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SciTech Tuesday: 21 Nobel Prize winners

In the past two weeks the news has been full of announcements of the 2014 Nobel Prizes. The efforts of the Allies to develop a nuclear bomb in the Tube Alloys and Manhattan Projects involved 21 Nobel Prize winners.

James Chadwick, a British scientist who spent World War I in an internment camp in Germany, led the Tube Alloys project, and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1935 for his discovery of the neutron. Chadwick was born 20th of October in 1891.

Alfred Nobel was born 21st of October 1833. His parents were very poor, and of their 8 children only Alfred and three others survived to adulthood. Immanuel Nobel, Alfred’s father was an engineer in Stockholm, and the son learned a great deal about engineering and especially explosives from the father. The family owned a factory that produced armaments for the Crimean War, but which struggled to make money when the war ended. Alfred and one of his brothers took over the factory operations and made it profitable. Alfred Nobel invented the blasting cap in 1865, dynamite in 1867, and ballistitite (a forerunner of cordite) in 1887. The growth of family factories using their patents for explosives made Alfred and his family very rich.

In 1896, without his family’s knowledge, Alfred Nobel made a will assigning 94% of his assets (about 1.7 million pounds at the time) to a trust to give annual prizes in 5 areas. Three prizes were for science (Physical Science, Chemistry, and Medicine or Physiology), one for literature, and one that is now called the ‘Peace Prize.’ In his will Nobel said the prize ‘is to be given to the person or society that renders the greatest service to the cause of international fraternity, in the suppression or reduction of standing armies, or in the establishment or furtherance of peace congresses.’

Alfred Nobel’s intentions in establishing these awards has been a topic of speculation in the decades since his death in 1896. It might be that he felt guilty for the damage to individuals and societies caused by his inventions. A premature obituary read ‘Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.’ It might be that his only concern was his reputation, and the reputation of his family.

Join us this coming weekend, October 23-26, 2014, at Lakefront Airport in New Orleans for some science about flight at the WWII Air Power Expo, presented in partnership with the CAF.

Posted by Rob Wallace, STEM Education Coordinator at The National WWII Musuem

All images from Wikimedia Commons.

5,000 New Photographs Added to The Digital Collections of The National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum is pleased to announce the release of 5,000 new photographs to our Digital Collections website at ww2online.org. This new content provides access to the best photograph collections both held by and entering the Museum on a daily basis.

The photographs just released on the website support many upcoming initiatives at the Museum and fills an aspiration to release material unseen by the majority of the general public. Although most of the first release of images in January 2014  contained Signal Corps and other official branch images – in the future, we will release many personal images created by those who were living the war, capturing how they experienced it personally. Major photographic content areas in this release span the globe from Ghana to Guam and support activities from ‘Crossing the Line’ ceremonies, to color images of B-29s on Saipan, to Home Front ship building. Just to highlight a few unique collections released are Higgins Industry images, images from Africa and the Middle East, German photographs, and Tulane University doctors in North Africa and Italy.

All efforts are being made to include content from all service branches including women’s auxiliary units and encompassing all world theaters. Ideally, our online collections would be representative of all major events and battles in World War II, but as we are a collection of unsolicited donations, we unfortunately do not have representative collections for every event. Providing access to materials surrounding each event is a priority for the digitization project here at the Museum as much as providing access to materials from all theaters of war, service branches and civilian experiences and minorities.

If you possess any authentic photographs from World War II, we invite you to consider donating them to the Museum where they can tell the story of the war for future generations. You may learn more about what we seek and how to donate here.



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Teacher Appreciation Night Highlights

Many thanks to all of the local teachers who joined us for the Museum’s first Teacher Appreciation Happy Hour in the Stage Door Canteen on Wednesday! Approximately 100 teachers enjoyed refreshments and conversation while meeting Museum staff and learning about new educational resources for themselves and students. Highlights included a special teachers-only preview of the upcoming Road to Berlin galleries (opening December 2014), as well as a chance to dress up like Rosie the Riveter and a soldier for propaganda poster selfies. There was also a raffle, with lucky teachers winning prizes like a free Red Ball Express Mobile Outreach program for their class, books and historic propaganda posters for the classroom, and tickets to see the Museum’s Final Mission: USS Tang Submarine Experience. Overall, it was a fun evening for all involved, and we look forward to next year’s Appreciation event where teachers will have the chance to experience the new Road to Tokyo galleries with us!

