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Independent Woman Part I: Rosie the Riveter

During WWII, millions of “independent women” contributed to the war effort in many different ways. In 1940, about 12 million women were in the workforce. By 1945, over 19 million were employed. In addition to the new women entering the workforce, there was a shift in the type of work being performed by those women who had already been in the workforce prior to the war. Women left lower paying jobs such as waitressing or domestic work for higher paying factory jobs, which could mean an average increase of up to 40% in salary. In addition to all of the women working in defense jobs, over 350,000 American women served in uniform, paving the way on a totally different front.

J. Howard Miller's Rosie the Riveter.

J. Howard Miller’s Rosie the Riveter.

One of the most recognizable representations of a woman from WWII is J. Howard Miller’s poster girl, known popularly as Rosie the Riveter. During WWII, Rosie the Riveter was joined by her sisters, Wendy the Welder, Bertha the Burner, Jenny on the Job and Ronnie the Bren Gun Girl. But Rosie, conceived as a propaganda pin-up, has crossed generations to stand as a sometimes contested symbol for female empowerment. The concept and icon of “Rosie the Riveter,” continues to be adapted and used as a symbol for power and a testament to the spirit of the American woman.

The evolution of the Rosie icon is complex. There are several iterations of what is known popularly as “Rosie the Riveter.” Technically, the icon stems from the 1942 hit song by the same name written by Evans and Loeb. This inspired artist Norman Rockwell’s painting, Rosie the Riveter, debuted on the cover of the 1943 Memorial Day issue of the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell’s Rosie means business and is a true multi-tasker, balancing a rivet gun in her lap, eating a sandwich, and nonchalantly stepping on a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The “Rosie” cover was one of Rockwell’s most popular and the original painting sold at Sotheby’s in 2002 for nearly $5 million.

J. Howard Miller’s depiction of a female worker from February 1943 presents a more glamorized image than Rockwell’s. She wears a red bandana, denim work shirt, flexes a bicep and is quoted, “We Can Do It!” Her message emphasizes the collective (“We”) rather than the individual (“I”) necessary for achieving victory. The poster was commissioned by the Westinghouse Corporation for a campaign to spur production among women workers. Miller’s poster, and the campaign, was designed to run for two weeks throughout Westinghouse factories.

Miller’s image has outlived its two weeks by more than seventy years. It has endured and evolved with cultural shifts. Like other iconic propaganda works—the British “Keep Calm and Carry On,” and Uncle Sam’s “I Want You,” “Rosie” has been adapted and adopted by many disparate causes and campaigns. See the tremendous popularity of any of these posters by a simple search on the internet; anyone can make their own version of it, even on our own site! Rosie’s message serves as a blank canvas which is often employed to convey rallying cries of all stripes. Rosie’s red bandana has been sported by Marge Simpson, Sarah Palin, Princess Leia, Wonder Woman, Kelly Rowland, and most recently by Beyoncé during a visit to The National WWII Museum.

The photo-op captured by the famous “independent woman” at the Museum (which so far has received 1.15 million likes on Instagram) is an activity that any visitor to the Museum can engage in. “Become a Propaganda Poster” features not only the “We Can Do It!” poster, but also the rationing campaign poster “Do with Less so They’ll Have Enough” for which visitors can don a steel-pot helmet and raise a canteen cup. Beyond the dress-up, the Museum has extensive artifacts and oral histories from “real” Rosies and we are committed to telling their stories.

We collected one such story as an oral history last month. In 1942, Mildred Aupied was a twenty-year-old secretary for the phone company when she heard a call for women welders. She jumped at the chance to attend welding school and within two months, she and 24 other women immediately began welding Liberty Ships at Delta Shipbuilding Company in New Orleans. In her interview, she stressed her pride at having learned and mastered a new and challenging trade. The women at Delta Shipbuilding relished the opportunity, the pay, and the camaraderie. In addition, all of this hard work was to benefit their country during a time of tremendous labor shortage and need.

