For such an auspicious institution, the National WWII Museum began rather humbly. The late historian and author Stephen Ambrose and his University of New Orleans (UNO) colleague and fellow historian, Nick Mueller, began talking in 1990 about starting a small museum dedicated to D-Day on the UNO campus. It would house artifacts and oral histories related to June 6, 1944, the day Allied forces invaded Normandy, which led to the eventual liberation of Western Europe.
Years of drumming up support and funding finally resulted, 10 years later, in the opening of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans’ popular Arts and Warehouse District. Congress subsequently designated it as the National WWII Museum.
Along with this recognition has come its ongoing expansion. Several pavilions focus on various facets of the war. The Louisiana Memorial Pavilion takes visitors to the beaches of Normandy and to the events that led to the Allied victory. Visitors will see all of the tools of the war effort, including tanks, jeeps, a halftrack, a restored C-47 aircraft, and an LCVP, or “Higgins Boat.” Higgins Industries in New Orleans built more than 20,000 of the boats that were used in the war’s major amphibious landings.
Occasionally, the museum spotlights artifacts not typically on public display during “Out of the Vault” tours. You can also schedule a private behind-the-scenes tour for more insights. Special commemorative events are held on the anniversary of D-Day and other significant dates.
Among the museum’s additions, the Hall of Democracy opened in 2019 to educate visitors and virtual guests throughout the world about the American experience in the war. In addition to space for traveling exhibits, the hall’s high points include oral histories and an extensive research library.
Expected to be completed this year, the Bollinger Canopy of Peace rises 148 feet above the museum and can be seen throughout New Orleans. When finished, bright white panels will reflect sunlight during the day. As night falls, the canopy will become even more illuminating as a state-of-the-art lighting system spotlights the new landmark on the New Orleans skyline.
Construction on the last pavilion of the 6-acre campus, the three-level Liberation Pavilion, is expected to be completed in 2022. The building’s exhibits will highlight the end of World War II, the postwar years, and the conflict’s continuing impact on our lives.
Info: Adults, $28.50; entry is free for World War II veterans and one guest each. (504) 528-1944; nationalww2museum.org.