Even though Teacher Appreciation Night is over, there’s still a chance to win prizes for your classroom by taking our Fall 2014 Teacher Survey here: http://bit.ly/W6ACdV. We’d love to hear your feedback! Prizes will be announced on November 17, 2014.

Post by Megan Byrnes, K-12 Curriculum Coordinator, The National WWII Museum

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NICK PREFERRED_1.9 Into the German HomelandAs we continue our journey through the Road to Berlin, we make our way into the final gallery, Into the German Homeland.

This gallery will tell the story of the major events following the Battle of the Bulge as the Allies pushed into Germany.  The Allies captured the last remaining bridge over the Rhine River at Remagen in March 1945 and invaded the German heartland.   Political controversy erupted as the three Allied powers closed in on the German Capital of Berlin, with the Soviet Army occupying the city in horrible street to street fighting.

As the city was razed around him, Hitler committed suicide and Germany finally surrendered on May 8, 1945 amidst total ruin.  V-E Day finally arrived and Americans celebrated – even as they braced for continued bloodshed in the Pacific. Into the German Homeland and each of its components – Breaking the Siegfried Line, Desperate Resistance, and Final Assault – will reveal the devastation of German cities through exhibits built to mimic blown-out buildings, with projections of fires and photographs scattered throughout the space.


Donor Spotlight- The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation

Into the German Homeland gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation. The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation was established in 1958 with a mission of alleviating human suffering. The Foundation’s efforts primarily target south Louisiana, including the New Orleans area, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Joe W. Brown and Dorothy Dorsett Brown moved to New Orleans in the mid-1920s, and their successes in real estate and the oil industry allowed them to pursue philanthropic endeavors. Mrs. Brown led the Foundation until she passed away in 1989, and the Foundation is now led by the Board President, D. Paul Spencer, along with the Board of Trustees. A friend of Spencer’s from their service in the Army introduced him to the Browns after he completed college, and Spencer remained their dear friend and employee for decades afterwards, up until their deaths.

Two anti-tank Infantrymen of the 101st Infantry Regiment, dash past a blazing German gasoline trailer in square of Kronach, Germany. Courtesy of National Archives.

Two anti-tank Infantrymen of the 101st Infantry Regiment, dash past a blazing German gasoline trailer in square of Kronach, Germany. Courtesy of National Archives.

Spencer is a WWII veteran of the European Theater, where he served as a platoon commander in the 90th Infantry Division of the US Army. His platoon was part of a battle in Hof during the latter part of the war, where he recalls “all kinds of hell broke loose.” He remembers a German truck crashing into the side of the road and roughly a dozen German soldiers came toward him. Spencer realized after the crash that his carbine was jammed, and the German soldiers begged him not to shoot. “Thank goodness they were not firing at me. My guys were just behind me a little bit and I was all alone. I put my hand over the cover that was exposed so they wouldn’t see that I couldn’t fire at them.”

Paul Spencer and the men of the 90th Infantry Division engaged in several battles as they made their way through Germany near the end of the war. Spencer and his fellow soldiers liberated the Merkers Salt Mine, where Nazis were hiding gold hoard, silver, and stolen art.

The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation’s loyal support of The National WWII Museum predates the Museum’s opening in 2000. The Foundation has provided significant funding for the Museum’s capital expansion since its earliest phases. The expansion has provided exhibit spaces that have been crucial in the fulfillment of our mission. In addition to generously naming the Into the German Homeland gallery, the Foundation has also sponsored The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation Special Exhibits Gallery, the Saluting the Services: Service Branch Cases within the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, and a gallery in the future Liberation Pavilion.

We are privileged to be able to honor D. Paul Spencer’s service in Into the German Homeland. The Museum and the diverse audiences it serves benefit in many ways from The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation’s remarkable support.


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Airborne School Family Workshop Ready for Take-Off

Airborne SchoolLocal families looking forward to attending the upcoming WWII AirPower Expo 2014 can get a head-start in learning all about the important role played by the American air forces in WWII with the “Airborne School Family Workshop” this Saturday, October 18.  A part of its monthly series of family programs, each Family Workshop offers fun, hands-on educational activities led by Museum staff and based around a central theme, with “Airborne School” being all about air power.

Participants in “Airborne School” will learn about the principles of flight through the handling of a real WWII reserve parachute before dropping their own smaller, action-figure-sized chutes over the Museum’s third-floor guard-rail in an attempt to hit a drop zone.  “Airborne School” attendees will also work on balsa wood gliders to learn just how difficult it is to predict their movements once aloft.