Women played important roles in WWII, motivated by both patriotism and paychecks. The fight for equality was one that would continue postwar into the present day. Learn more about American Women in WWII on the Home Front and Beyond. See other Museum posts tagged with Rosie.

Post by Curator Kim Guise and Virtual Classroom Coordinator Chrissy Gregg


In last week’s blog post of the Road to Berlin countdown, you learned about the story of air power in WWII in the Air War gallery. This week, let’s plunge into the content of the gallery’s exhibits: First Strikes, Losses, and Aircrews Experiences.

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A group of Army A-20 Havoc attack bombers roaring out over the sea enroute to bomb Nazi positions in Cisterno, Italy in March 28, 1944. Credit: U.S. Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, 2011.102.398


The First Strikes exhibit will explore the American and Allied air strategies and examine their first air attacks on European soil, discussing what was gained, lost, and learned. Bombers attempted to knock out key Axis industries – oil, aviation, military facilities, transportation, and ordnance factories – and faced fierce enemy defenses in the process. The story of the earliest missions of the Eighth Bomber Command, who earned an impressive record throughout the war and came to be known as “The Mighty Eighth,” will also be told in First Strikes. The exhibit will feature the oral histories and personal stories of United States Army Air Force (USAAF) veterans, plus various artifacts such as flight jackets decorated with signature squadron patches and elaborate artwork conveying the spirit, personalities, and experiences of American airmen. First Strikes will also examine the technology used in the air war, which made aircraft more precise and effective than ever before, as well as a replica Quonset hut – a semi-circular pre-fabricated structure that could be easily shipped and quickly constructed at bases overseas. Video footage of the air war will be projected overhead, adding another immersive element to the exhibit.


During World War II, the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) was up against one of the strongest and most experienced air forces in the world: the German Luftwaffe. Their fierce fighting skills resulted in high casualties among American airmen. The exhibit Losses details the Luftwaffe’s response to Allied attacks and honors the brave American airmen who risked their lives in the fight against tyranny. Artifacts in the exhibit, such as the personal belongings and uniforms of airmen, as well as the oral histories of USAAF veterans, will humanize these tragic losses. The Germans’ impressive arsenal, including weaponry such as the Flak 88 anti-aircraft artillery gun, was a major threat. The Germans also improved their aircraft, and recalled many fighters from the eastern front to join the defense against the USAAF. Americans quickly learned that they could not send bombers into German territory without being escorted by fighter planes. Improvements in fighter technology resulted in longer-range escorts, which improved the chances for Allied bombers. Various maps and photographs in the exhibit will help visitors identify these deadly weapons and will show the limits of bomber range radar compared to those of fighter escorts. American airpower had many great achievements during World War II and this exhibit will show the immense obstacles and devastating defeats they overcame on their way to victory.


This exhibit will explain the treacherous flying conditions and the high risk of death in the air that the bomber crews and fighter pilots experienced during the war. Weather had a major strategic, operational, and tactical impact. Airmen were extremely exposed and vulnerable not only to hostile weather conditions but to enemy fire from both the ground and air, as the transparent nature of the air provided no natural cover in war. The fluctuating conditions of weather, environment, and enemy engagements brought great psychological uncertainties for the air crews tasked with winning the skies from the Luftwaffe. Air crews in WWII experienced hostile environments and conditions of warfare in the high altitudes which had never before been experienced in military history. The enormous industrial effort to turn out massive fleets of planes, the rigorous training and unprecedented combat experiences of pilots and crews, and the pivotal role of air power in military strategy all underline the importance of the air war for ultimate Allied victory. The deadly nature of the air war highlights the tremendous dedication, skills, determination and courage of our Air Forces, and validates why these men should never be forgotten.

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General Eisenhower and a pilot in Italy on December 27, 1943. Credit: U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph, Gift of Regan Forrester, 2002.337.089


Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.

Summer Leadership Students See the World as Their Classroom   

For students attending The National WWII Museum’s Normandy Academy and Summer Residential Program, the “classroom” included Omaha Beach, Ste Mere Eglise, Jackson Barracks and the NASA Michoud  Assembly Facility. Lessons in leadership and decision making ran throughout the programs, leaving a lasting impression on the students.

