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Home Front Friday: The Spirit of the Season

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 holidays are upon us. Many take this time to be grateful for the things in our lives that give us peace and solace. We take the time to say thank you to people who touch our lives in different ways. In the spirit of the season, we can also remember those who protect our way of life. During World War II, tens of millions men and women were stationed all over the world far from home. Some had moved to do war work in a factory. Others were training for combat or in support roles helping America’s fighting forces. Several years in a row, many hoped the war would be over by the end of year. But Americans celebrated Christmas all over the world.



The Museum’s Digital Collection has many more images and oral histories of men and women during the holidays.

Explore Christmas on the Home Front during World War II.

Today, we can look back with Christmases past with nostalgia and confidence that the war did end. When you reflect upon the past year, consider our veterans, both from World War II and since, that may not have spent the holidays at home with their families.

Some things you can do:

May the spirit of the season spread joy and kindness to all!


Posted by Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum.

SciTech Tuesday: The other enigma–why Nazi science never developed a nuclear weapon.

Almost all the research that lead to the idea that an atomic weapon could be built occurred in Germany in the 1930s. As of 1939, of all the major labs doing atomic research, only Chadwick’s (in Liverpool) was not in Germany, or territory soon to be occupied by Germany. The experiments that uncovered the phenomenon of nuclear fission were conducted in Berlin just before the beginning of the war. In addition, Germany controlled great resources of uranium and heavy water, which were necessary for developing the bomb.

Yet Nazi science made very little progress towards a nuclear weapon during the war.

One popular, but unlikely, explanation is that Heisenberg sabotaged the effort. The true reason is probably more complicated.

Heisenberg did report to organizers of the effort that creating a sustained chain reaction was probably years away, and very challenging. This was in 1938 and 1939, after the discovery of fission, and following his visit Bohr in occupied Copenhagen. But this may have been more because of his lack of interest in engineering, and an orientation towards theoretical questions that led to shortsightedness. After all, the Manhattan project succeeded, with arguably lesser scientists.

Comparing the Manhattan Project to the Nazi effort is probably a fruitful way to look for answers.

The Manhattan project succeeded because theoretical scientists envisioned the possibility, engaged powerful politicians in the idea, and those politicians then engaged people with great organizational and leadership skills in assembling the scientists and resources necessary to meetthe challenge.

Vannevar Bush, U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development wanted one person with power and skill, to lead the effort to develop an atomic weapon. Leslie Groves was recommended to him as that man. With the help of Robert Oppenheimer, who was also a systems thinker, Groves orchestrated an all-out effort to assemble a diverse team and get them everything they needed. Oppenheimer found theoreticians and empiricists and engineers with the knowledge, ability, and willingness to do the work. He also developed plans that laid out multiple methods to achieve each step necessary for success. For example, the Manhattan Project pursued multiple bomb and fuel designs right to the end of weapon development. Fat Man (dropped on Nagasaki) and Gadget (tested at Trinity) were implosion-type bombs with a plutonium core. Little Boy (dropped on Hiroshima) used a uranium core and a gun-type detonator. It is also critical to note that from 1939 when Roosevelt set up the Uranium Committee until 1942 when the Manhattan Project was formed, most of the work done was politicking and feasibility studies. And, finally, many of the scientists and engineers working on the project were immigrants from countries occupied by Germany, and who had fled fascism and war.

The Nazi effort to build a bomb was not so well designed. The first organization to develop atomic weapons, or Uranprojekt, was directed by physical chemist at the University of Hamburg, Paul Harteck. This first group was disbanded when the invasion of Poland led to the call of the scientists involved into military training.  The military then started its own project, and included in it Walther Bothe, Hans Geiger, Otto Hahn, and Heisenberg. The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute was made part of the project under military control. They made separate divisions of the project, and divided the work across several institutes, each with their own research agenda.

In 1942, about when the U.S. was forming the Manhattan Project, Germany removed their effort from military control, reassigned scientists to what was considered more pressing work, and refocused the nuclear project on energy development instead of weapons development. Hermann Goring, who had developed the aviation engineering effort so successfully, was put in charge, hoping that he could be successful in this project as well.

In June of 1942, a lab in Leipzig working on chain reactions exploded, possibly because of a hydrogen leak, destroying the facility most advanced in developing a critical reactor under German control. Six months later Fermi’s experimental pile in Chicago went critical, and the path to critical mass and sustained reactions became clearer for the Manhattan Project.

In the end, Goring’s leadership did not improve the Uranprojekt’s success. The effort was too fractured, and the almost endless supply of young scientists available to the Allied effort was not allowed to the Nazi effort, as many young technicians and scientists were conscripted as troops.