Cost to attend the “Airborne School Family Workshop” is $9 per child and free for Museum members. Regular Museum admission applies for families who wish to spend the day at the Museum.  Discount for attendees also available onsite.  Family Workshops begin at 10am and conclude at 11:30 am.

Register for the October 18 Airborne School Family Workshop.

Family Workshops occur on a monthly basis and are open to families with children ages of 8 – 12.  Next month’s Family Workshop is scheduled for Saturday, November 22 and will focus on the Navy as participants learn about the science of staying afloat as they begin their journey from ‘Pollywog’ to ‘Shellback.’


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

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Worker Wednesday: A Visit from Truman

Seventy years ago this week, on 11 October 1944, Vice Presidential candidate Harry S. Truman visited Higgins Industries. Truman’s running mate, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had visited the company two years earlier on 29 September 1942 during his whistle-stop tour of production facilities across the country. Truman was the guest of Andrew Higgins at a luncheon at the Roosevelt Hotel. Higgins called Senator Truman’s visit to New Orleans and to Higgins Aircraft a “perfectly happy occasion.” The visit was pictured in the Higgins newspaper, Higgins Worker issue from 20 October 1944.
Truman's visit

 Gift in Memory of Arnold Schaefer,  2012.359.001

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Torpedoing of the USS Houston and Remembering a Father

On October 14, 1944 the USS Houston became the first major ship attacked by Japanese pilots off the coast of Formosa, what is now called Taiwan.  The USS Houston left for combat in April 1944 joining Task Force 58, the main striking force in the US Navy in the Pacific Theater. The boat and its crew participated in shore bombardments and covered landings of the island hopping campaign across the Pacific including the Marianas, Roto, Guam, Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, Philippines, Anguar, Luzon, Mindanao, Leyte, and Samar.

Ordeal of the USS Houston from Jack Fellows' book on the ship.

Ordeal of the USS Houston from Jack Fellows’ book on the ship.

It was just after sunset on October 14, 1944 that the USS Houston’s was struck by a Japanese torpedo after successfully shooting down three of the four attacking planes. The ship was immediately dead in the water without power. During this time, the typical protocol was for the crew to abandon ship and let the vessel sink. The USS Houston was leaning over in the water, and the men were ordered to evacuate the ship.

The vast majority of the crew of 992 survived, but 4 officers and 51 enlisted perished.  The Japanese reported that the USS Houston had sunk resulting in newspaper headlines describing that success on the Japanese Home Front. But in fact, the crew of the ship refused to let the USS Houston sink, and over 700 hundred of the crewmen and 33 of the officers were transferred to accompanying US ships and the ship was stabilized to tow.  The boat was towed to Ulithi by USS Boston and USS Pawnee and eventually made its way to Brooklyn, New York for repairs that were completed just after the war’s end in 1945. The ship received 3 battle stars for its service during World War II.

J.I. during his service.

Joseph Ignatius “J.I” Monte during WWII.

To commemorate the 70th Anniversary of this event and to fulfill the last wishes of one of the USS Houston’s crew members,  daughter Lori Besselman and son Frank Monte of Jim “J.I.” Monte will be taking a voyage to the coast of Taiwan to put the ashes of their father at rest where he lost his crew.

Born in 1925 J.I., a New Orleans native, joined the US Navy in September 1942 at the age of 17 after much fight with his father to sign for his underage enlistment. After becoming temporarily blind while working as a Welder-Burner at the Delta Shipbuilding Corporation in New Orleans, his family decided they might as well send him to war before he got killed in the shipyard.  He served in New Orleans until he was 18 when he signed on for duty. He traveled to Norfolk, Virginia for training and joined as a plank member, the first crew, of the crew of the USS Houston in December 1943.

During the torpedoing by the Japanese on October 14, 1944, J.I. sprained his ankle due to the deck heaving up on the high side of the ship. Because of his injury, J.I. was thrown overboard by his shipmates where he was able to swim to a life raft. He spent the night in the raft with others from the ship before they were picked the following destroyer USS Grayson.

On October 17 J.I. transferred to the cruiser USS Birmingham, and the following day, October 18, he transferred to the escort carrier, USS Rudyerd Bay. The Rudyerd Bay transported him to Ulithi Atoll. There he boarded the USS Typhoon and traveled to Pearl Harbor. Upon arrival in Pearl Harbor, the Typhoon received a welcome by Admiral Nimitz and the Navy Band playing “Anchors Aweigh.” Jim described the scene as well as quite comical because the USS Houston survivors received the welcome while wearing nothing but their undergarments, boxers and undershirts. When the crewmembers were evacuated they were only given those items to wear.