Normandy Academy

La Fiere

Normandy Academy students at La Fiere Bridge

The Normandy Academy began in New Orleans on June 21. Fifteen students from across the country arrived at the Museum after weeks of preparation by reading works from top WWII scholars and viewing oral histories from the Digital Collections of The National WWII Museum. At the Museum, the students examined all of factors facing General Dwight D. Eisenhower as he struggled with the decision to go on June 6, 1944. They also looked deeply into the issues surrounding the individual soldiers. Through a special tour, they were able to go inside a Sherman Tank and feel the cramped conditions firsthand. The most powerful Museum experience by far, was a conversation with Tom Blakey, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division who jumped into Normandy in the early morning hours on D-Day.

Once in France, the students set about their roles—debating strategic, moral and logistical decisions made in the Normandy campaign. The first stop was Pegasus Bridge where two students presented opposing views on whether several bridges could be effectively taken by paratroopers and held against German counterattacks until reinforcements arrived. After 20 minutes of presentation, the students concluded that it was the best course of action to take the bridges as the possibility of leaving infantry units stranded on the beaches could be disastrous.

Debates like this continued at each stop, including a superb debate over the merits of adding Utah Beach to the invasion plans. For adding the beach, the students argued that having infantry closer to the port of Cherbourg would speed the capture of a critical deep water port. Against the plans, students commented that the Germans would likely destroy the port before the Americans could capture it and that the distance between the two American landing beaches would be too great. Ultimately they decided the risks were worth it and that Utah should be added to the plans. While in France, students also took advantage of the many patisseries, cultural sites and a special light show on the Tree of Liberty near the Bayeux Cathedral.



Summer Residential Program

Saturn Moon Rocket

Summer Residential students with the First Stage Saturn V Moon Rocket at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility

The Summer Residential Program examined critical leadership decisions that spanned the entire war. Students spent one week at the Museum with two special excursion days that expanded their understanding of leadership in WWII. Students began with an examination of the Arsenal of Democracy in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, followed by a discussion of how to best mobilize America’s workers and involve women in the war effort. After a closer examination of propaganda on the Home Front, the students debated how to handle John Abbot, a conscientious objector who refused any task that could aid the war effort in any way.

In the European Theater, students debated issues surrounding the invasion of Normandy, Operation Market Garden and Anzio. In the Pacific Theater, a discussion of whether General Jonathan Wainwright should surrender his forces on Corregidor showed how well versed in military protocol the students had become through their preparation and museum visits. An additional four stops were valuable to the experience. At the Chalmette Battlefield, the students saw and heard about British supply line issues in the Battle of New Orleans—an important detail that students kept in the back of their minds while discussing WWII battles. At Jackson Barracks, the headquarters of the Louisiana National Guard, students saw and heard how military tactics changed after WWII with new technology and strategy.

Two other stops would seem to have less to do with WWII but offered experiences that tied directly in to the program. A swamp tour near Pearl River allowed students to experience being on a flat-bottomed boat and see terrain that would prove unfamiliar to most Americans. A tour of the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility gave the students insight into large scale production processes of the kind that were taking place all across the United States to build war material for the military. After an exhilarating and informative week, the students ended with a quick tour of the French Quarter and a celebratory final dinner.

For more information on Summer Leadership opportunities for high school and college students, visit WWII Museum Tours or call 504-528-1944, ext. 257.