It required some hubris to succeed at building the bomb. Oppenheimer and Groves viewed each challenge in the long and complex path to success as points to plan for, and achievements to develop towards, and not as obstacles. It was the all-out philosophy, and the ability to see both the forest and the trees that led to the success of the Manhattan Project.


If you are a middle school science teacher, and want to improve your teaching, consider joining us for Real World Science – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, a week-long teacher seminar this July. Sign up for email updates here.

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

all photos from the Wikimedia Commons.

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Donor Spotlight: Manufacturing Victory: The Arsenal of Democracy

ex-manufacturing-victory-hed-580x325During World War II, a sense of civic duty and responsibility united the nation and fueled America’s war effort like nothing before or since. People stepped forward to fulfill the jobs demanded of them, and they excelled beyond all expectations. Civilians on the Home Front who worked to assemble America’s “Arsenal of Democracy” were essential to securing an Allied victory, and their stories serve as a reminder of what patriotism truly means.

The Museum’s current special exhibit, Manufacturing Victory: The Arsenal of Democracynow showing in the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation Special Exhibit Gallery, tells this lesser-known story of American unity on the Home Front and how it culminated in the creation of America’s mighty industrial war engine. The exhibit examines several key industries whose operations and facilities completely rearranged to make way for wartime production. We are proud to have two of the key industrial leaders featured in the exhibit as supporters of the Museum as well.

B-29 Superfortress Manufacturing

Boeing’s B-29 Super Fortress Bomber. Courtesy of Boeing.

During World War II, The Boeing Company manufactured two of the most iconic bomber aircraft. Over 12,000 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers were produced, becoming instrumental in the bombing of German-controlled Europe. Boeing’s second contribution to the war, the B-29 Super Fortress bomber, was used to lay waste to Japan’s urban centers, aiding the Allied victory in the Pacific. Now 70 years later, Boeing shows its support of the Museum’s mission of preserving the story of the war the naming sponsor of our US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, which paints the picture of a nation mobilized for war .

NARA_195475 - Copy

Workers install cylinders on a new Pratt & Whitney radial aircraft engine in 1942. Courtesy of National Archives.

During the war, the need for aircraft production was at an all-time high, though incredibly complicated due to the large number of parts and pieces involved. Pratt & Whitney built engines for aircraft that could be shipped for assembly in other plants. Their R-1830 Twin Wasp engine powered a variety of American planes, and over 170,000 of the engines were produced during the war. Without the increase in engine production, the Allies would not have been able to take control of the skies. Pratt & Whitney has helped the Museum immortalize the war’s airpower through the generous sponsorship of the Vought F4U Corsair warbird that hangs in The Boeing Center.

The National WWII Museum is very thankful for the support of Pratt & Whitney and The Boeing Company for their generous contributions to the expansion of the Museum’s campus and their strong efforts on the home front during a time of necessary American production. It is with their efforts that helped our nation at war and that the story of the war is preserved for future generations.





#myww2stuff- Preserving your family’s important WWII stories

One of the neat things about working at a Museum is that you are surrounded by and work closely with experts in the field― folks who are passionate about preserving material culture from the past because they understand the significance and meaning of these artifacts. Recently, my education co-workers Lauren and Gemma brought in items from their grandfathers’ service from WWII. Of course, these are personal mementos to their family, and tell important stories of their grandpas’ lives, both who now have passed away. These photographs, yearbooks, service papers, and trinkets are a lens into the lives of men who are loved and remembered by their families. They are not just important mementos to their own families’ past, but even help us at the Museum compile and share the varied history of the American experience in WWII.

These pieces were brought in different conditions and  modes of storage. Items were zipped up in plastic bags with one image or item on top of another. While some items were in almost pristine condition, others were showing the signs of wear and fray after 70 years of being stored in closets or attics.  With easy access to our fellow colleagues in the Collections and Exhibits Department, Lauren and Gemma can learn one-on-one how to preserve these items for many years to come, so they can continue to share the stories of their loved ones with future generations.

Don’t work in a Museum and wonder how you can learn to preserve and protect your own family’s WWII mementos? Well, you’re in luck! Tune in to our Adult Learning Webinar, Caring for Your Own WWII Collection  on January 14th. Museum Registrar and Assistant Director of Collections and Exhibits Toni Kiser  will share common preservation techniques and answer your submitted questions. Can’t watch the live program? All registrants will receive a recording to view at their own convenience.

