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Free Student Webinar: Japanese American Experiences in WWII

To commemorate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in May, the Museum will be hosting a free student webinar in relation to our latest special exhibit: From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: Japanese American Experiences in WWII. During the program, students will learn about the forced incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans in remote camps for the duration of WWII, especially focused on the experiences of Nisei students who abruptly became prisoners at a young age.

Images from the 1944 Resume yearbook from Rohwer Center High School

Images from the 1944 Resume yearbook from Rohwer Center High School

Brian Komei Dempster

Brian Komei Dempster

Students will have the opportunity to interact with curator Kim Guise, as she showcases some of her favorite artifacts from the exhibit.  Viewers will examine a camp high school yearbook and images of school, social and home life for the young Nisei prisoners.  They’ll also meet poet, professor and editor Brian Komei Dempster, who helps former camp prisoners record and compose their incarceration and resettlement stories. Dempster also uses this time period as creative inspiration, and just released his debut poetry anthology, Topaz, reflecting on his own family’s incarceration experiences.  He will share a selection of his poems, and the meaning behind these poignant pieces tied to his family’s history.

At the end of the program, the Museum and Dempster will introduce a poetry prompt for student viewers, to craft their own creative piece based on what they learned in the program. The theme of the prompt will be based upon Japanese Americans leaving behind prized family possessions before their forced removal, and the uncertainty and sadness of loss. Select student poems will be featured on the Museum’s blog!

Students will be able to ask questions of both presenters during the program. Teachers will receive curriculum materials after registration, including a lesson plan with a selection of stories from camp prisoners and Dempster’s poetry. Space is limited for the May 9th program at 12:00PM CT, so register today!

Memphis Belle Premieres

Memphis Belle

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

On this day 70 years ago, Paramount Pictures, in conjunction with the First Motion Picture Unit, released The Memphis Belle:  A Story of a Flying Fortress.  Directed by legendary Hollywood perfectionist William Wyler while the director was serving in the United States Army Air Forces and shot in striking 16mm technicolor, The Memphis Belle for the first time brought actual combat-shot aerial battle footage to audiences at home in the United States.

Though the film alleged to document the 25th and final mission of the crew of the B-17 in its title, filming between January and May of 1943 was actually conducted aboard a number of different Flying Fortresses of the 8th Air Force.  Employing revolutionary filming techniques which included cameras mounted in the plane’s nose, tail, right waist and radio hatch positions, the results of Wyler’s work clearly showed both the dangers and heroism of America’s daylight bombers.

Despite the great risks associated with bomber missions, for the entire duration of the filming, Wyler and his crew personally oversaw the project aboard and alongside the B-17 crews; Wyler himself would lose much of his hearing due to the concussive explosions of anti-aircraft flak.

Both critically and popularly acclaimed at the time, The Memphis Belle proved a huge hit and today is preserved for its cultural significance within the National Film Registry.  Click below to watch The Memphis Belle:  A Story of a Flying Fortress in its entirety.

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

National History Day State Contest Results: National Finalists Selected

On Saturday, April 12, 250 middle and high school students from all across Louisiana arrived at The National WWII Museum for the National History Day State Contest. Months of research and planning went into these students’ projects which were conducted on historical topics of their own choosing. Many of the students selected their topics in the fall and then spent much of the spring conducting research online, in libraries and at historical sites and archives. With the option to create either an exhibit, a documentary, a performance, a website or a documentary, students could display their research in the way they deemed most effective.

The theme of the Contest was “Rights and Responsibilities in History,” and to address this theme, many students chose topics focused on civil rights issues, labor struggles and the history of gun control. Each student’s project was reviewed by a panel of judges, and students were granted 15 minutes to answer questions related to their research process.

The top 2 entries in each category were selected to represent Louisiana at the National History Day Contest to be held at the University of Maryland from June 15-19, 2014.

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Worker Wednesday: Childcare



This week, April 6-12, 2014 is the Week of the Young Child™, an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). In conjunction, this week’s Worker Wednesday touches on childcare in WWII.

April 1944 marked the end of the Higgins Industries publication, The Eureka News Bulletin and the rise of the new Higgins publication, The Higgins Worker. The new publication was more like a newspaper than a magazine—printed on newsprint, shorter in format and available to employees every Friday. The topics were current and concerned matters of everyday employee life, like childcare.

