This week, I was in my old stomping grounds of New Orleans. I still hold a huge amount of affection for the city where I lived and taught as a member of the Tulane Law School. No matter how short a trip is, I always make it over to the World War II museum. As many on this blog know, I am a military history buff and the museum is nothing short of a pilgrimage. I consider it not just a must-see destination in New Orleans, but the finest military museum in the world. Every time I visit, there is a new exhibit or an entirely new building.
There is a new building being constructed that will hold a rotating theater, a collection on the concentration camps and Anne Frank, and other features. When completed, there will also be a laser show outside that uses the side of the building as a backdrop, including being able to sit through a Bob Hope show from the war.
One new display is the The Real Image of War: Steichen and Ford in the Pacific. It features the camera and films of the war. World War II featured some of the bravest and more most accomplished photographers in history, often men who followed the first wave of landing forces into the meat grinders of Iwo Jima, Normandy, and other battles. Two of the most famous were Edward Steichen and John Ford. Ford was not a combat photographer but applied his genius to creating documentaries and films on the war.
There is a new striking sculpture in front of the museum showing young pilots at a mission briefing next to the piece of the Atlantic War (pock-marked by bullets from Normandy). There is also a new hotel operated by the Hilton (the proceeds go to the Museum’s educational fund).
The collection of the museum is so large that, despite numerous trips, I never fail to find something new. I am often thrilled to see a German 88 up close (one of the most fearful and lethal weapons of the war).
However, it is the little items that often leave the greatest impression like the wrist watches worn by men who stormed Normandy or other beaches. Then there is a small beautiful vase that somehow survived the Nagasaki bomb that still shows blast burns or the small bottles melted in the horrific heat.
This museum an American jewel that can all be proud of. That is a pride not only for what our countrymen achieved in this war but how we have preserved their stories and history. So, trust me, do not leave New Orleans without giving yourself a day to enjoy the World War II museum.