Worker Wednesday: Higgins 10,000th Boat

Program from the 10,000th Boat Ceremony. The National WWII Museum, 0000.045.001

July 22, 1944, was a milestone in production for Higgins Industries. Seventy years ago today, Higgins Industries held an enormous celebration upon the delivery of the 10,000th boat to the Navy. The 10,000th boat, an LCM, was completed a day earlier and transported on a platform to the site of the celebration, New Orleans Lakefront. Not even two months following the D-Day landings at Normandy, Higgins staged a reenactment of those landings at New Orleans Lake Pontchartrain. A ship anchored in the lake unloaded troops onto landing craft which invaded the seawall of Lake Pontchartrain where thousands watched the display. PT boats also played a role in the show, patrolling the shores, and aircraft flew as if in defense against enemy aircraft. The ceremony was attended by Bureau of Ships chief Rear Admiral E.L. Cochrane, who in his address to the crowd called Andrew Jackson Higgins “a pioneer” in the field of landing craft. He praised the work and achievements of the men and women of Higgins Industries.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

Victory Corps Volunteer Spotlight

Rebekah BassToday’ we’re spotlighting one of the Museum’s outstanding Victory Corps Youth Volunteers, Rebekah Bass.  Rebekah has served with the Victory Corps program since the Spring of 2013.  In addition to interacting with Museum guests at artifact-encounter stations dispersed throughout the campus, providing an up-close and ‘hands-on’ experience to Saturday visitors, Rebekah has participated in the Museum’s summer residential Normandy Academy program.  She has also helped conduct oral history interviews for the Museum’s See You Next Year!:  High School Yearbooks From WWII collection.  Rebekah is just one of many dedicated young people helping to make The National WWII Museum a dynamic and exciting place.


See Rebekah Bass’ oral history interview with veteran Tommy Godchaux below:


Know a young person with an interest in WWII history and volunteering?  Learn more about the Victory Corps program and how to start the application process.


This post by Collin Makamson, Family Programs & Outreach Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

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Annual Family Overnight an Overwhelming Success!

Campers playing a game of Sergeant Says during the annual Family Overnight.

Campers playing a game of Sergeant Says during the annual Family Overnight.

On Saturday, July 19th we hosted our annual Family Overnight.  Nearly 150 people, kids ages 7-12 and their kind and awesome adult chaperons, spent the night with us in our US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.  Upon arrival they got busy doing several activities, including making their names in international maritime signal flags and experiencing the Final Mission of the USS Tang.  They also had the special opportunity to climb in our Sherman Tank which was the highlight of many’s overnight adventure in the Museum. Then it was onto our Louisiana Memorial Pavilion where we had a multi-station “Uncle Sam Wants You!” induction activity that included an obstacle course, a dog tag making station, and a family-friendly boot camp that ended with each family on a train to ride to places unknown.  Once “returning from duty” families made parachutes and dropped them from three-stories high trying to hit a landing zone.  Families also designed “brain-savers”–helmets to protect an egg that we dropped from 3 meters.  Later, we had a hunt complete with volunteer-run stations where families completed tasks and interacted with artifacts as they explored our Museum galleries on the Home Front and the D-Day invasions. After a rousing game of “Sergeant Says,” the kids entertained us with corny jokes, and it was time to make camp. The evening wound down with a late-night movie complete with all the popcorn desired and everyone fell asleep under the six aircraft hanging in our US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, including our B-17 “My Gal Sal” until reveille in the morning. All of this was done with the help of our education staff and interns, adult volunteers, and our teenage Victory Corps volunteers.  We all left exhausted, but excited to do it all again next July! Posted by Lauren Handley, Education Programs Coordinator

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In our last blog post of the Road to Berlin countdown, we covered the last two exhibits within The Italian Campaign gallery: Liberation of Rome and Fighting for The Gothic Line. On our next stop you will learn about the story of air power in the war, followed by a spotlight on our donors, Mr. and Mrs. James R. Fisher, Sr., who sponsored the Air War gallery.

Rendering of the Air War gallery

Rendering of the Air War gallery

The Road to Berlin will take you north to the broad Allied effort, beginning with use of air power in preparation for the invasion of Normandy.  As you leave Italy you will step into a recreated Nissen hut much like those mass produced in England and used for storage and operational needs.  Above, you will look through a ceiling gap and see a projection of aircraft flying overhead.  The Air War gallery will tell the story of air power in the war – from the famous Tuskegee Airmen, to the formidable German Luftwaffe, to America’s relentless air strikes in Europe.  The space will also detail the experiences of the aircrews – treacherous conditions and a high death toll made these fighter pilots and bombardiers some of the true heroes of the American war effort.  An interactive touch screen will allow you to explore the Air War timeline and other facts and statistics.  The Air War gallery will capture visitors’ imaginations with the excitement and danger of the air war, while also teaching the significant role of American air power in World War II through the exhibits First Strikes, Losses, and Aircrews’ Experiences.


