As I mentioned yesterday, the highlight of my recent trip to New Orleans was my visit (with my son Jack) to the greatly expanded World War II Museum. I have visited the museum repeatedly since it was first opened. As someone who continues to study and write on military history, this museum has been a joy to watch expand and improve through the years. It is now the greatest military museum for the greatest generation. It is easily on par with the great museums of Europe like Musée de l’Armée at the Les Invalides in Paris. It should be a point of pride for all Americans in its expanding and unique collection of artifacts and weaponry from World War II. Moreover, it is expanding even further and is now composed of multiple buildings and soon will be joined by The Higgins Hotel & Conference Center along with the massive Bollinger Canopy of Peace that will cover all of the buildings. The result will certainly be a truly unparalleled facility committed to military history.
The National WWII Museum was once known as the National D-Day Museum but quickly exceeded that narrow focus as its acquired more and more material and weaponry as well as the expansion of its campus not far from the French quarter and the banks of the Mississippi. Since its founding on June 6, 2000, the museum gradually added huge buildings to the original Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, including the Solomon Victory Theater, the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion, the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, and the Campaigns of Courage pavilion. It will soon add the Liberation Pavilion.
Your first impression of the museum is overwhelming as you enter the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion and look up at a Supermarine Spitfire and a Douglas C-47 Skytrain. You will then see the LCVP, or “Higgins boat,” which were built in Louisiana.
My personal favorite item is the German 88 — in my view one of the five most impressive weapons of the war. Lethal for tanks, personnel, and aircraft, this verstile weapon caused havoc among allied forces throughout the war. Technically listed as a 8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41 or German Flugzeugabwehrkanone (the origin of the term “Flak”), the 88 could be moved easily and be deployed by a good team in only two and a half minutes.
Jack and I began our tour with the award-winning 4-D film, Beyond All Boundaries, is in the Solomon Victory Theater. It is an amazing experience as real weaponry rises from the stage and environmental changes connect you to the scenes unfolding before you. Tom Hanks does an incredible job as a narrator.
The largest building is currently The Boeing Center, which features B-17E Flying Fortress bomber, a B-25J Mitchell bomber, an SBD-3 Dauntless, a TBF Avenger, a P-51C Mustang, Corsair F4U-4, as well as various smaller pieces and extensive displays.
One of the most intense experience was the program on the final mission of the USS Tang. You are given the identification card of an actual crew member upon entering and you take that person’s station as the final battle of the Tang plays out in the interactive control room. I was fortunate enough to receive the id card for Jesse Da Silva at the torpedo firing control station.
The Tang is one of the most interesting and tragic stories in World War II. It was a Balao-class submarine launched in 1943. It would have a short but glorious career with 33 ships and 116,454 tons sunk by the sub. It was sunk by its own torpedo off China in the Taiwan Strait in October 1944. It was the final torpedo that they had after sinking various ships. The torpedo malfunctioned and did a circular pattern that struck the Tang. Only nine men survived, including Da Silva. The mission featured the only use of the Momsen lung to escape a sunken submarine. It was a powerful story presented in an equally powerful interactive display.
The Road to Berlin and Road to Tokyo collections are amazing, including Messerschmitt Bf 109 that hangs in the building.
From a watch worn by Col. Tibbets on the Enola Gay to material from Kamikaze pilots to rare weaponry, the collection is nothing short of breathtaking. You can even (as we did) stop by the soda shop for a root beer float to make the most of the interactive experience!
If there is one drawback, it is the price for entrance and particular shows. However, that money is going to create something that all Americans point to with justified pride.
This is military history done in the most thoughtful, respectful, and advanced way possible. The World War II Museum has reached its stride and it is not slowing down. You can easily spend the entire day at the museum and this alone is worth a trip to New Orleans. If you have not visited the museum (or you visited more than two years ago as I did), this is an experience that is second to none awaiting you along the banks of the Mississippi.
21 thoughts on “THE GREATEST MUSEUM FOR THE GREATEST GENERATION: A TRIP TO THE NATIONAL WORLD WAR II MUSEUM”
The WW2 Museum is quite the thought provoking compilation of military memorabilia, but I always enjoy remembering the spirit of the warrior and not his artifacts of war. Is a pike so different that a bayonet? A rifle from a crossbow? Greek Fire from a cruise missile? It’s a natural fate of mankind (like all the other animals of Earth) to be swept up in the circumstances of war and self-defense from time-to-time. Martial vigor and the courage from which it flows will always be valued above other human qualities for the honor it bestows on the actor as well as its beneficiary.
In keeping with the WW2 theme, here’s a sentimental and noble depiction of the laying to rest of that Last Lion of The British Isles (as author William Manchester called him) who roamed a country very much different that today when we felt closer to an honorable cosmic force greater than ourselves — and knew how to throw a tribute a Roman would stare at in awe:
Great post. Thanks. I will definitely make the museum on my next trip to Nawlins.