Verna and J.I. or "Jim" as she called him. When they met in California, J.I. had his initials JIM for Joseph Ignatius Monte sewn on his clothes. Verna thought it was for his name Jim and continued to call him that throughout their life together.

Verna and J.I. or “Jim” as she called him. When they met in California, J.I. had his initials JIM for Joseph Ignatius Monte sewn on his clothes. Verna thought it was for his name being “Jim” and continued to call him that throughout their life together.

After returning from the Pacific Theater in December 1944, J.I. was stationed at the Alameda Naval Air Station outside of Oakland, California for the remainder of the war.  It was here where he met his wife Verna, who was from Iowa, while riding the trolley. Verna was also working at the Naval Air Station painting instrument dials on planes. In July 1945 the couple married, and they ventured back to J.I.’s hometown of New Orleans upon his discharge in October 1945. Together they had 5 children.

From his time in the Navy to working for the US Treasury and the US Customs Department, J.I. accumulated over 40 years of services to the government. When he retired at the age of 65, he stayed active by volunteering and serving as the Gate Chairmen for the Destrehan Plantation Festival. Alongside his wife Verna, he delivered hot meals to people living with AIDS through the New Orleans AIDS Task Force multiple times a week.

Like many WWII veterans, he didn’t talk much about his experience in war until later in life. His wife Verna described that “as he got older, the time he spent in the service became more important to him.”  From that time, he became more involved with the Houston Association and hosted a reunion for the ship in New Orleans at the Westin Hotel in 1997 with at least 150 survivors and their families in attendance. He even began proudly wearing a WWII Veterans Cap that was purchased from the Museum’s gift shop. It honored him greatly to receive words of gratitude from people both young and old for his service to our country.  In 2010, he received another great honor from Governor Bobby Jindal when he was awarded the Louisiana Veterans Medal of Honor for his service during WWII. Jim “J.I.” Monte passed away on January 18, 2012.

The children of Jim, Lori and Frank, are excited to have made this venture to Asia to fulfill their father’s wishes. They grew up with him saying, “I want my ashes to be in the South China Sea,” and now they have made that wish come true.

SciTech Tuesday: Ada Lovelace Day, and the return of Ask The Expert

Today is Ada Lovelace day. Ada is honored with her own day for being the first software developer. She described algorithms and computers that were the basis for the Turing Machine used to crack the Enigma Code.

Augusta Ada Byron was born in 1815, the only child Lord Byron had by his wife Anne Isabelle Byron. In letters, Byron, who had expressed disappointment that his only legitimate offspring was not male, called her Ada. Byron and his wife

Ada Byron, about the age of her presentation at court, in her Austen phase.

Ada Byron, about the age of her presentation at court, in her Austen phase.

separated a month after the child was born, and Ada never knew her father. He died when she was 8 years old and she was not allowed to see even a portrait of him until she was an adult.

Ada’s mother encouraged her to pursue mathematical and technical topics, to avoid her exhibiting any of Byron’s romantic instability. This encouragement occurred mostly at a distance, as Anne Isabelle preferred to leave her daughter’s actual care to relatives and tutors. She looked and acted the part of an Austen minor character—a pretty and smart young woman who fell for her tutor and was rescued from an inappropriate elopement. In spite of this, the young woman became popular at court, and Charles Babbage made of her a sort of apprentice.

Babbage had worked with John Herschel on astronomical calculations, and was frustrated by mathematical errors. He designed a “Difference Engine” that would calculate polynomial functions, and convinced the British Treasury to bankroll its development. The machine was never completed because of Babbage’s conflicts with the mechanic building it. Only a

In 2002 the Difference Engine was finally completed, using some of the parts abandoned in 1833.

In 2002 the Difference Engine was finally completed, using some of the parts abandoned in 1833.

small part was completed, although £17,500 had been spent to make it. Babbage used the completed portion to develop his ideas, and to teach students like Ada Byron.

Babbage had met Ada Byron at a party soon after her presentation at court, in 1832. He was impressed by her mathematical knowledge. Ten years later, she took the opportunity with the publication of her translation of an Italian article about the machine, to publish her notes on its use. Ada Byron suggested that the calculating machine could be used, with symbols, to work out logic, and not just calculations. Her notes on how this might work included algorithms that are now considered the first computer programs. In fact, Ada’s description of the use of a mechanical device that used symbols and algorithms to find solutions fairly accurately describes a Turing Machine. Because of this, her work is considered crucial to the effort to solve the Enigma Code about 100 years later.

