When Steve and I began plans for my trip, he asked if there were things I wanted to do; places I wanted to re-visit; or explore for the first time. My immediate reply was “The World War II Museum”. Asking if he thought my grandsons, Tucker and Max, would want to go with me he said he wasn’t sure about Tucker, but that Tucker would be my assigned chauffer while I was visiting and could take me. He thought Max would love to go. Much to my surprise when I spoke with both boys they were eager to go with me!
Monday, July 14th the three of us set out in Tucker’s truck under threatening skies for the corner of Andrew Higgins Boulevard and Magazine Street where the museum is located. After parking a few drops of rain began falling and I thought, it’s going to be another hot humid day in New Orleans and I, for one, was glad we were going to be inside! Plus, since it was a Monday and raining, there shouldn’t be too many tourists.
Across the street, there it stood! Homage to all whose lives were lost or fought to insure freedom……… a repository of history, life’s tragedies, stories recorded, and items preserved so that the deadliest war in history would never be forgotten.
The museum, which was opened on June 6, 2000, consists of three buildings. It is currently the most visited attraction in New Orleans. The Liberation Pavilion is not open to the public at this time but will have three floors dedicated to the closing months of the war and the post war years.
We briefly met Steve, who was having a business meeting at The American Sector Restaurant, a Chef John Besh restaurant where he puts his twist on American food. Steve greeted us and soon after left as his associates arrived. He looked dapper in his tan summer suit. Max commented he was the only one in the group not wearing a dark suit. Tucker said we would now get to see Steve working in “business mode” rather than his “Dad” role and laughed! This was going to be a fun day!
After a delicious meal we set off to explore the three buildings that comprise the museum and to purchase tickets for the museum and the movie Beyond All Boundaries. The movie would not start for another hour so we had time to explore the U. S. Freedom Pavilion/The Boeing Center and the Gift Shop.
The Boeing Center has displays of the B17, B25, B24, TBM Avenger, F4U Corsair, Mustang 51 and Sherman tanks. I am sorry to say that due to the number of visitors, taking good photos would have been difficult therefore some of the ones below are from www.wikipedia.com.
Crossing the street to the next exhibits we discover this German Air Raid Shelter which looks as if it would be too small for an average size person.
Once inside, we discover veterans of World War II located at tables in intervals around the bottom floor eager to share their experiences and roles in the war. Stop and visit and they will enlighten you with photos, maps and their first hand knowledge of particular campaigns. There is also the Train Car Experience which depicts farewells and returns of soldiers and their families.
Upstairs is a maze and so much to see, not only from the United States but other countries as well. Rifles, handguns, uniforms, rations, tires, personal histories on tape, letters home, and so much more that I cannot even begin to share it all with you. In fact I can’t due to not being able to get into some areas for the other people there.
Soon it was time to enter The Solomon Victory Theater, home to Beyond All Boundaries, a 4 D movie narrated by Tom Hanks. I have to say that normally I do not like 3 D movies and was anxious about sitting through this one but I must add that it was the most spectacular thing I have experienced in many years! Of course the theater is total darkness and then goes through a multitude of exciting effects. The first loud bomb noise startled Max (who will soon be 13) out of his seat. In fact it did it several times! The gentlemen seated next to him asked if he was okay.
Lights flash, fog rolls in, and chairs begin to tremble at certain dramatic events during the movie. At one point a German Stalag guard house rises from the floor. In total darkness a search light canvasses the audience. Not a sound is heard other than a siren blasting. A gun turret emerges spitting out rounds and smoke in every direction. Your chair, which has had slight movement and coordinated with the actions being shown, begins to shake even more. I can only say it is a dramatic experience and Tom Hanks does a fabulous job in narration! But above all, it is a powerful documentation of the cost of freedom about over 400,000 soldiers who lost their lives that were Americans. Estimates of those who lost their lives in the war, from sickness related to the war, by the gas chambers, or who were civilians is believed to be at least 600 million!! Yes, that’s millions!
I had hoped there might be an opportunity to learn more about some of my fallen relatives or those who served in this terrible war. If the resources are there, I didn’t find them. However it you are interested in research on a family member who served in World War II, you will find this website helpful: http://www.nationalww2museum.org/honor/research-a-veteran.html.
For more information, I am including a map of The National WW II Museum below:
Outside the storm had passed and the temperature and humidity had risen to intense extremes. My hair was instantaneous a mass of frizz. Suddenly I was aware of being in dire need of a snow ball!!!! And Tucker knew where we could find a snow ball stand not far from home.
When Steve came home from work that day, each of us shared our experience. It was wonderful to hear these two boys tell their dad about our outing. Max ended by saying Steve was the only one not in a dark suit when he met his business associates at the restaurant. I couldn’t help but laugh! It was meaningful to have made a memory, a good laugh and shared it with Tucker and Max.
Who knew what tomorrow would bring? Wait! Didn’t I say that at the end of Road Trips: New Orleans in July, Part I? Ah, but you will soon know when I post Road Trips: New Orleans in July, Part III.