2015 Road Trip Photos #16: War Relics

War News.

The front page of a special Honolulu Star-Bulletin Extra published December 7, 1941, three hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

When I first suggested driving to New Orleans for this year’s road trip, my wife was hesitant because most online tourism resources summed up the general ambiance as HERE THERE BE MANIACS. No matter where you stay, how brightly the sun shines, how large your group is, or how tall and muscular you are, message boards and review sites and travel books and Fodor’s agree sooner or later a tag team of America’s Most Wanted will come gunning for you.

Then we found out New Orleans is the home of the National WWII Museum. Not a WWII museum — the National WWII Museum, as duly designated by Congress in 2003. Anne knows stuff about WWII. Longtime MCC readers might recall the story of how we first met:

[Anne had] been a WWII buff for years, and read extensively about Germany in general and Hitler in particular. I still remember the time when the teacher (one Frau Schmitz by name) basically turned the class over to Anne and let her give us a speech about Hitler. Anne proceeded to do so…with no notes, and no real preparation beforehand. As I recall, her extemporaneous speech filled two solid class periods over two days — roughly 100 minutes total — with what she knew about Hitler before Frau Schmitz finally stepped in and resumed teaching.

She’s always up for learning more about WWII, above and beyond what she’s already accumulated over the course of decades. When she learned the National WWII Museum was in New Orleans…well. Murderers, schmurderers.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This year’s trip began as a simple idea: visit ostensibly scenic New Orleans. Indianapolis to New Orleans is a fourteen-hour drive. Between our workplace demands and other assorted personal needs, we negotiated a narrow seven-day time frame to travel there and back again. We researched numerous possible routes, cities, and towns to visit along the way in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. We came up with a long, deep list of potential stops, but tried to leave room for improvisation…

National WWII Museum!

The Museum opened in 2000 as a more narrowly focused D-Day Museum, founded by local professor, historian, and author Stephen Ambrose (Band of Brothers). It later rebranded to encompass a wider narrative of America’s involvement in World War II. As of today the museum comprises five separate buildings of varying shapes, sizes, and uses. The complex was so large that the admission center wasn’t visible from Magazine Street unless you looked down Andrew Higgins Street and noticed visitors streaming back and forth between the buildings. We didn’t and had completed a half-lap before we realized our error and turned around. The exercise was useful to us; the rising temperatures and cloudless sky, not so much.

Once we found the front door and paid our monies, we were off and running. If Anne had gotten her way, we would’ve spent the entire week living at the Museum, scrutinizing every exhibit in depth, reading all the books in the gift shops, sleeping in assorted bivouacs and military vehicles, and questioning all the docents and volunteers until she’d assimilated every last shred of WWII trivia they had. For the sake of our marriage and in fairness to other tourist attractions, we spent merely several hours’ worth of Day 3 there. The next few entries will feature selections from our collective photos of the occasion.

Part One, then: random WWII artifacts, memorabilia, papers, and other non-lethal objects from the era.

Pacific Theater Map!

Newcomers to the story of the Pacific Theater can pay attention to this automated six-minute presentation that shows how far we’ve come since the primitive days of Lite-Brite.

WWII Diorama.

Diorama comparing the sizes of the Allied and Japanese forces at one of the major battles whose name I failed to write down. If Anne remembers tomorrow, I’ll update this space accordingly.

WWII hats!

The WWII story as told in hats. Left to right: German pith helmet, US Infantry helmet, SS tropical cap, Italian M33 helmet.

Terry and the Pirates!

For the comics fans: Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates taught readers how to tell the Japanese apart from other Asians, using racist anthropology. (Different times, different mores, etc.)

Japanese Propaganda!

Meanwhile in Japanese propaganda, we didn’t look so hot, either.

Nazi flag.

No, the Museum isn’t all about the Japanese. We haven’t forgotten. This flag was signed by the Allied crewmen who took it as part of their spoils.

Wehrmacht Armband.

Several uniforms were in display, as well as accessories such as this Wehrmacht armband. The “Volkssturm” division incorporated the Nazi military’s final, weakest homefront recruits during Hitler’s final days in power.

Enigma Machine.

An Enigma machine, centerpiece of German communication encryption, whose story was partly told in last year’s The Imitation Game.

Colored Signs.

A special exhibit began July 4th called “Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in WWII”. Several objects from the time contextualize the state of race relations, by which I mean they were still deplorable. These signs are sobering reminders that the next seventy years after the Civil War hadn’t changed nearly enough hearts and minds yet. Display cases and photos told several vital stories like those of journalist Roi Ottley and future Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Haley, who served as a Coast Guard steward during the war.

War Women!

…because some soldiers needed that extra boost of motivation to get them through the hardest of hard times.

We Can Have Enough!

A second-floor niche in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion — i.e., the admission building — contained a pair of famous backdrops and corresponding props that guests can use in homage to their favorite wartime posters. We acted a bit hastily and didn’t notice the other backdrop several feet away labeled “Do with less — so they’ll have more!” Anne is consequently using the wrong props in front of Rosie the Riveter’s motto. Our bad.

Road to Berlin!

March thataway to Allied victory.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]

2 responses

    • Thanks! I appreciate the kind words. Neither of us knew about the Museum either till we started checking into NOLA’s tourism options. We expected jazz clubs, Katrina memorials, bars, spicy food, gin joints, and constant partying. But world history? That was a welcome surprise. We’d highly recommend it to anyone.

      Liked by 1 person

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