening of expanded and enhanced exhibits. As it was, it took us all afternoon on our day of arrival just to see the portion of the museum that was open for visitors!
The National World War II Museum, (previously known as the National D-Day Museum), is focused on the contribution made by the United States to victory by the Allies in World War II, and the Battle of Normandy in particular. In 2003, it was designated by the U.S. Congress as "America's National World War II Museum". Its mission statement emphasizes the American experience in World War II.
Note: This is just one of the buildings comprising this museum. We were only able to tour the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion. The largest building, the Freedom Pavilion (The Boeing Center) was closed during our visit.
These displays of American and German uniforms and equipment was typical of many of the exhibits that we saw. As you can see in the photo, detailed information is provided for each item shown. (The difference in photo sizes are due to Smart Phone vs. digital camera photos)
Note: We started our tour with a ‘4-D’ film entitled “Beyond All Boundaries” as narrated by Tom Hanks. In addition to the inspiring and realistic film, theater seats shook and flashes of lights erupted during battles, planes were shot down and explosions blasted the audience. The movie tells the tale of the Greatest Generation’s journey from Pearl Harbor into the fire of several epic battles onto America’s final victory in the war. There are many quotes included in the film that are in the words of the veterans themselves. The film is an add-on to visitor’s price of admission but its well worth the money!
Much of the portion of the museum that we were able to view is given over to photos and related stories…mixed in with displays of equipment, medals, and memorabilia. To really appreciate this museum, one must slow down and read…yes actually read the stories that match up with the photos…
This is an interior photo of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion. There is a display of weapons, with a couple of airplanes hanging from the ceiling and there is the “Higgins Boat” shown above. These “Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) boats were landing crafts used extensively in amphibious landings in World War II. More than 20,000 were built and typically they carried a platoon-sized landing party of 36 men.
Aren’t you Curious?? Why is the National World War II Museum located in New Orleans? The city is not usually associated with 20th-century military history. When the museum originally opened as the “D-Day” Museum, it focused on the amphibious invasion of Normandy. Then a second gallery opened which explored the amphibious invasions of the Pacific War. Since the “Higgins Boats” vital to D-Day operations were designed, built, and tested in New Orleans by Higgins Industries, the city was the natural home for such a project. Of equal importance, New Orleans was the home of historian Stephen Ambrose, who spearheaded the effort to build the museum and wrote the book which inspired the miniseries “Band of Brothers”.
The movie “The Imitation Game” is a true story about a mathematician/code breaker who was able to devise a code breaking machine that could decipher the wartime German code system. This is one of the Enigma Machines. An Enigma machine was any of a family of related electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines used in the twentieth century for enciphering and deciphering secret messages. In actuality, Polish mathematicians were the first to break the German enigma codes…causing the Germans to ramp up the complexity of their hardware.
The WW II Museum contains a scattering of weapons ranging from bayonets and daggers to bombers, cannons and tanks. These particular vehicles were on display in the courtyard area next to the Solomon Movie Theater where we viewed the film “Beyond All Boundaries”.
Among the vehicles on display are the M-5A1 Light Tank, an under gunned but fast moving light tank that was used throughout the war; an M-4 Sherman Tank; an M-3 Half-Track troop carrier, and; a jeep with a .50 cal. machine gun towing a pigeon coop/dove cote. Pigeons were still used to send messages during WWII.
We sometimes forget just how big the war effort was… The military equipment production output was stunning! Just for the vehicles shown above, 25,000 M-5A1’s, almost 50,000 M-4’s, over 50,000 M-3’s and over 640,000 Jeeps were produced by the end of the war… As for that 2.5 ton truck shown above, over 800,000 of them were built!
This was one of the strangest exhibits that we saw in the Museum. As you can see from the label in the photo, it’s “Rupert”, D-Day’s smallest soldier!
Early on D-Day morning "Ruperts" would be dropped with several real paratroopers east of the invasion zones. These dummies were dressed in paratrooper uniforms, complete with boots and helmets. To create the illusion of a large airborne drop, the dummies were equipped with recordings of gunfire and exploding mortar rounds. The real troops would supply additional special effects, including flares, chemicals to simulate the smell of exploded shells, and amplified battle sounds. This operation, code-named "Titanic," was designed to distract and confuse German forces while the main airborne forces landed further to the west.
This imaginative mission actually went according to plan. Although one German general did figure out what had happened, another ordered the 12th SS Panzer division to deal with a supposed parachute landing on the coast near Lisieux which was found to consist solely of dummies! Another “Rupert” drop diverted a German Brigade from the 915th Grenadier Regiment and the 352nd German Infantry Division reserve away from the Omaha and Gold beaches as well as the 101st Airborne Divisions drop zones!
The Museum's most poignant exhibits were the personal narrations scattered throughout the facility. In these static or live displays with videos, either the printed word or the actual recording of a service member’s narration of events was presented to the listener. There might be a group of 5 service members or war effort support workers with photos like this shown in an alcove. Visitors can pick and choose which one they’d like to listen to… These exhibits really make the viewer more understanding about what our troops and citizens went through during this horrendous conflict.
As I’ve posted previously, my family was greatly impacted by World War II. My father was killed in action against a German machine gun nest in Czechoslovakia on May 6, 1945…just 2 days before the end of the War in Europe. I was not quite 2 years and 10 months old…
There is a plethora of newspaper headlines scattered throughout the National WW II Museum. These headlines and articles cover everything from wartime production, to battles won and lost, invasions, political ramifications and of course, finally to the Allied victory in both Europe and the Pacific. This seemed like an appropriate ending photo for this posting...
Here are some cold miserable statistics to consider. These are the actual or estimated deaths for some nations as the result of WWII:
· 413,000 US military personnel and civilians.
· 495,000 British military personnel and civilians.
· 595,000 French military personnel and civilians.
· Up to 3,120,000 Japanese military personnel and civilians.
· 5,700,000 million Polish military personnel and civilians.
· Up to 10,500,000 German military personnel and civilians.
· Up to 20,000,000 Chinese military personnel and civilians.
· Up to 28,000,000 Russian military personnel and civilians.
· 6,000,000 European Jews died in the Holocaust during the War.
The total estimate of war related deaths as the result of World War II ranges up to 85,000,000! By way of comparison, that is the equivalent of the current total populations of California, Texas and Florida, our 3 most populous states...
The National World War II museum is a must when visiting New Orleans. It certainly isn’t “party central” like the city can be, but it is vital to the understanding of American and world history. To learn more about this museum and to buy tickets, you can go to http://nationalww2museum.org/. To paraphrase General McArthur, "We shall return!"
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for joining us on a brief tour of this important museum!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave