By Robert G. Segel
Located in the beautiful and historic city of New Orleans, Louisiana, this museum originally opened as the National D-Day Museum on June 6, 2000, the 56th anniversary of the invasion of Europe in World War II. Its focus was that monumental time when the Allied forces mounted the largest invasion ever and in particular the Battle of Normandy. In 2003, it was designated by the U.S. Congress as America’s National World War II Museum. While still having a large focal point on D-Day, the museum has expanded its exhibits to encompass the larger picture of World War II by the contribution of the United States and its Allies to the victory in Europe and the Pacific.
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. It celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and the Home Front.
The Museum closed for three months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005, re-opening on December 3 of that year. A museum banner promoted this re-opening by proclaiming “We Have Returned,” a phrase the banner juxtaposed with the classic World War II photograph of General Douglas MacArthur striding through the surf on his return to the Philippines.
In 2009, the museum began a $300 million expansion that, when complete, will create a six-acre campus of exhibition pavilions. Already completed as of last November is The Solomon Victory 4-D Theater, the Stage Door Canteen and the American Sector restaurant. Still to come are the Campaigns, U.S. Freedom, Liberation and Restoration pavilions to be completed by 2015.
While this museum is not an “arms” museum, it does display the general arms as used in World War II by both the Allies and the Axis powers. The Museum’s Collection contains an impressive array of military uniforms, weaponry, medals, artwork and personal items of the war such as photos, correspondence and mementos. While many of these items are on display, others are currently housed in the Collections vault for future permanent and special exhibitions.
The museum consists of three floors. The ground floor has the main gallery entrance with a large atrium that displays hanging from the ceiling a C-47 that took part in the Normandy invasion, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Varsity as well as a German Me 109, and a British Spitfire. There is also a display of some military vehicles including a Stuart tank and a Jeep with a Browning .50 cal. mounted on its pintle. The ground floor also houses the coffee shop and the museum store.
The second floor exhibits begin with the Prelude to War and continues with The Road to War, America Goes to War, the Home Front and a display on the Higgins boats, which were built in New Orleans. Continuing on the second floor, the exhibits cover the war in the Pacific with War in the Pacific Begins, The Battle of Midway, a multimedia Pacific D-Day timeline, the Tools of War, and the Atomic Bomb.
The third floor covers the Planning for D-Day and Hitler’s Atlantic Wall with exhibits of Fortress Europe, The Tools of War, The Commanders, A Bodyguard of Lies, The GIs in Britain and Nightdrop into Normandy. This is followed by exhibits of D-Day: The Beaches, D-Day: The Aftermath, From Normandy to Berlin and The Nazis Quit.
The museum is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mardi Gras Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Entrance to the museum is free. No flash or video photography is allowed and no tripods are allowed in the museum galleries.
The National World War II Museum
945 Magazine Street (entrance on Andrew Higgins Drive)
New Orleans, LA 70130
Phone: (504) 528-1944
Fax: (504) 527-6088
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V13N11 (August 2010)|