The need for womanpower during WWII brought to the forefront the issue of what to do with the kids while mom is at work. For the first time, there were more married women than single women in the workforce, some of them mothers. Childcare centers were opened around the nation. Federal subsidies from the Federal Works Administration provided extra support for communities, employers and families in need of childcare. Families paid fees which were capped at 50 cents per day in 1943 and 75 cents in July 1945. Some of them, including the one at Higgins Industries, even operated 24 hours a day, for mothers working evening and night shifts. The daycare at Higgins, opened 70 years ago this week, was located in Shipyard Homes, a public housing project established in 1943 to house employees and their families. In July 1944, there were a peak 3,102 federally-subsidized child care centers, enrolling 130,000 children. The center at the mammoth Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California could accommodate over 1,000 children. At the end of the war, many of the subsidized childcare facilities were closed under the assumption that the need was no longer there. California, the state with the most children enrolled in childcare, mounted the loudest protest against withdrawal of funding and some funds continued to flow into the program through early 1946. By July 1946, less than 1/3 of the wartime centers remained open.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

SciTech Tuesday: Birthday of Melvin Calvin, Biochemist

Today marks the birthday of Melvin Calvin, the biochemist for whom the eponymous photosynthesis cycle familiar to many biology students is named. Calvin was a fearless scientist known for his insatiable curiosity and skill in posing meaningful questions. While he was a chemist by education and training, Calvin boldly delved into new fields including carcinogenesis, the synthesis of biofuels, lunar geology and the development of synthetic membranes.

Dr. Calvin’s diverse interests and endless curiosity led him to the University of California’s Radiation Laboratory directed by Ernest Lawrence. Using the 60-inch cyclotron and new isotopes produced from Hanford and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Calvin led the effort to find medical and biochemical applications for the radioactive byproducts of the Manhattan Project.

Calvin used radioactive carbon-14 to trace the path of carbon during photosynthesis. Plants use sunlight in combination with carbon dioxide and water to make sugar and oxygen. Using the carbon-14 isotope, Calvin mapped the entire chemical process of photosynthesis now known as the Calvin cycle. Most significant in this research was the discovery that sunlight activates chlorophyll, the green pigment in all plants and the site of photosynthesis, rather than carbon dioxide. For his work Dr. Calvin earned the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1961.

Post by Annie Tête, STEM Education Coordinator

International Intern Compares The National WWII Museum to German Museums

LeaLea Kroener, a student at the Free University of Berlin has been working with the Education Department of The National WWII Museum this Spring. She has been helping to develop lesson plans, helped to organize and judge the New Orleans Regional History Day Contest and even helped score at the Museum’s monthly Pub Quiz. Lea is focusing her studies on the history and culture of the United States. Her internship at the Museum represents her return to Louisiana after previously attending Destrehan High School during a foreign exchange program. Several weeks into her internship, we asked Lea to compare The National WWII Museum to museums she has visited in Germany.



When I started thinking about the differences between the way WWII is exhibited in the United States and in Germany, I realized that I had never been to a WWII Museum in Germany. Sure, there are numerous history museums, especially in the capital Berlin, but not a single one seems to deal with the war exclusively. Instead, German history from 1933-1945 is presented in museums and classrooms with the mission of trying to understand the horrors of the Nazi dictatorship and by searching for safeguards in order to prevent history from repeating itself. In Germany, the battles and other events of the war are overshadowed by the atrocities of the Holocaust. Therefore, there are a lot of museums and memorials intended to serve as memorials to the Holocaust and its millions of victims. One of the most well-known is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in the center of Berlin.

Other topics which are more important than the WWII itself include the collapse of the Weimar Republic, Hitler’s rise to power and his establishment of a dictatorship. So most of Germany’s historical museums are not limited to the war but focus on the period from 1933 to 1945 or try to make the connection between WWI and WWII. Another difference is that a German history of WWII focuses on the War in Europe. Most Germans have heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor (first of all through popular movies) but it is mostly just seen as the cause for America’s entry into the war while we are not really aware of the War in the Pacific.

There is also a great difference between the way history is presented in museums in the US and in Germany. My first impression of the WWII Museum was that is very modern and uses a lot of technologies. The learning process is supported by the 4-D movie Beyond All Boundaries, various other video clips, oral histories, and interactive games – which make learning about history a lot of fun. In contrary, going to a museum in Germany seems to be aimed at serious scholars in general. However, museums in Germany are slowly catching up with the use of new media. The Free University of Berlin for example has established a new Master’s Program in Global History in 2008, aiming to prepare students for occupations that require the preparation and dissemination of academic research for the general public.