Ada Lovelace, in her Thackeray phase.

Ada Lovelace, in her Thackeray phase.

Ada died in 1852, only 9 years after the publication of her Notes. Those years of her life were more a mixture of Dickens and Thackeray. She discovered that her close friend Medora Leigh (daughter of Lord Byron’s half sister from whom Ada took the name Augusta), was actually her half-sister (that’s the Dickens part). Ada Byron became Ada King in 1835 after marrying William King. They had 3 children (one named Byron), and when her husband became the Earl of Lovelace, she acquired the name under which she is still honored. She flirted and gambled her way through most of the 1840s, developing a mathematical model for casino betting with male compatriots. The venture went disastrously wrong, and ended in her owing thousands of pounds, and her having to admit all to her husband (that’s the Thackeray part). Her life was ended by overly enthusiastic physicians attempting to treat her uterine cancer with bloodletting.

Ada Lovelace day was founded, as was the Ada Initiative and other efforts, to recognize the past accomplishments of women in STEM, and to encourage current and future participation in STEM by women.



Also today, you can see the new Ask the Expert video to find out how planes fly (explained in less than 2 minutes).


You can view all the other videos, and ask your own questions, on our SciTech site.


Posted by Rob Wallace, STEM Education Coordinator at The National WWII Musuem

Images from Wikimedia Commons.

FREE student webinar about WWII production

The Museum is rolling out its first installment of FREE webinars for students and teachers for the 2014-2015 school year, focusing on the amazing feats of production on the Home Front. Explore how defense workers and industry leaders from  cities and towns across the United States were ready to “Back the Attack” on the battlefronts abroad. For the first time, the Museum is co-presenting this program with another historic institution, The Yankee Air Museum in Belleville, Michigan, to profile their work to save a piece of the iconic Willow Run Bomber Plant, and their future home. With a focus on innovation and production, as well as the changing face of labor during WWII, students will uncover how places like Willow Run and Higgins Industries in New Orleans were hubs of social and economic change, and how they became critical part of the overall Allied victory with a “We Can Do It!” attitude.  Here are the details to tune in:

The Post Industrial Revolution and WWII: A Cross-Country Webinar about Mass Production and Problem Solving on the US Home Front
Featuring The National WWII Museum and The Yankee Air Museum
Friday, November 21, 2014
10:00AM – 11:00AM CST

Discover how industry leaders and defense workers alike met and surpassed the challenge of war by designing and producing materials critical to the Allied war effort. The interactive, virtual trip will start at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, where students will explore how the designers and defense workers at Higgins Industries helped transform a boat intended for the Louisiana bayous into a critical landing craft for the US military.

The next stop is the Yankee Air Museum, outside of Detroit, where students learn about their quest to save the Willow Run Bomber Plant. At this historic and massive plant, workers achieved the seemingly impossible feat of rolling out one huge B-24 bomber plane per hour on the giant assembly line. Innovations in both of these cities exemplify the important war work occurring all across the Home Front in a time of tremendous need. Join these two amazing Museums to uncover how US industries exceeded all production goals and contributed to the Allied victory through teamwork, innovation, and problem solving.

It’s the perfect fun and interactive program right before the Thanksgiving holiday! No special technology in your classroom required. All you need is a computer with a fast internet connection, external speakers, and a digital projector or smartboard. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions of the presenters and answer poll questions throughout the program. Teachers will receive curriculum materials related to the program after registering and a recording of the program if they can’t watch live.

Register Now

Post by Chrissy Gregg, Virtual Classroom Coordinator

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Home Front Friday: It’s October. It’s Baseball.

Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

The air is crisp in most of the country. The dog days of summer are quickly leaving us behind. In the 1940s, baseball’s zenith, people young and old, stationed far or working on the Home Front, had America’s pastime on the mind.

In the middle of wartime, 70 years ago, amidst conflict as Americans were island hopping the Pacific and battling their way through occupied-France, generals and GIs gathered on the ball field at Tiger Field in Fort Benning for a championship game.

So this weekend, tune your radio dial to a baseball game, eat some peanuts and cracker jacks, think about what hearing a favorite team’s victory did for a soldier thousands of miles away from home, and enjoy some October playoff baseball.

Posted by Lauren Handley, Education Programs Coordinator at The National WWII Museum.