Also, be sure to submit a picture of your family’s WWII artifacts (like Lauren and Gemma’s items above) before the webinar so we can address your specific questions.  Post on the Museum’s Facebook Wall or tag @WWIIMuseum on Twitter or Instagram pages using the hashtag #myww2stuff. 

Register today and don’t forget to send questions and pictures our way with the hashtag #myww2stuff!

Post by Chrissy Gregg, Virtual Classroom Coordinator

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SciTech Tuesday–Nuclei are sticky drops, not brittle solids, and that leads to The Bomb

For most of World War II, like in all of previous human history, people used energy stored in the bonds of molecules for power. But in December of 1938, a chain of events began that changed the way we use chemicals for energy—and human history changed drastically.

This diagram shows how a neutron entering the nucleus of uranium creates an unstable isotope, which breaks down into two other elements and releases protons and a great deal of energy.f

This diagram shows how a neutron entering the nucleus of uranium creates an unstable isotope, which breaks down into two other elements and releases protons and a great deal of energy.f

Chemistry and knowledge about the structure of atoms developed by leaps and bounds in the early 20th century. In 1869 Dimitri Mendeleev showed that all chemical elements can be grouped and organized using regular patterns in their characteristics. The Periodic Table of Elements was a huge innovation that allowed systematic investigation into the nature of atoms and elements. JJ Thomson’s discovery of the electron, and the modern atomic theory, began to reveal why those patterns in the Periodic Table existed.

The discovery that some elements had different forms with different masses (in 1913) led to the concept of isotopes (a term created by Margaret Todd) and a rush of investigation into the nucleus of atoms. From the work of Thomson on, much of the empirical work into the structure of atoms involved aiming electrons or radiation at them to see what would happen. This is how Ernest Rutherford discovered the atomic nucleus (1911), and the proton (1918). In 1932 Alex Chadwick described the neutron, and the full complement of atomic particles was available to theoreticians and chemists to explain quantum mechanics and chemical reactions.

Norman Feather bombarded nitrogen with neutrons, and found that the result was boron and alpha radiation. After this, neutrons were used to examine materials to look for heavier elements and radioactive elements. In the mid-1930s a research team led by Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner, and Fritz Strassman had found many new products when they exposed uranium to a beam of neutrons. Atomic theory had developed by thinking of all elements as more complicated forms of hydrogen, and as brittle material from which small parts might be chipped off. So scientists expected to break large atoms up by knocking off small parts when they shot them with neutrons. Lise Meitner had to flee to Sweden, since she was Jewish, and the lab was in Germany, but Hahn and Strassman continued the experiments and shared with her their data.

This was the setup used for the experiments by Hahn, Meitner, and Strassman, later replicated by Frisch. By today's standards it's very primitive.

This was the setup used for the experiments by Hahn, Meitner, and Strassman, later replicated by Frisch. By today’s standards it’s very primitive.

In experiments with uranium exposed to a beam of electrons from December 16-17 1938, Hahn and Strassman found that the products were not forms of uranium, but were instead barium. On December 19th Meitner received a letter from Hahn describing the results. He was at a loss to explain how the atoms lost 40% of their mass. Meitner trusted that Hahn had identified the element correctly—after all he was an excellent analytical chemist. She understood the physics better than he did. Meitner also recalled that Marie Curie and her lab often found barium in samples of decayed radioactive material. She also knew that pioneers like Niels Bohr had described the nucleus as more like a liquid drop than a solid. Making some calculations, Meitner saw that the charged nucleus could in fact split into two large pieces. She saw also that the mass of the two resulting nuclei would be less than the mass of the original nucleus. Rather than being a problem, this difference in mass was more evidence that the nucleus had split. Einstein’s theory of relativity suggested that matter could be converted into energy. She made some more calculations and discovered that the missing matter could explain the huge energy that had been released in the transformation.

Lise Meitner worked with her visiting nephew Otto Frisch to write a detailed explanation of what they thought had happened in the experiment. When Frisch returned to his lab he reproduced the experiment and showed that they were correct in their interpretation. Meitner named the splitting of the nucleus ‘fission,’ after the splitting of cells in organisms. In 1944 Hahn, but not Meitner, was awarded the Nobel prize for the discovery of fission.

This new form of chemical manipulation—the splitting of nuclei instead of the splitting of molecules by breaking the covalent bonds between them—provided millions of times more energy. In just seven years this energy was used to make the world’s first three atomic bombs.

If you are a middle school science teacher, and would like to spend next summer learning about STEM and history, consider joining us for Real World Science – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, a week-long teacher seminar this July. Sign up for email updates here.

