Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit the World War II Museum in New Orleans. My visit ended up being a highlight of my time in New Orleans, and shed light on a war that all Americans are vaguely familiar with, but don’t know enough about.
I began my day in the French Quarter, with some beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde. I have a tendency to get up at the crack of dawn no matter where I am, vacation or not, so I needed to kill a little time before the museum opened.
When I was done at Cafe du Monde, I started the walk toward the World War II Museum. I enjoy walking anywhere and everywhere I can in a new place; it’s the best way for me to learn the layout of a new city, and find places to eat or shops to visit. The walk to the museum took me through Jackson Square, where I got to see some of the few remaining Confederate statues in the city.
When you get to the museum, you’re directed to the ticket counter where you are handed a “dog tag” of a real-life veteran. My veteran was a female pilot named Geri Nyman; throughout the “Road to Berlin” exhibit, I learned about her life before the war and her experiences as one of the first female pilots in the American military. Learning her story while going through the exhibits made going through the museum feel more personal to me; as someone without a World War II veteran in the family, Geri gave me a face to associate with the time period and the cultural makeup of the time.
The collection of the National World War II Museum encompasses four buildings, including the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, and The Boeing Center. Each building’s exhibits cover different aspects of the war; from the warfront in the South Pacific, to the events that started the worldwide conflict in Germany. Inside the Boeing Center, visitors get an up-close look at the vehicles and aircrafts that propelled the war effort forward.
I was surprised at the emotion I felt walking through the halls of the World War II Museum. Reading the letters of soldiers to their sweethearts, listening to Geri Nyman’s story, and learning details about the concentration camps that were never made available in school almost brought me to tears. The examples of wartime propaganda in the Road to Tokyo exhibit were reminiscent of our current political climate, particularly between North Korea and the United States.
World War II changed everything. It changed relations between countries, and how military operations are carried out. The war brought women to the workforce, and set the stage for the founding of the United Nations and the Cold War. The National World War II Museum tells the stories of the men and women involved in this global conflict, and their heroic effort to preserve freedom for those throughout the world.