 Donor Spotlight- Mr. and Mrs. James R. Fisher, Sr.

Mr. James R. Fisher, Sr.

Mr. James R. Fisher, Sr.

The Museum is proud to highlight two of our greatest supporters, Mr. and Mrs. James R. Fisher, Sr. Together they  have generously underwritten the Air War gallery in memory of Mr. Fisher’s parents, James J. Fisher, Jr. and Frances D. Fisher.

James “Jim” R. Fisher, Sr., a current Museum trustee, was born in Manhattan. His parents, James J. Fisher, Jr. and Frances D. Fisher, then moved the family to Paramus, New Jersey, where Jim attended Bergen Catholic High School and then went on to graduate from Lafayette College.

Fisher’s father enlisted in the Army Air Force right after Pearl Harbor and was stationed at Grafton Underwood, a former WWII airfield in England. He was legally blind in one eye, but Fisher’s father bribed someone to tell him the answers to the eye exam so he could enlist. Fisher’s father served when the survival rate was less than 15%, and approximately 80% of the crews were either shot down or captured and ended up in Prisoner of War camps. despite the odds against him, He flew 31 missions in B-17s primarily as a tail gunner and was awarded several medals for his service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Jim’s father, “didn’t talk much about the war until the 1980s, and then he became a lot more forthcoming.” Jim vividly remembers the day his father began to open up. In 1980, Jim was living in Manhattan and had returned home to visit his folks. His mother handed him a letter. The letter was from a man Jim’s father had befriended during the war. Jim began to read the letter, the words written from an adult man who remembered Jim’s dad from when he was 12 years old. The man had found Jim’s dad through the war department, and in his letter said “how absolutely amazing my father was to his family during the war, bringing them food and other supplies from the base.” He wrote, “I always thought I would see you on the telly running for President.” As soon as my father read the letter, he instantly began to cry and left the room. “After that, he became a lot more forthcoming with his WWII stories and experiences.”

After the war, Jim’s father met Jim’s mother, “a conservative Irish girl” and soon thereafter he told her “I’m going to marry you.” Six months later they were married.

As a young boy, Jim’s father gave all of his WWII medals to him, including the Distinguished Flying Cross. Jim and his friends would play Army as kids after watching the popular 1960s show Combat. Jim thought that while playing this game he had lost all of his father’s medals, and his father then had to write to have them all reissued to him. Years later, after Jim’s mother passed away and Jim was moving his dad to a new home, they went through his childhood bedroom. It was then that together they found, “all the original medals in the back of my sock drawer. You would have thought he’d be mad after all that, but all he did was laugh.”

Don Miller, author and frequent lecturer at the Museum’s International Conference on WWII, met Jim through his role as a history teacher at Lafayette College, Jim’s alma mater. One night the two men were talking about the war, and Miller took notice of how much Jim knew about WWII.  Jim told him why, and when Miller’s book Masters of the Air came out, the two spent a lot of time discussing the book and Jim’s father’s role in the Air War.

Unbeknownst to Jim, Miller tapped Governor Pete Wilson, Museum Trustee and Capital Campaign Committee chair, to call Jim’s office. Governor Wilson introduced himself and asked if Jim would consider joining the Museum’s Board of Trustees. Without hesitation, Jim immediately accepted. Upon Jim’s first visit to the Museum, he encountered a WWII Veteran walking around the campus with his children and his grandchildren. The Veteran had on a baseball cap with his unit number, and was wearing his medals proudly. He took his family around the exhibits, talking to them and sharing his stories. You could “just see the pride, even despite his age and his difficulty moving around. That was my favorite memory. It made me wish that my dad could have been here to see the Museum.”

