Location: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Monday, April 06, 2015

New Orlean's Nat'l WWII Museum Brings the Past to Life

B-17 Liberator
The World War II Museum was the brain child of author and historian Stephan Ambrose.  He had written about D-day and collected countless oral histories from D-Day veterans, Ambrose proposed the idea of a museum in the 1990s to New Orleans community leaders and the project came to fruition in 2000 when it opened as the D-Day Museum.  In 2003 Congress pushed it a step further by naming it the National WWII Museum.  The museum continues to grow, adding structures and exhibits.

Located at the corner of Magazine and Andrew Higgins boulevard in the Central Business District of New Orleans, just a block from the trolley stop at Lee Park, it is within walking distance from the French Quarter and the Art District.

On our recent trip to New Orleans in late March, it was already starting to get muggy in
30-cal water cooled machine gun
“The Big Easy,” so we were pleased to spend two days in this air conditioned museum.  The museum complex is spread out over several buildings.  We spent day-one primarily at the four-story Louisiana Memorial Pavilion which housed the main ticket area, along with displays of a suspended Douglas C-47, a Higgins boat landing craft, and a German anti-aircraft gun in the central atrium.  The upper decks held exhibits of the efforts on the home front, the arsenal of democracy (war footing manufacturing), amphibious invasions, the Pacific, a kiosk where you could hear from Medal of Honor recipients, a gift shop and much, much more. 

With Gen. Teddy Roosevelt Jr.
We concluded the first day by experiencing “Beyond All Boundaries,” a 4-D event located in a Solomon Victory Theater.  The movie is narrated by Tom Hanks.  This was one of the more impressive things we witnessed in our visit, well worth the extra dollars.

Day-two started at the Campaigns of Courage building, a pavilion that is exceedingly well done, dramatizing the personal stories, strategies and struggles of WWII.  “Road to Berlin” is currently open with Road to Tokyo opening in late 2015.

“Road to Berlin” recreates realistic battle scenes starting with Operation Torch (the battle
Sherman Tank
for North Africa), through the Sicilian campaign, up the boot of Italy, and on to the Normandy invasion and beyond.  It covers both the ground and air campaigns.  I was very impressed with the vignette devoted to the Battle of the Bulge; you might want to have a coat on hand when you walk through the Battle of Bulge exhibit as the museum developers realistically simulate the cold winter.

Next we toured static displays on the grass courtyard (loved the Sherman tank); there were men dressed in WWII vintage combat uniforms demonstrating different pieces of equipment.

Finally we ventured into the US Freedom Pavilion, sponsored by Boeing.  A British Spitfire, German Messerschmitt 109, and American Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber, Corsair and P51 Mustang loom suspended from the multistory rafters.  The centerpiece of the exhibit is a B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber and Douglas B-25 Bomber.  These warbirds can be examined from every angle in this multilevel building.

We did not tour it but the USS TANG Experience “Final Mission,” is also located in the Freedom Pavilion.
Other static displays included, bombers, fighters, transports, gliders, jeeps,
Enigma Machine
motorcycles,  trucks, ambulances,  tanks, anti-aircraft guns, artillery, landing craft, crew served weapons (motors and machineguns), anti-tank weapons, rifles and assorted other small arms, uniforms of allies and axis troops from different theaters, communications gear (handi-talkies, PRCs, etc), Norton bomb sights, German Enigma encryption/decryption machines, and various personal effects. The personal histories of the men and women that gave so much to secure our freedom are a must and brings the exhibit to life.  It's well worth your time to listen to their first-hand accounts of barrack’s life to battle fields, armory parades to aerial combat, beach landings to backroom brawls, some humorous, some poignant, some courageous, --- all entertaining.


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