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Preview – National World War II Museum

The Nawlins Connection
The Big Easy Is Home to the National World War II Museum, Which Features an Array of Firearms, Vehicles, and State-of-the-Art Exhibits

Dedicated to the Greatest Generation, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans chronicles the story of the American G.I. during the Second World War. It features galleries devoted to D-Day, the war at home, and the war in the Pacific through artifacts, personal tales, and even cutting-edge technology.

When it first opened on June 6, 2000, on the 56th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the National D-Day Museum — as it was then known — initially focused on the amphibious invasion of Normandy. The choice of New Orleans as the site for the facility was seen as odd by some, considering it’s known more for its food, music, and nightlife than World War II. On the topic of war history, most would connect the Big Easy with the Battle of New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812 or as the first major occupied southern city during the American Civil War.

WW II WeaponsAmerican Lee Light Tank

However, the city does have a strong link to the Second World War, and most notably the Normandy invasion. The Higgins boats, which were vital to the D-Day operations, were designed, built, and tested in New Orleans by Higgins Industries — this was the crucial piece in determining a home for the project. Moreover, New Orleans was the home of noted historian Stephen Ambrose, who had spearheaded efforts to push for the construction of the museum. With such ties, and the fact that the United States had no official World War II Museum, New Orleans seemed an ideal spot.

Like Time Travel
Located in the Central Business District, the facility was designated by the U.S. Congress in 2003 as “America’s National World War II Museum.” Today it maintains a lasting affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution. It also endured tragedy, as it — like much of the region — was affected by Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans in the fall of 2005. As a result, the museum was actually closed for more than two months. When the museum reopened, officials proclaimed, “We Have Returned,” evoking General Douglas MacArthur and his vow and eventual return to the Philippines.

Visiting the attraction is akin to stepping back in time. The main hall’s current collection features World War II-era vehicles, such as a U.S. Army Jeep and Half-Track. From the ceiling hang several aircraft, including a Supermarine Spitfire, Messerschmitt Bf 109, and a Douglas C-47 Skytrain — the latter being the main transport aircraft that was used to deliver paratroopers to Normandy on D-Day.

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