Jim has a huge amount of respect for the WWII generation. He could not imagine doing what they did, especially at such a young age. When he was in his late teens and early 20s, “all I was interested in was having a good time. And here these fellas were saving the world. We just can’t thank them enough, which is why I got involved with the Museum. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what the world would have turned out to be. That is why they are called the Greatest Generation, and in my personal opinion, they are.”

Jim hopes to inspire others to support The National WWII Museum’s mission. “When I first got involved there were 6 million living WWII Veterans. Last statistic I saw said it is now less than 2 million. By the time we finish the capital campaign, it will be less than one million. That is very sad because the Museum is a monument to this generation. It would be nice to see us finish the expansion before they are all gone.”

Worker Wednesday: Toni Miller Tamburo

Antoinette “Toni” Miller (later Tamburo) worked as a clerk at the Higgins Aircraft facility in New Orleans. Like many other women who worked during WWII, Toni saved her pay stub as reminder of her wartime contributions. The pay stub in the gallery below dates from seventy years ago today. Toni worked over twenty hours of overtime and also put $11.25 of her total $88.11 toward war bonds. Following the war’s end, Toni was laid off from her job, only to be rehired months later in a reclassified position at a lower wage. Toni Tamburo devoted the bulk of her post-wartime career to teaching.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.


Cincinnati Museum Center Youth Program Visits the Victory Corps

Cincinnati Youth Program Visits the Victory Corps

The Victory Corps is The National WWII Museum’s dedicated Saturday volunteer program for middle and high school students from across the greater New Orleans region.  Members of the Victory Corps interact with Museum guests at artifact-encounter stations dispersed throughout the campus, providing an up-close and ‘hands-on’ experience to Saturday visitors.  Two Saturdays ago the Victory Corps itself was visited by the Youth Program of the Cincinnati Museum Center from Cincinnati, Ohio who were visiting New Orleans on their annual summer trip.  Both the Cincinnati Youth Program and the Victory Corps are ‘hands-on’ at heart with the goal of both heightening the quality of a Museum visit as well as getting young people excited about history and service.  The two programs swapped stories, ideas and strategies as well discussed various regional slang terms and varieties of local potato chips before posing for this picture above.

Know a young person with an interest in WWII history and volunteering?  Learn more about the Victory Corps program and how to start the application process.

This post by Collin Makamson, Family Programs & Outreach Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum.

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High School During WWII Through the Eyes of America’s Youth

“Today in the war emergency, our education is more important than ever.” So begins a student editorial from the Isidore Newman School’s Class of 1942 yearbook. Like most students throughout the country, the graduating class of this prestigious New Orleans school was struggling to figure out its place in a fast-changing world in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Winning the war,” wrote yearbook Editor-in-Chief (and current Museum volunteer) Tommy Godchaux, “takes precedence over almost everything at this time. None begrudge this fact, although ambitions may be smashed.”

Yearbooks like those in the Museum’s online collection, See You Next Year, highlight the sacrifices that America’s youth made in order to help win the war, delaying or outright forgoing plans to go to college, enter the workforce or start families. Peppered throughout the senior portraits, team photos and superlatives declaring who is Most Likely to Succeed are In Memoriam pages dedicated to those students, faculty and alumni who gave their lives, emphasizing both the magnitude of the war as well as the potential that was lost in the deaths of these men and women.

These yearbooks offer a perspective on a world in upheaval that is both rich and uniquely personal, and present a new opportunity to experience the many challenges, setbacks and triumphs of the war through the eyes of America’s youth.

Visit See You Next Year: High School Yearbooks from WWII to view more yearbooks, watch oral histories and find out how you can help us expand the collection.

Mark your calendars! Join us at the Museum Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 12pm for our Lunchbox Lecture series to hear more about high school during World War II and get an up-close look at some of these yearbooks.

Posted by Gemma Birnbaum, Digital Education Coordinator at The National WWII Museum.

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