A world-class museum focused on the stories and heroics of a bitter global war
We are approaching a time when only a few people who served in World-War II and even those who were children at the time are elderly. So, with this generation leaving us what is the context of a museum dedicated to this war. Well, as with all history there are hopefully lessons we can learn from past mistakes and successes. Sadly, looking at what is happening in the world today humanity seems to forget all too easy its part errors.
Anyway, what took me to the World-War II museum is my love of history. When I was at school in the UK I spent many months studying the wars of the 20th Century – particularly World-War I and II. So, I was curious as to how this museum would deal with this subject – would it be just a celebration of the contribution of the United States?
A Dakota hanging from the ceiling of the lobby of the National World War II Museum
Once you have bought your entry ticket you are given a dog tag and boarded upon a train carriage. The carriage doesn’t move, just made to feel too, and there is a short movie that runs on a screen on the back of the seat in front of you that introduces you to the museum. Here you are introduced to the person who’s journey you follow throughout the museum using the dog tag (there are several stations to explore his or her story en route).
The museum is made up of a complex of buildings. The first building is dedicated to the build-up to the war, the mobilization inside the US and the D-Day landings.
There was one display that really caught my eye it covered the role of minorities who bravely fought in the US forces, despite being treated as second class citizens at home and the shocking internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps.
To access the rest of the halls you have to cross the street via a sky bridge. There are two major exhibitions covering the war in the Pacific and war in Europe. These galleries are extremely well done with a focus on multimedia displays and tableaux of scenes from each theatre of war. I loved it. I especially loved the journey through the war in the Pacific. When I studied World-War II in school, in the UK, it obviously had a strong focus on Europe so I hadn’t learned a lot about Pacific theatre – I have read books and seen films but this exhibition really helped me understand how the war developed in this region leading the devastating nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Well, that was all very intense. Moving on from these two major exhibits I went to check out the gallery sponsored by Boeing, which is of course focused primarily on aircraft (there is oddly a submarine exhibit here too). This galley is used for functions, indeed it was being set up for one when I toured, so most of the exhibits are suspended in the air above. Quite fitting for a display of aircraft! Anyway, you are not restricted to viewing these classic flying machines looking towards the sky – there are two levels of walkways (those suffering from vertigo beware) that take you in and above the planes.
This museum is fantastic if you are a lover of history – particularly 20th-century history. The displays are well constructed and there is a great balance of information panels and multimedia displays. I did have concerns that there would be a “bigging” up of America’s role in the war – but it did feel well balanced and didn’t demean Germany or Japan. It really was a dispassionate representation of the facts – at least I felt that way. So, if you have a few hours to spare when you are in New Orleans definitely check this place out.