Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Travel with Terri to the National World War II Museum

The National WWII Museum, in New Orleans, Louisiana, tells the story of the American experience in “the war that changed the world” — why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today — so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, the institution celebrates the American spirit, teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. This is Tripadvisor’s #1 New Orleans attraction!

Clifton Lee Byrd, my dad.
U.S. Merchant Marines

We absolutely loved this magnificent museum. As we were reminded of so much and learned even more details and facts of this devastating war, we were humbled by the countless sacrifices made by millions around the world; it was truly a sobering experience! Every exhibit and display is just remarkable. We toured the Museum one day and were disappointed we didn’t see it all, so decided to go back a second day. I particularly enjoyed the Merchant Marine exhibit and learning more about what my father possibly experienced as a Merchant Marine crewman in WWII. And what it was like after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. That’s when my uncle was drafted and later became part of the Flying Tigers. My husband Ron, a former USAF Fighter Pilot and Top Gun, was impressed by the amazing aviation exhibit. It’s all so very captivating!

It’s very apparent that WWII history has become a larger part of the nation’s fabric, spurring the expansion of The National WWII Museum; and the Museum’s continued transformation into one of the premier cultural and educational institutions in the world.

On March 29 of this year, the National WWII Museum dedicated the George H.W. Bush Aviation Gallery, featuring a collection of six fully restored, iconic WWII aircraft suspended in the airspace of US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Originally opened in 2013, the gallery now serves as a prominent and lasting tribute to WWII veteran, Texan and former President Bush.

Among the aircraft on dramatic display in the George H.W. Bush Aviation Gallery is a General Motors TBM Avenger like the one Bush flew as one of the youngest pilots in the US Navy during World War II. While fighting off the Japanese island of Chichijima on September 2, 1944, Bush was the only survivor after his aircraft was shot down by enemy fire. He survived for hours in the ocean until he was rescued by an American submarine. He ultimately flew 58 combat missions, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals before he was honorably discharged in September 1945.

Throughout his distinguished service to our country as a former US representative, vice president, president and diplomat, Bush remained dedicated to the values of the WWII generation and was an early champion of The National WWII Museum. The Museum’s bond with President Bush dates to the early 1990s, when Bush agreed to serve on an honorary board of national figures supporting the initial development of the Museum. The vision of University of New Orleans professors Dr. Stephen Ambrose and Dr. Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller to build such an institution was years away from being realized, and the imprimatur of a former US president — and US Navy WWII combat veteran — was a powerful endorsement!

The George H.W. Bush Aviation Gallery is one of the Museum’s most striking and awe-inspiring displays. Located in the airspace of the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, the gallery features a fleet of warbirds that proved vital to the American war effort, including a B-17E Flying Fortress, B-25J Mitchell, SBD-3 Dauntless, P-51D Mustang and Corsair F4U-4. The aircraft are dramatically suspended from the ceiling with three tiers of viewing, offering a close-up look at America’s ultimate air superiority during World War II.

The expanded campus now includes the Solomon Victory Theater, featuring the Tom Hanks-narrated 4D experience Beyond All Boundaries (opened in 2009); the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center (2013); the Campaigns of Courage pavilion (2015) housing its signature Road to Tokyo and Road to Berlin exhibits; Arsenal of Democracy (2017), a major exhibit on the Home Front in the Louisiana Memorial PavilionThe Higgins Hotel & Conference Center (2019); and the Hall of Democracy pavilion (2019), which houses the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy and the innovative WWII Media and Education Center. And now…the George H.W. Bush Aviation Gallery (2022).

The next addition and tribute to all service members will take place this Veterans Day, November 11, 2022.  The National WWII Museum has announced a groundbreaking future addition to its campus: Expressions of America, a first-of-its-kind nighttime sound and light experience celebrating the power of individual Americans to impact the world around them during a time of monumental conflict.

Available exclusively at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans starting on Veterans Day 2022, Expressions of America will immerse audiences in written words, songs and personal reflections of the everyday men and women who served our country in every way imaginable during World War II. Generously presented by the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation, Expressions of America will uniquely combine the latest outdoor projection technology with wartime letters and oral histories from the Museum’s collection to allow audiences to experience the stories of the WWII generation like never before.

Expressions of America will dramatically transform how today’s visitors connect to the men and women who served during World War II,” said Stephen J. Watson, Museum President and CEO. We are so grateful to the Hope Foundation for sharing our vision and investing in such an innovative experience that will place audiences in the center of historical moments alongside individuals just like them who helped shape the world we live in today.”

 The Museum will always stand as a ‘salute’ to those Americans who died in the fight for our freedom as well as those who came home and built our country into the richest and freest nation on earth!

And…I cannot recommend this museum enough. Every American should see this national treasure!

The History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, started out by honoring only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, including World War IIThe Vietnam WarThe Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date General Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

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