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VFW Magazine November/December 2016 : Page-20

TELLS STORY OF GI New Orleans’ premier museum is one of a kind and promises to be in the spotlight over the next four 75th anniversary years. Be sure to visit it during VFW’s 2017 national convention in the “Big Easy.” B y C harles l. l andon Photos courtesy National World War II Museum NATIONAL WWII MUSEUM F ounder Stephen Ambrose’s vision to tell the story of WWII through the words of the actual participants is clearly realized in this enterprise of history. Beyond All Boundaries: The War That Changed the World, a 4-D film narrated by producer Tom Hanks, dramatically introduces the visitor to the 20th century’s epic struggle in The Solomon Victory Theater. From there, it is one step of fascination after another. The heart and soul of the museum is Campaigns of Courage, a pavilion that pro-vides a chronological overview of World War II from the American perspective. It covers every campaign in pictorial splendor and lets the veterans of the battles tell what really happened. Only a personal visit to the museum can truly reveal its wonders. But hopefully the pictorial and visitor comments that follow will stimulate your interest and whet your appetite for much more. A ‘MUST-SEE’ DESTINATION Here are some observations made by visitors about the museum. “What I liked most was absolutely the movie [Beyond All Boundaries], ” said Rickey Garner. “It made me feel proud and patriotic. The special effects from the Submarine Experience [see Facts at a Glance ] made you feel as if you were there. The life-size images and the oral histories throughout the galleries made the museum come alive.” Larry Nilles also was “impressed with the film. It presented a thorough under-20 • VFW  • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016

National WWII Museum Tells Story Of GI

Charles L. Landon

New Orleans’ premier museum is one of a kind and promises to be in the spotlight over the next four 75th anniversary years. Be sure to visit it during VFW’s 2017 national convention in the “Big Easy.”

Founder Stephen Ambrose’s vision to tell the story of WWII through the words of the actual participants is clearly realized in this enterprise of history.

Beyond All Boundaries: The War That Changed the World, a 4-D film narrated by producer Tom Hanks, dramatically introduces the visitor to the 20th century’s epic struggle in The Solomon Victory Theater. From there, it is one step of fascination after another.

The heart and soul of the museum is Campaigns of Courage, a pavilion that provides a chronological overview of World War II from the American perspective. It covers every campaign in pictorial splendor and lets the veterans of the battles tell what really happened.

Only a personal visit to the museum can truly reveal its wonders. But hopefully the pictorial and visitor comments that follow will stimulate your interest and whet your appetite for much more.

A ‘MUST-SEE’ DESTINATION

Here are some observations made by visitors about the museum. “What I liked most was absolutely the movie [Beyond All Boundaries],” said Rickey Garner. “It made me feel proud and patriotic. The special effects from the Submarine Experience [see Facts at a Glance] made you feel as if you were there. The life-size images and the oral histories throughout the galleries made the museum come alive.”

Larry Nilles also was “impressed with the film. It presented a thorough under standing of why the war happened. I really liked how the exhibit on the island-hopping campaigns explained the sequence of events. The oral histories were super, powerful.”

Merrily Nilles “liked how the war was described in detail in the Pacific Theater gallery. And the movie was convincing and very credible. The special effects were impressive but secondary to the content. The museum is well done and enables a visitor to ‘live’ the war.”

Several of the same features of the museum were cited repeatedly by visitors.

“The movie followed by the real life Submarine Experience left me most impressed,” said Karen Condon. “The oral histories were fascinating but might be presented differently. For instance, if they could be somehow more animated.”

Of the six visitors I spoke with, only Dale Garner was alive during WWII.

He was 11 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Growing up on a farm in Mississippi, he said his parents did not discuss the war much. Perhaps because it was too painful.

“Three of my cousins were killed in WWII,” Garner emotionally recalled. “One was aboard the USS Missouri in 1945, so I have a personal connection to the museum. It is well done, but it would be interesting to know precisely what schoolchildren derive from visiting.”

One universal critique did emerge from the discussion: the lack of emphasis on Pearl Harbor. Gerry Massa, a Cold War Navy vet whose father served as a Navy corpsman in the Philippines and China (1943-45), best expressed this disappointment.

“Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor, after all, was why America entered the war,” Massa said. “Yet it is downplayed in the Road to Tokyo. I expected a big display. On the other hand, in the Dropping the Bomb exhibit, giant photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki cover entire walls along with four panels on fire bombings of Tokyo.”

Massa believes that more balance is called for.

“Not only should Pearl Harbor be much further explained, but a prominent display on U.S. Pacific war casualties [156,283 killed, including 10,650 POWs] should appear in the section on Surrender—a chart by battle to bring home the magnitude of the American sacrifice,” he said. “An enlarged photo of a U.S. cemetery in the Pacific as a backdrop would be a nice touch. There appears to be plenty of wall space for such a display.

“Otherwise, a visitor walks away with a skewed view of the Pacific war, one emphasizing the destruction of the atomic bombings.”

Still, Massa, like everyone else, wholeheartedly agreed that a visit to the National World War II Museum is a “must” for every American who wants to understand the war.

“To meet the future expectations of all visitors, expansion is continuing apace,” said Owen Glendening, associate vice president of education & access at the museum. “A large-scale capital campaign is underway.”

An Omaha Beach exhibit on the soon to- be Founders Plaza is under construction along with a Canopy of Peace. In June 2017, The Arsenal of Democracy, featuring an exhibit on the home front, will be completed. A Liberation Pavilion focusing on the war’s immediate aftermath should be finished in 2018-19.

Also, a hotel and parking garage are on the horizon, he said.

“We look forward to seeing VFW members in July,” said Michelle Moore, museum public relations manager.

WWII Museum Facts at a Glance

• Location: New Orleans was selected because it was the headquarters of Higgins Industries, manufacturer of the amphibious boats used to land troops on European and Pacific beaches.

• Opened: June 6, 2000, as the National D-Day Museum. Congressionally designated National WWII Museum in 2004 and name officially changed in 2006.

• Founders: Historian Stephen Ambrose (he died in 2002) and current museum President & CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, then-vice chancellor of the University of New Orleans.

• Size: 6 acres. 265,000 sq. ft . Currently, including exhibits, theater, restaurant and support facilities; 67,000 sq. ft . Of new construction to be completed by 2018, including two new pavilions and office/retail space in parking complex.

• Visitors: 678,000 in FY2016. More than 5 million since opening in June 2000.

• Cost to Date: $215 million for collections and fixed assets (including construction costs). This total includes $30 million provided by Congress.

• Ranking: No. 1 attraction in New Orleans and No. 3 among the nation’s most visited museums in 2015, according to TripAdvisor.

• Pavilions: Louisiana Memorial; U.S. Freedom: The Boeing Center, John E. Kushner Restoration; Campaigns of Courage—European and Pacific Theater Galleries; and the Solomon Victory Theater Complex. The Liberation Pavilion will be finished in 2018-19.

• Contents: 19 galleries, 190,000 artifacts and 8,800 personal accounts.

• Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters. 32,512 total square feet. Cost $35 million.

Road to Tokyo: 10 Pacific Theater galleries displaying 412 artifacts. 10,300 square feet of exhibit space on second floor.

Opened Dec. 12, 2015.

Road to Berlin: 9 European Theater galleries displaying 380 artifacts. 8,700 square feet of exhibit space on the first floor.

Opened Dec. 13, 2014.

Dog Tag Experience: an interactive exhibit that allows a visitor to relive the war through the experiences of an individual participant.

American Spirit Bridge: Connects the original museum building with the expanded campus, including the Merchant Marine Gallery.

Special Features: Final Mission: USS Tang Submarine Experience in the U.S. Freedom Pavilion. Simulates the torpedoing of the sub.

• Founders Plaza and the Bollinger Canopy of Peace will be completed in early 2017.

• Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George Brown Salute to the Home Front exhibit will be completed in 2017.

Read the full article at http://digitaledition.qwinc.com/article/National+WWII+Museum+Tells+Story+Of+GI/2600824/343594/article.html.

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