CV Brown – never been to that part of the country. Next big trip is supposed to be New Orleans, so we will be getting closer. We drive everywhere. 😉
Great photos Professor Turley. I will definitely put this on my list. Thanks for sharing.
Truly is a must-visit, bucket list item. Even a full day is not enough if you want to take in all the videos and the movie.
In 1939, the US did not attack Poland. The Nazis got some help from their friends in the Kremlin. Don’t make the Soviets to be innocent bystanders. Before Germany attacked Poland, the Nazis signed a treaty of nonaggression with the communist government in Moscow. Play with dogs and you get fleas.
I visited this museum shortly after its initial opening ( 2000) in 2001 , on September 11.
At that time it was named the D Day Museum.
It seems it has expanded its collection ( by a lot), but at the time that I visited ( somewhat in a daze) there was a good portion of the museum that was dedicated to the Home Front, which, perhaps being a women, I found especially interesting. Hopefully that section as well has increased in its collections, exhibits.
Sacrifices were made throughout society, none more so that the loss of life , injuries suffered by our soldiers, but also at home.
It has been argued that Russia won WWII. As we are all being propagandized to despise Russia I wanted to share this link in hopes that someday each’s nations people will become allies again:
“The Russian V-Day Story (Or The History Of World War II Not Often Heard In The West)
An estimated 17 million civilians, men, women and children, had perished, although no one will ever know the exact figure. Villages and towns were destroyed; families were wiped out without anyone to remember them or mourn their deaths. Ten million or more Soviet soldiers died in the struggle to expel the monstrous Nazi invader and finally to occupy Berlin at the end of April 1945. Red Army dead were left unburied in a thousand places along the routes to the west or in unmarked mass graves, there having been no time for proper identification and burial. Most Soviet citizens lost family members during the war. No one was left unaffected.”
There are no good wars. Humans need to find another way of dealing with conflict than mass slaughter and we need to find it NOW.
Those who have less active testosterone-driven lust for carnage and destruction, would prefer to see museums (not to mention statuary) dedicated to the kindness and compassion many people offer to others.
The Pusillanimous Museum is located in Vichy France inside a quaint old building with a yellow stripe running up its rear exterior. Be sure and catch the Brockenbrough’s Regiment Exhibit in the American Civil War room. It’s in the smallest wing. The Swiss have the biggest presence. Let me know when you’re going.
Many of the 1% crowd thought we should have joined with Germany and fought the Soviet Union.
We need a “No More Wars” international movement, led by the U.S. to lead the world in conflict resolution without resorting to killing people. And more of the public needs to learn the dark truths about U.S. history and it’s leaders in ginning up wars for profit.
Next up is another war for Israel, coming to Iran soon.
Good luck on the “no more wars” international movement. Let me see, how old is humanity? What makes us think that our society can do something that no society before us could do?
I forgot to mention, in light of Dr. Turley’s comment on the high cost of admission and for shows, entry into the NMUSAF is free. There is a nominal cost if you want to view one of their many excellent films in their IMAX Theater.
I visited the WW II Museum many years ago, and agree it’s a great museum for the greatest generation. If you are near SW Ohio, I highly commend to you the National Museum of the USAF on Wright Patterson AFB near Dayton Ohio. It covers the history of flight, from the beginning until today. The displays are extensive, entertaining and highly educational. In additional to its many airframe displays, it also has a wing that covers missiles.
“I am a soldier, I’m a young volunteer
I fly through the air, I’m a brave bombardier
And I shall rain on the people down there
Never their faces I’ll see
We took off, and we rose, and we rose
Until I could see what we all stood to lose
In the Gulf of Oman, or the Strait of Hormuz
Never the faces I’ll see”
Brave Bombardier – Boiled in Lead
“For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! ”
But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot”
Tommy – Rudyard Kipling
I will definitely put this on my list of places to see. Thanks, JT. 🙂
All wars are bankers wars. Don’t believe me, believe the then-all time most decorated US Marine Corp Major General Smedley Butler: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smedley_Butler
Only the wisest men are able to overcome the testosterone driven lust for carnage and destruction.
Chris Bacon – only the wisest men know which territories are worth conquering. 😉
Not wishing to distract from the Museum you have written about, I must, with the greatest of respect (and as someone who has worked for the National Museum of Science & Industry, London and other British museums) disagree with your rating of the National World War II Museum as being comparable with the best of European facilities.
As an example of this, I would urge you to visit the Imperial War Museum, Duxford – just one of IWM’s branches. It is staggering in scope, and also features ‘live action’ every day, to say nothing of its own massive events.I would also recommend the RAF Museum, Cosford as another excellent facility, with its wide array of WW2 aircraft (British, American, German, Japanese) and captured German rockets and missiles; the National Cold War Museum is co-located with these other collections. There are several other Museums in the U.K, to say nothing of others on mainland Europe, which are at this level or above.
Director, Engineering & Airframe Compliance
The People’s Mosquito Ltd
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