Wednesday, February 19, 2014

World War II Museum



Well, it's been a while since I posted. We are still at Naval Air Station, New Orleans. A day or so after our arrival, we enjoyed an evening diner at Dragos restaurant with a former co-worker; Ken Hayes, his wife Ellen and young son.  No pictures.  However, we enjoyed a nice seafood dinner and conversation.  The blackened oysters on the half-shell were excellent.


On Monday and Tuesday, we visited the World War II museum. We had seen the museum several years ago during a trip to New Orleans for an American Chemical Society National Meeting. Since then, the facility has at least tripled in size.  Now occupying three large buildings, there are a many displays of WWII weapons and vehicles. 



 The museum was originally named the D-Day museum and was mainly founded to memorialize the landing craft which were produced by the local Higgins boat company. The landing craft with the fold down ramp in the bow are seen in countless war movies.

The example on display here is a re-construction of the last model produced for the war. Although over 14,000 of the plywood boats were built for the war; they were considered expendable and none survived the post-war era.

President Eisenhower commented after the war that the Higgins boat was the single piece of equipment essential to win the war. There were no readily available alternative vehicles.  Without the Higgins boats, the several score of amphibious landings in both Europe and the Pacific would have been delayed and could have involved a much greater loss of life.
 
WWII Digital Collection


One of the most fascinating things about the museum is its coverage of major battles of the war in first person accounts. In war movies and television shows on the war it is often hard to tell what is accurate and what is "hollywood hype".  Throughout the museum key battles and events are punctuated by video and audio interviews with actual participants (both friendly and enemy veterans).  The war is nearly 70 years in the past.  In only a few years, these former 18-20 year old solders will no longer be with us.  Understanding and honoring their sacrifices for the country is really important.  Let us never forget what they did for us. I’ve seen no other museum that brings the war to life as effectively.

There is also an imax style multi-media theater presentation on the war which is quite good (vibrating seats, light and sound effects, with a mix of video and real props).  According to the museum literature; “a 4D cinematic Experience featuring Tom Hanks”.  


There is also a movie presentation, “The Price of Peace” which left everyone in the audience with tears in their eyes.


We spent two days and still didn’t see it all.   If you visit New Orleans, this is a “must see”.  

 On Sunday we took a sight-seeing drive to the northeast thru Slidel, Abita and Covington.  Although we were too late to tour the Abita brewery, we enjoyed a nice lunch at a nearby brew pub (Jambalaya and a smooth amber lager).



Apparently, Pensacola is not the only community with the pelican as its official bird.  There were many of these in and around Slidel.

The return route to New Orleans included about 40 miles of elevated highway with mile-after-mile of stereo-typical Louisiana bayou country (many houses on built on wood pilings with a boat the only apparent vehicle). 


We traveled  to Morgan City on Tuesday, Feb 18th.  I'll post on that trip soon.