Since its opening day on D-Day -- June 6, 2000, nearly two-million visitors have toured the National World War II Museum. A must-see for history lovers and all patriots, it has been designated by the U.S. Congress as the country's official World War II Museum. Powerful images and extraordinary artifacts bring to life the American Spirit, the courage, teamwork and sacrifice of the young men and women who won the war and changed the world. From the 1930s prelude to war, to the Normandy Invasion and the battles of the Pacific Islands, visitors trace America's role in the war and on the Home Front.
The soaring Louisiana Memorial Pavilion houses the museum's reproduction of the LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) or Higgins boat that carried thousands of Allied soldiers to the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944. It was carefully reproduced from original WWII plans by more than 100 volunteers, many of whom were former employees of A.J. Higgins, Inc., a New Orleans-based shipbuilding company. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower credited Higgins with winning the war for the Allies.
The Pavilion also features
- C-47 fighter plane
- Spitfire and Bf 109 airplanes
- Sherman tank
- amphibious Jeep
and other rotating war-related equipment.
The museum regularly sponsors special exhibitions on World War II-related subjects that complement the fascinating permanent collection, and it offers an extensive archive of printed material and taped oral histories for the benefit of researchers and writers.
In November 2009, the museum opened three new venues, the 4-D Solomon Victory Theater, featuring the exclusive cinematic experience from producer Tom Hanks, Beyond All Boundaries; the Stage Door Canteen, a unique entertainment venue that showcases the music of the war years as sung by The Victory Belles and The American Sector restaurant, a museum partnership with Chef John Besh.
This was only the beginning of a $300 million expansion that will quadruple the size of the campus by the time it is expected to be completed in 2015. New buildings will come online as they are completed with a target date of 2015 for completion. Other completed exhibit pavilions depicting various aspects of the American experience in WWII include:
- The John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion: Visitors can see first-hand the work it takes to preserve and restore some of the treasures of WWII,. including a Higgins Industries PT Boat that served in the Mediterranean.
- U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center: Gateway to the new complex, it includes galleries and exhibits that showcases vintage aircraft, tanks, personnel carriers, watercraft, a Red Cross ambulance and other superior technological innovations that tilted the outcome of the war in favor of the Allies. Tribute is paid to WW II Medal of Honor recipients and the 16 million Americans who served in the war, including those who worked for victory on the Home Front.
Still to be completed are:
- Campaigns Pavilion: Galleries and exhibits will include "Road to Berlin Briefing Room," focusing on the land campaign in Europe; "Road to Tokyo Briefing Room," depicting the sea and air battles on and over the Pacific Ocean; "Guadalcanal Gallery," illustrating the island-hopping campaign in Pacific as American GIs wrested control of vital islands from the occupying Japanese; "Desert War Gallery," focusing on the desert tank battles for control of north Africa; "Italian Campaign Gallery," showing the successful first Allied land invasion of mainland Europe; and the "Battle of the Bulge Gallery," showing the Allies' final push toward Germany.
- Liberation Pavilion: Spanning the closing of the war and the immediate postwar years this pavilion will features exhibits that illustrate the human cost of the war, as well as the triumph of freedom and democracy over tyranny. It will includes an Anne Frank Exhibit, a Concentration Camps Gallery, Liberation Theater and the "Fruits of Victory" Gallery.
The Solomon Victory Theater, described as "a multi-sensory cinematic experience," offers the film, "Beyond All Boundaries" produced by Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks and incorporates vintage B&W film footage with the latest modern cinematographic technology. Audiences will actually feel and experience what soldiers at the front experienced with authentic sound effects and other sensory stimuli. It tells the tale of the Greatest Generation's journey from Pearl Harbor into the fire of epic battles to America's final victory in the "War That Changed the World" in the words of the veterans themselves. The exclusive production also features the voices of some of Hollywood's top stars.
The 4-D technique engages all the audience's senses with digital effects, life-sized props, animation, and atmospherics as well as film and sound. Audiences will feel the tank treads rumbling across North Africa's deserts, brush snow from their cheeks during the wintery Battle of the Bulge, and flinch as anti-aircraft fire tries to bring down their B-17 on a bombing run over Nazi Germany.
On the original grounds of the museum, there is a small coffee shop and an inviting museum store with unique collectibles.
The museum is available for group visits and for rental for large parties and corporate events.