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

December 10-12, 2014: Museum Hours and Closures

Campaigns 2013The National WWII Museum is excited to open the doors of our newest pavilion Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters to the public on Saturday, December 13, 2014, with the opening of the exhibit Road to Berlin: European Theater Galleries. In preparation for this unveiling, we will have limited hours and closures throughout the Museum between Wednesday, December 10, and Friday, December 12.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have during your visit. Please view the list of closures below so you can plan your trip to the Museum accordingly.



Wednesday, December 10 –
The Museum will be open from 9:00 am-5:00 pm with limited hours on the following:

Thursday, December 11 –
The Museum will be open from 9 am-5 pm with limited hours on the following:

Friday, December 12 –
The Museum will be open to the public 12:30 pm-5:00 pm. Although there will be limited hours and closures on some exhibits at the Museum, visitors will still be able to view all of the galleries in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion and our current special exhibit Manufacturing Victory: The Arsenal of Democracy. Please note the limited hours and closures on the following Museum experiences:


All Museum venues and experiences will return to standard hours of operation on Saturday, December 13, 2014. For more information on planning your visit to The National WWII Museum, please visit us here.

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Home Front Friday: Can All You Can

Can All You Can propaganda poster

Can All You Can propaganda poster

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!


Canning and preserving was a great way to save up the bounty from the nation’s millions of Victory Gardens. Community canning centers opened so equipment could be shared amongst neighbors. Mason jar companies produced booklets, propaganda posters encouraging canning appeared around town, and many people got into the canning spirit. Canning is becoming popular again today as more people grab seasonal produce from local gardens.


If you are a novice canner, it can seem overwhelming. But this simple recipe below using produce from the local farmer’s market is easy and fun and doesn’t even need pectin or a pressure cooker! And it can make a nice homemade holiday gift.



Persimmon-Apple Jam


5 apples

5 apples

5 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced.

You can also add to the food processor if you want a smoother jam.

We used Macintosh, but any baking apple works.

6 persimmons

6 persimmons

6 Fuyu persimmons, peeled, leaves removed, pureed in a food processor with 2 cups water.

2 tablespoons of ginger finely chopped.

zest and juice of 2 limes.

3 cups of sugar.



ingredients in the pot

ingredients in the pot

Combine all ingredients except the sugar in a non-reactive pan. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to maintain low boil.

everything cooked down

everything cooked down

Cook until the fruit is soft (20-30 minutes).

slowly adding sugar

slowly adding sugar

Then add the sugar gradually, keeping the mixture at a boil.

Cook on a rapid boil until the jam reaches setting stage (15-20 minutes).

the setting point test

the setting point test

Before taking the jam off the heat, do the setting-point test:

Use a plate that’s been in the freezer for approximately 15 minutes. Dab a little of the hot jam on it, and run your finger through to see if it sticks to its new position. For more help on this test, click here.

filling the jars

filling the jars

When the jam passes the setting point test, then it’s time to fill it into sterilized jars.

sealed and ready to share

sealed and ready to share

Be sure to seal the jars while the jam is still hot.

*This recipe yields approximately 8 half pint jars.*


Posted by Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum.

Donor Spotlight: Jeri Nims

Jeri Nims

Jeri Nims

Myrtis “Jeri” Nims is the widow of the late Robert E. Nims, founder of Lucky Coin Machine Co. Since his passing in 2000, Jeri has continued to honor her husband’s legacy through philanthropy. Robert came to New Orleans when he served with the Merchant Marines in World War II. After the war, he moved to the city and stayed until his death.

When Jeri visited the Museum for the first time, she “instantly fell in love.” Due to her and her late husband’s love for the arts, she decided to name the Robert and Jeri E. Nims Entertainers Hallway, which welcomes all visitors to the Solomon Victory Theater and the Stage Door Canteen in style with large photos of the stars of stage and screen who served in uniform during the War.

Jeri has also named the Jeri Nims Soda Shop, a restaurant on the Museum’s campus where guests can enjoy house-made milkshakes and sodas as well as a lunch and breakfast menu that emulates the nostalgia of the WWII era.

Her generosity and enthusiasm for the Museum’s mission are invaluable and she is one of our strongest advocates. Jeri has acknowledged that her greatest joy comes from using her fortune to “help people.” We are fortunate that she is a member of the Museum family.


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SciTech Tuesday: Werner Heisenberg–good or bad? It’s uncertain.