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Book Club: Snow Falling on Cedars Discussion

Next Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 6pm in our Stage Door Canteen we will be meeting to discuss Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.

If you can’t join us for this discussion – here are some of the questions we might bring up.  Feel free to answer and start a dialogue in the comments.  We might even introduce some of your thoughts into the discussion if you reply before next Tuesday. (Questions issued by publisher.)


  • In his first description of Carl Heine, Guterson imparts a fair amount of what is seemingly background information. We learn that Carl is considered “a good man.” How do these revealed facts become crucial later on, as mechanisms of plot, as revelations of the dead man’s character, and as clues to San Piedro’s collective mores?
  • Ishmael’s experience in World War II has cost him an arm. How has the war affected other characters in this book, both those who served and those who stayed home?
  • Guterson tells us that “on San Piedro the silent-toiling, autonomous gill-netter became the collective image of the good man”. Thus, Carl’s death comes to signify the death of the island’s ideal citizen: he represents a delayed casualty of the war in which so many other fine young men were killed. To what extent is Carl a casualty of his self-sufficiency?
  • Kabuo and Hatsue also possess–and are at times driven by–certain values. As a young girl, Hatsue is taught the importance of cultivating stillness and composure in order “to seek union with the Greater Life”. Kabuo’s father imparts to him the martial codes of his ancestors. How do these values determine their behavior, and particularly their responses to internment, war, and imprisonment? How do they clash with the values of the Anglo community, even as they sometimes resemble them?
  • Racism is a persistent theme in this novel. It is responsible for the internment of Kabuo, Hatsue, and their families, for Kabuo’s loss of his land, and perhaps for his indictment for murder. In what ways do the book’s Japanese characters respond to the hostility of their white neighbors? How does bigotry manifest itself in the thoughts and behavior of characters like Etta Heine–whose racism is keenly ironic in view of her German origins–Art Moran, and Ishmael himself? Are we meant to see these characters as typical of their place and time?
  • In choosing Kabuo, Hatsue acknowledges “the truth of her private nature”. That choice implies a paradox. For, if Kabuo is a fellow nisei, he is also rooted in the American earth of San Piedro’s strawberry fields. How is this doubleness–between Japanese and American–expressed elsewhere in Snow Falling on Cedars?


Again, we hope you can join us here at the Museum, but we would be delighted for you to take part in the discussion wherever you may be!

Posted by Lauren Handley, Education Programs Coordinator

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SciTech Tuesday: New Lesson Plan on Blood Plasma

Learn about the medical advances of WWII with our newest lesson plan, A New War Weapon to SAVE Lives, exploring the innovative development of blood plasma for transfusions on WWII battlefields. Focused on the work of medical pioneer Dr. Charles Drew, the lesson combines primary sources with hands-on activities to meet both Common Core State Standards for Literacy and Next Generation Science Standards. The science of blood transfusion paired with the great necessity of a new technology to save wounded soldiers will engage and inspire young learners.

During WWII the use of blood plasma was an essential component of treating wounded soldiers. Red blood cells, absent from plasma, contain substances called antigens which determine blood type. Because these antigens are missing, the need to match the blood type of the donor to the recipient is unnecessary. In addition, dried plasma can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration and transported across great distances. Medics on the battlefield simply reconstituted the dried plasma by adding water before transfusion.

Post by Annie Tête, STEM Education Coordinator

Voices from the Battlefield: Teaching with Japanese American Veterans’ Oral Histories

Jimmy Kanaya in his Army uniform, 1940s. Courtesy of

Jimmy Kanaya in his Army uniform. Courtesy of Jimmie Kanaya. June 1945, Ft. Sam Houston, Texas.

The Museum’s new special exhibit, From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: Japanese American Experiences in WWII, explores two important aspects of Japanese American life during the war: life within the internment or incarceration camps on the American Home Front, and the heroic contributions of Japanese American soldiers on European battlefields and in the Pacific Theater. There are ways to bring this content into the classroom, even if teachers and schools cannot visit the exhibit in person at the Museum. Some of the artifacts and stories in the physical exhibit have been digitized and are accessible through the From Barbed Wire to Battlefields exhibit website at http://barbedwiretobattlefields.org.

