NEW ORLEANS — The National World War II Museum in New Orleans opened its newest wing, the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 12.
More than 1,000 veterans, active-duty service members, Family members and dignitaries attended the two-hour event that featured World War II veterans from every state, the museum’s Victory Belles singing group, and Salute to Freedom essay contest winners from every state.
Master of ceremonies Tom Brokaw, author of “The Greatest Generation” and a noted television journalist, said the World War II years were a time when the freedom of the world hung in the balance.
“Americans answered the call to protect that freedom with 16 million men and women serving in uniform and an untold number of citizens of all ages doing their part on the home front,” Brokaw said. “It is their contributions we honor in the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.”
Brokaw became emotional as he paid homage to those who gave their lives in the battle for freedom.
"When these guys enrolled, they went off to war when they were 18,” he said. “The lives that we have today, they gave to us not just at war, but when they came home they built new industries and went to college, went to school — they never asked for credit.”
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said she would continue to work toward raising more funding for the museum. "Our entire delegation across party lines is asking in these tough budget times for the country to honor the story of this greatest generation and to have it told here in the City of New Orleans,” Landrieu said. “I'm going to get back to Washington to get the $30 million dollars that we need to finish it."
The pavilion features a variety of artifacts that comprised the “big guns” of American military might. These include the B-17E Flying Fortress and B-25J Mitchell bomber, as well as a SBD-3 Dauntless dive-bomber, TBM Avenger torpedo bomber, P-51D Mustang fighter and Corsair F4U-4 fighter. The pavilion also will include a massive wall honoring WWII Medal of Honor recipients and an interactive submarine experience based on the final mission of the USS Tang. Exhibits will employ the newest digital technologies to ensure a thrilling journey into the heart of the American spirit. Other exhibits include:
- Vehicles of War
- Service and Sacrifice
- Arsenal of Democracy
- What Would You Do?
The “What Would You Do?” is especially appealing to youngsters and active-duty service members as it puts the visitor into a specific situation faced by leaders in World War II and asks for the guest’s resolution.
National WWII Museum President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller said that opening of the pavilion will provide the nation’s World War II Museum with more exhibits for its visitors.
“This is an exciting and emotional event,” hesaid. “Activity on the home front was vital to the Allied victory in World War II, and Boeing was at the epicenter of that industrial movement, producing more than 19,000 B-17s, B-29s and other essential aircraft. The B-17 and other artifacts to be displayed in the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center represent the nation’s tremendous industrial capacity and American wartime ingenuity.”
Mueller said The U.S. Freedom Pavilion presents the blend of people, weapons, industrial might and values — all reflecting the American spirit — required to secure the freedoms called for by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his address to Congress on Jan. 6, 1941: Freedom of speech and expression; freedom of every person to worship God in his or her own way; freedom from want; and freedom from fear.
“The U.S. Freedom Pavilion speaks to the extraordinary scale and intensity of the American war effort,” Mueller said. “This is the story of America at war — on land, in the air and at sea — told in a way that will fully engage the senses, the mind and the heart.”
Following the ribbon-cutting for the Freedom Pavilion, a second ceremony — in the museum’s main hall — announced the opening of a Smithsonian traveling exhibit: World War II Nisei Soldiers and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Most Japanese–Americans who fought in World War II were Nisei, Japanese–Americans born in the U.S. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese–American men were initially categorized as 4C (enemy alien) and therefore not subject to the draft. On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing military authorities “to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.” In March 1942, Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, issued the first of 108 military proclamations that resulted in the forced relocation from their residences to guarded relocation camps of more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast.
In spite of their families’ interment, a significant number of Nisei Soldiers performed valiantly during World War II, including Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Ha., who recently passed away. Inouye earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism in World War II.
The ceremony kicked off a seven-city tour for the exhibit.