Werner Heisenberg was born on December 5th 1901. The co-founder and pioneer of quantum mechanics was born to parents in Bavaria, where his father taught and studied classical languages. In his youth Heisenberg was a member of the German Youth Movement, and showed aptitude for both mathematics and physics. A Rockefeller Foundation fellowship took him to Copenhagen for a year in 1924 to conduct research with Niels Bohr. Returning to Germany, he developed the first parts of the quantum theory with collaborators. In 1926 Heisenberg returned to Copenhagen and work with Bohr, as a lab assistant and lecturer.

In 1927 Heisenberg wrote to his colleague Wolfgang Pauli about what came to be called the uncertainty principle. He moved to Leipzig as a professor that same year. Shortly after he wrote papers with Pauli describing relativistic quantum theory, and in 1932 Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.

With the rise of fascism and anti-semitism in Germany, quantum physics and all theoretical physics, including relativity, were derided. Reports in the press referred to Heisenberg as ‘white jew.’ Political forces were set on denying academic advancement to Heisenberg. Just before the outbreak of the war, in 1939, he visited the United States, and refused an invitation to emigrate. Heisenberg’s mother was friends with Himmler’s mother, and she made an appeal. Himmler wrote a letter supporting Heisenberg, saying that Germany could not afford to lose or silence a man it needed to educate a generation of scientists, and signed it ‘in friendship, Heil Hitler.’ Privately, Himmler warned Heisenberg to be cautious.

Right after Meitner and Frisch explained the experimental results that showed the fission of uranium, Heisenberg became a principal scientist in the Uranium Club—Germany’s nuclear energy project. In 1941 He traveled to German-occupied Copenhagen to speak with Niels Bohr and his colleagues. When he returned to Germany, Heisenberg presented a lecture to Reich officials on the feasibility of developing nuclear power, and the Army subsequently cut its funding for the project. In a meeting in 1942 with the German Minister of Armaments, Heisenberg described nuclear weapons as being expensive to develop (in terms of money and manpower) and unlikely to be successful before 1945.

In early 1943 he received an endowed chair in physics in Berlin. He moved to the city, but evacuated his family and most of his research staff to the country to avoid bombing. Heisenberg traveled to Copenhagen after Bohr escaped, and later to Switzerland. In 1945 he joined his family and staff outside of Berlin.

On May 3rd 1945, Heisenberg was captured by American forces who invaded his country estate while the area was still under German control. He was removed from Germany and taken to England, and didn’t see his family for several months. Part of the goal of this mission to acquire German scientists and their research before the Russians obtained them. Heisenberg resumed his position at the head of German physics research after the war, leading the Max Planck Institute (renamed from the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute, and relocated from Berlin to Munich).

Some historians view Heisenberg as a hero, who used subterfuge to derail the German nuclear program. Others see him as a patriot with conflicted feelings about his government.

He died of cancer at his home in February of 1976.

Heisenberg was handsome and stylishly dressed as a young man.

Heisenberg was handsome and stylishly dressed as a young man.

If you are a middle school science teacher, and uncertain what to do next summer, consider joining us for Real World Science – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, a week-long teacher seminar this July. Sign up for email updates here.

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

Donor Spotlight: Mark P. Norman

The National WWII Museum is fortunate to have an incredibly generous family of donors who make it possible for thousands of visitors each year to experience personal accounts, artifacts, documents, and photographs from the war.  These are the members of the Dr. Stephen E. Ambrose Legacy Society who have included The National WWII Museum in their will, trust, life insurance policy, retirement assets, or other estate plans. These gifts support our mission to preserve and share the history of the American Experience during World War II.

Mark Norman and President Nick Mueller

Mark Norman and President Nick Mueller

One of these honored legacy donors is Mr. Mark Packard Norman. Not only does he support the Museum through his estate plans, but he is also a Patriots Circle, Solomon Victory Theater seat donor, and an artifact donor. On this week’s donor spotlight, we are proud to highlight Mark and the story of his artifacts.

At the age of 65, Mark Norman began a bold, decade-long project to restore three WWII-era trucks. Mark was inspired by The National WWII Museum’s first V-Mail newsletter, which contained a wish list of macro artifacts. Mark thought, “Why can’t I do something like this?” At the time he was recovering from open-heart surgery, but didn’t fare well with idle time. He was determined to restore the trucks and “once they were done see if the Museum would be interested in them.

Mark found these trucks in Norway, Belgium, and Denmark. When he finally shared with his doctor what his new hobby was, the doctor encouraged Mark to continue, even if it posed a risk to his health, because he was “doing something that he truly loved.” He went on to finish the trucks and the Museum feels fortunate to be the recipient of two of his beautifully restored vehicles. Here, these vehicles and the war experiences they represent can be appreciated by millions.

We extend our greatest thanks to Mark for his generosity and his commitment to the Museum.

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