A great way to supplement or  enhance your school’s or state’s WWII curriculum is through the use of oral histories. Oral histories, such as those contained within the Voices from the Battlefield: Japanese Americans in Service section, are a compelling way to make history come alive for students. Not only do most people tend to connect with and remember personal stories, but oral histories help to make larger, more abstract topics like the policy of Japanese American internment more accessible to learners of all ages. A case in point is the personal story of Jimmie Kanaya, who served as a medic for the all Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team before he was captured and placed in German POW camps. Kanaya’s individual experiences, and those of his family, illustrate the emotional challenges and dilemmas that many people of Japanese descent faced in the United States after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Kanaya, who was already in the Army when the Pearl Harbor attack took place, vividly recounted his experience of going on military leave to visit his family who were temporarily living in horse stalls at the Portland Stockyards Assembly Center in Oregon. Despite the fact that he was an enlisted soldier, the Military Police on duty at the Assembly Center would not let Kanaya back inside the facility to say goodbye to his parents or to help them move to the internment camp. Like other American soldiers of Japanese heritage during WWII, Kanaya felt the tension inherent in the complex choice to fight on behalf of the same country that had interned one’s family and neighbors, and the desire to serve in the military to prove one’s loyalty as an American citizen.

Interviews with other members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team like Daniel Inouye and George Sakato, and Japanese language translators who were in the Military Intelligence Service also reveal a variety of motivations behind volunteering to fight for America. Despite discriminatory treatment in the military and at home, many veterans shared Norman Ikari’s conviction that the United States was, at its core, still a country that believed “in such basic human principles [as] liberty, equal treatment [and] tolerance to the people that live here.” Over twenty Japanese American soldiers, including Inouye and Sakato, eventually received the Medal of Honor in 2000, over 55 years after their courageous actions and leadership during WWII. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team gained national fame and respect for their bravery, becoming the most decorated unit of its size and length of service in U.S. military history.

Learn more about the courageous actions of WWII Japanese American veterans by visiting the Voices from the Battlefields section on the From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: Japanese American Experiences in WWII exhibit site. To hear the Museum’s complete oral history interviews with Jimmie Kanaya, George Sakato  and Daniel Inouye, please visit The Digital Collections of The National WWII Museum website.

Post by Megan Byrnes, K-12 Curriculum Coordinator



WWII Veteran Celebrates 90th Birthday at Museum

Craycraft on his 90th birthday walking among the warbirds hanging in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.

Everett D. Craycraft on his 90th birthday walking among the warbirds hanging in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Smith Wilcox.

Every day The National WWII Museum honors the achievements and courage of the Greatest Generation for future generations. On March 9, 2014, we were especially thrilled to have WWII veteran, Everett D. Craycraft, and his family celebrating his 90th birthday with us at the Museum over 70 years after he began fighting in the war that changed the world.

Born in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky in 1924, Craycraft grew up the oldest of seven boys during the Great Depression. In September 1942 when he was 18 years old, he answered his patriotic call and enlisted in the US Navy in order to play his part in protecting our nation’s liberty.

After boot camp training in the Great Lakes and placement in Washington at Sand Point Naval Air Station and in Bremerton, Craycraft entered the most frightful part of service—the combat zone. He served for 15 months in the South Pacific on the USS Natoma Bay CVE 62, a small aircraft carrier which was awarded six bronze battle stars and 2 unit citation badges. He was then assigned to Service Division 101 operating an LCM, a 50 ft boat made by Higgins Industries in New Orleans. They served Admiral Halsey’s carrier fleet at Leyte Gulf. Towards the close of the war, he returned stateside and served as a Ship’s Rigger at the San Diego Naval Base.

His service to our country did not end with our nation’s victory though. Craycraft continued to serve in the Naval Reserve until 1952 and went back to school to learn Topographic Drafting on the GI Bill while he started his family. Following school, he began working for a large oil company moving to six different states where he last worked in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Today, Craycraft is retired and living in Slidell, Louisiana. Still active in learning about and honoring the members of his generation, he enjoys visiting the Museum to be reminded of his generation’s heroic accomplishments. He favors the majestic views of the warbirds in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and the familiar models of the types of vessels in which he served that are on display throughout the Museum. We are happy to be a place for Craycraft and other WWII veterans to be honored and to reminisce about their great accomplishments. Thank you for your service, Everett D. Craycraft, and best wishes to you in your years to come!