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as reported by Paul Hillis

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time and phone number.

Last weekend Megan and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. We were in Baton Rouge for a wedding on Saturday, and the next day we decided to go on an adventure. It was Meganís turn to choose our adventure, and she chose the D-Day Museum in New Orleans. It was really a good choice.

I had just finished a book by Stephen Ambrose entitled ĎComradesí. Most of you are familiar with Stephen Ambrose. He was an historian and the author of numerous books including Citizen Soldiers, Undaunted Courage, and D-Day. Comrades is a non-fiction book telling of the deep friendship that developed between many famous and non-famous men alike. In one chapter, Ambrose discusses the friendship between himself and Gordon "Nick" Mueller.

In 1988 Ambrose brought the idea of the D-Day Museum to Nick. At the time Nick was the vice chancellor for continuing education at a local university and was able to provide Ambrose with invaluable support. The first thing Nick did was to supply office space, a secretary, and student workers.

Ambrose knew little of how much red tape it would take to make a living, breathing history of the United States and the American people. He wanted to include a tribute to all the nations and nationalities of the world that had resisted tyranny and fought for freedom. Together Stephen and Nick began by applying for federal and state grants and collecting donations from private sponsors.

On the first floor is the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion showing several of the weapons of war. There is also an information desk, the Malcolm Forbes Theater, a coffee shop, and a gift shop. There is also a display to test your knowledge on WWII, a book for veterans to sign, and a small table with post cards depicting stamps from the era. The postcards are provided for you to write a message and sign your name. The cards will then be distributed to Veteranís Hospitals so the patients will know of our appreciation.

The one side of the second floor has displays of what was happening on the home front. Many of us will remember our momís counting tokens trying to determine how many groceries she could buy. Meat, sugar, and shoes were just a few items that were rationed. Tires and gasoline were also on the list so travel was very difficult.

Remember, the United States had the 18th largest army in 1939. Germany, Italy, and Japan were each over a million military personnel. We had a lot of catching up to do, and citizens had to forfeit much of their personal comfort to prepare for war. Most of the people co-operated, but there were some who bought off the black market, which was illegal. The other half of the second floor displays our involvement in the Pacific Theatre.

The third floor information explains the planning that went into where and when we would make our first foray into Eastern Europe. It explains how mock equipment and fake radio broadcasts were made to deceive Hitler into thinking the attack would come from the north. It also shows the buildup of troops and equipment in Southern England for the attack on Normandy. This is also the section that shows you pictures of the actual assault on the beaches and the parachutists dropping behind the German lines.

Thorough-out the museum there are large pictures of men in combat. There are also many artifacts with personal descriptions with the story behind the artifact. There are numerous mini-theaters where you will listen to veterans tell of their experiences on the battlefield. Each narrative is accompanied by a picture of the individual speaking.

The museum opened on June 6, 2000 and sits on the site where Andrew Higgins designed and perfected the Higgins Boat. These boats saved many lives as they were able to get troops ashore much more quickly than other landing vehicles. Higgins boats were used extensively in the Pacific Theatre of Operations during the island hopping phase of the war.

The National D-Day Museum is located on Magazine Street and Andrew Higgins Drive in the warehouse section of New Orleans. Thereís a parking lot beside the museum, and it cost $5.00. There is a charge of $6.00 for seniors and Iím not sure how much for younger citizens or children. Allow plenty of time and wear comfortable shoes.

This museum is well worth your time and effort. It is a fitting tribute to not only our military forces but to the civilians during WWII. Peace.

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   Last Update:  March 05, 2003