The National WWII Museum – New Orleans

I just got back from New Orleans where I visited the  The National WWII Museum and apart from the incredible scale of the place it’s a really well put-together museum that I recommend to anyone – not just boys interested in planes and tanks…

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Yes, that’s actually a B-17 hanging up there like it’s a model.

A lot of people, including myself are very anti-war these days but it’s good to know what you’re talking about when talking about conflict and get an idea of some of the details. I’m not just talking specifically about statistics, dates and places though those things are very important.

What this museum really tries to do is present the physical realities of warfare and then engage your imagination to think about what it would really have been like and the choices you might have had to make had you been a part of it – which, if you lived thru those times you almost certainly would have been.

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There’s an interactive exhibit based on the USS Tang – the most successful US submarine of the war and one in which you are presented with pivotal choices in a campaign and asked what YOU would do.

It’s initially easy to take that exhibit as something like a theme park experience, with rumbles, smoke and sound effects but the fact that it’s a real piece of history is really brought home to you by the shocking way the story actually plays out.

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Other exhibits cast you as a high-level military commander and ask you to make decisions in which there are no easy choices but where any choice will certainly result in peoples’ deaths – sometimes civilians.

The final part of the exhibit called ‘Road to Tokyo‘ is one of those moments. You walk thru a series of rooms and dioramas which show the Americans advance against the Japanese thru the Pacific Islands and the hell that those men endured.

In the final room is a series of panels which detail the end game of the US campaign against the Japanese – the barely comprehendible series of fire bombing missions and the final atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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Glass bottles, melted by the heat from the atomic bomb.

This final room has a soundtrack unlike all of the previous exhibits and looking at the images of the utter destruction of the Japanese cities and thinking of the hundreds of thousands of people who died there I was moved to tears.

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6 thoughts on “The National WWII Museum – New Orleans

  1. Hey Si
    That’s a good overview I enjoyed reading through your thoughts-I had a similar experience when I visited the War reminants museum in Vietnam-the aircraft & other “hardware” we’re outside which was all very curious & interesting but when it came to entering the building & viewing the various exibitions decided to walk back out & gather my thoughts.

  2. Thanks for your comment – yes, it was an interesting way in which to engage their audience.

    War museums often seem like monuments of shame or glorifications of victory, “never again” and such but ultimately this is the story of humans.

    Whether we choose to celebrate these events or turn away in shame they are a record of what we have done and there’s not a lot of evidence that we’re changing.

    • Yeah I thought those guys were vets, they made me feel a bit like a tourist in my own life.

      Didn’t know what to say that didn’t sound completely trite, but it was powerful having them there.

      There were some guys at the entrance, said you could chat to them about anything but maybe I would if they’d been at the exit.. when you’d seen everything..

      Felt a bit strange the personal and the impersonal – would be nice to go back on a regular basis and strike up a relationship – but that’s not an option for me.

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