US Freedom Pavilion Opens at WWII Museum
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The most recent addition to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans is the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, across the street from the main museum on Andrew Higgins Drive and toward the rear of the block where expansion of the museum complex is continuing.
The 26,540-square-foot Freedom Pavilion, which opened in January 2013, honors the 16 million men and women who served in the war, as well as the uncountable others who served vital functions on the home front. Exhibits and interactive experiences paint the picture of a nation mobilized for war – those who answered the call of service and those who supported the American fighting forces by producing planes, ships, tanks and other combat supplies in American factories and shipyards. Among the exhibits are various types of small aircraft, "vehicles of war" (tanks, transports and medical rescue vehicles), along with hands-on experiences, such as what it was like to be on a submarine engaged in battle.
Here is a brief summary of the Freedom Pavilion's featured exhibits:
- "Warbirds": This exhibit includes seven individual vintage airplanes, including a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Fully restored to the appearance they had during the war, they hang from the ceiling in the mu.s.ain portion of the pavilion.
- "Vehicles of War": This exhibit features a fully restored Sherman tank, a smaller and more mobile Stuart tank, a half-track overland vehicle and a Red Cross ambulance.
- "Final Mission: USS Tang Experience": Visitors to this exhibit are taken on a simulated journey in a restored submersible to give them a sense of what it was like traveling and doing battle from deep underwater. The Tang was engaged in combat with a Japanese warship when it was hit by one of its own torpedoes and sank, killing all but nine of the submarine's crew of 87 men.
- "Service and Sacrifice": This interactive exhibit features touch screens that show wartime photos of some famous Americans who served in the war effort. Included among them are three future presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy and George H.W. Bush) and U.S. Senators George McGovern, Daniel Inouye and Ted Stevens.
- The Laborde Services Gallery: Homage is paid to the 16 million men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in World War II, largely through interactive exhibits and the stories told by the war veterans themselves. It also honors the 464 recipients of the Medal of Honor for bravery in battle or in significant support service.
- The Boeing Story: This corporate-sponsored exhibit recounts the major role played by the nation's largest aircraft manufacturer and supplier of planes that contributed to the war effort. It also cites the company's continuing role in producing strategic aircraft that incorporate the latest technology.
The National World War II Museum, which opened on the 56th anniversary of D-Day (June 6) 2000, originally encompassed only a single, former warehouse building on Howard Avenue in the Warehouse District of downtown New Orleans. It has since expanded to include several other buildings across the renamed stretch of Howard Avenue now called Andrew Higgins Drive, after the developer of the landing craft that made it possible for soldiers to go ashore during the Normandy invasion. Formerly known as the D-Day Museum, the name change was concurrent with the official Congressional designation of the facility as the nation's official National World War II Museum in 2003.
Additions and expansions in recent years have included the Solomon Victory Theater where a Tom Hanks-narrated film (Beyond All Boundaries) is shown, the Stage Door Canteen where WW II-era entertainment lives on, and the American Sector Restaurant established by world-famous Chef John Besh. The John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion opened in June 2011, giving visitors a behind-the-scenes view of the restoration of World War II artifacts.
Future expansion will include the Liberation Pavilion, which focuses on the end of the war, and the Campaigns Pavilion, which will narrate the road to victory in Europe and Japan.
The National World War II Museum is located at 945 Magazine Street, with the main entrance on Andrew Higgins Drive between Camp and Magazine streets. For hours of operation and other information call (504) 527-6012 or visit their website at www.nationalww2museum.org.