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Home Front Friday: The Gifts That Keep On Giving

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!

Far from home and making their way through unknown territories, soldiers during WWII relied on hand written notes to communicate with their loved ones back on the Home Front. Since today is National Christmas Card Day, we’re going to give a shoutout to these letters that deliver the holiday cheer. These days we have cards with puns and cute catch phrases capturing feelings of love and joy people have for each other. Hallmark always seems to have some sort of new design that really tugs at the heart strings. During WWII, specific Christmas cards were created to send to soldiers. Many troops carried these cards with them throughout their time overseas because they boosted their morale and encouraged them to continue the fight. Christmas cards were truly a gift that kept on giving hope and served as lights at the end of a long tunnel.

US soldiers receive Christmas mail on 26 November 1943.

US soldiers receive Christmas mail in Italy on 26 November 1943.

US soldiers receive Christmas mail in Italy on November 1943.

US soldiers receive Christmas mail in Italy on 26 November 1943.

It was a tough time for many families to be separated by thousands of miles of ocean and land from their loved ones who were constantly in harms way to restore some sort of peace. Troops were nostalgic for home and familiarity while the Home Front desired to give them a piece of home that brought small elements of joy to their tough days. Hand written letters, packages, and recordings were among the most popular items sent, and during the Christmas season, specific cards were made to wish joy and bestow blessings on the troops.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Hallmark Cards joined the Home Front effort with their slogan, “keep ‘em happy with mail.” The company created cards of all sorts, as they do today. These cards were small tokens of affection that held special places in soldiers’ hearts. The United States Army Postal Service collected Christmas items set to be mailed to soldiers way before December in order to be certain that the packages and cards got there in time. This is a special time of year, and although it was just another day of fighting or arriving at new destinations, these soldiers deserved to receive some holiday cheer. Mailed items were their portable pieces of home that allowed a connection with loved ones from afar as well as brought a sense of calmness to otherwise stressful times. These small moments of connection, even if they were from thousands of miles away, made a day in their lives that much better.

Courtesy of the National Archives.

Courtesy of the National Archives.

As all else, Christmas cards during WWII reinforced the patriotic spirit of the Home Front.  Cards sent to soldiers typically had a red, white, and blue color scheme as well as an uncle Sam or a Santa Claus dressed as a soldier. This military-esque Santa could also be found on propaganda released during the holiday season that encouraged people to buy war bonds as Christmas gifts. There were also simple cards with a wreath and a, “Merry Christmas,” followed by a space for people to write their own personalized messages. In 1944, General George Patton sent cards out to his troops reminding each of them of the full confidence he had in their strength and dedication to victory. Check out the full card below.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In honor of National Christmas Card Day, here are a few ways you can send mail to our troops overseas or to veterans near you.

Here are a few links to follow in order to write and mail letters:

  1. Operation Gratitude
  2. A Million Thanks
  3. Operation We Are Here 

If you want to embrace your inner Santa Claus, try baking some cookies, brownies, or another treat of some sort for your veterans.

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

December Classroom of the Month— Get in the Scrap!

Each month the Museum will feature a standout classroom participating in Get in the Scrap! Get in the Scrap! is a national service learning project about recycling and energy conservation, inspired by the scrapping efforts of students during World War II.  Each class featured has done stellar work to make a difference in their school, home, community and even the planet!

This month we’re featuring the Shiremanstown Home School Group from Duncannon, PA. The students sat down and answered a few questions for us about their work with Get in the Scrap!

The Shiremanstown Home School group preparing for their big event on December 10th!

The Shiremanstown Home School group preparing for their big event on December 10th!

Number of Get in the Scrap! Points thus far: 

We have 69 points so far and will receive the 25 points on December 10th, the night of the event when they share all of the work they’ve done and they need 6 more points besides, which will be completed in two weeks.  They have committed to doing every activity on the list. They are very excited about this.

How has Get in the Scrap! been a good fit for your curriculum? Please explain: 

This class is a Citizenship class and the students remarked that the curriculum has:

  1. Allowed us to work as a group.
  2. We learned about the history and sacrifices of the people during WWII.
  3. We understand that people need to pay attention to the environment and conserve resources.
  4.  We combined Penny Wars and Water Bottle Bank activities to collect money for Wreaths Across America so we could pay tribute to the men and women who have served our country. [Blogger’s note: The students have raised over $3,500  so far in memory of the Marines killed in the Pegasus crash in Hawaii.]
  5.  The Penny Wars helped us learn how to count change and manage our accounting, keeping tabs every week of our collections.
  6. Get In the Scrap Day! Is helping us to learn how to organize an event, plan for the people who are coming, and work with the community on a mission that’s important to us.

What has been your favorite activity? Why?

Our favorite activity has been planning the big event using all of the little activities to help us learn about what we are going to be presenting.  We can’t wait to do it!  [Blogger’s note: On December 10th, the group will be hosting a traditional holiday meal, followed by a production of “A World War II Radio Christmas.” Proceeds from the event will go to Susquehanna Service Dogs and Wreaths Across America.]

Any suggestions on new activities or how to improve the project?

We would like you to create a BINGO game like the Jeopardy game.  We could even help!

This is just one of the many amazing classrooms participating in the Get in the Scrap! national service learning project. You can learn more and sign up your classroom today at getinthescrap.org!

Post by Chrissy Gregg, Virtual Classroom Coordinator

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One week ’til the Pearl Harbor Electronic Field Trip

Teachers, December 7th is only one week away—the 75th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. How will you commemorate this important anniversary and remember the “day of infamy” in your classroom?

Join The National WWII Museum and New Orleans PBS member station WYES for an interactive webcast focusing on the events of that momentous day. Remember Pearl Harbor—How Students Like YOU Experienced the Day of Infamy will give students from across the country the chance to watch live as two student reporters deliver updates from New Orleans and Hawaii.

  • Produced for students in grades 5-8
  • Participate through real-time Q&A and live polls
  • Features on-the-scene reporting from students with survivors and witnesses of the attack
  • Explore historic locations and museums, including the USS Arizona Memorial, the Pacific Aviation Museum, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and The National WWII Museum
  • FREE to all registered classrooms

Your students will make personal connections to history by hearing memorable stories and passionate testimony from survivors, witnesses, and experts while exploring important sites that are key to the story of the attack and World War II. It’s a unique opportunity not to be missed!

There will be two live programs on December 7th. Sign up for the webcast that is best for your time zone. Register today!

Post by Chrissy Gregg, Virtual Classroom Coordinator

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SciTech Tuesday: From Christmas Lights to Proximity Fuses

During WWII many factories changed their production from peacetime to wartime products. One General Electric factory in Cleveland, OH, went from making Christmas lights to a top-secret electronic device protected by security surpassed only by the Manhattan Project and the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

From 1939-1942 radar researchers in England tested a variety of devices that might be used to improve the effectiveness of anti-aircraft artillery. These artillery cause the most damage when they explode a short distance from their target. Detonation timing was based on a set timer or on impact, neither of which were efficient.

The idea being researched in England was that a small radio transmitter, coupled with an equally small receiver, could be mounted on the nose of a missile. The transmitter’s signal would bounce back, and the interaction of the sent and received signals could be used to estimate proximity to a target. These electronics required a battery, and had to be tough enough to withstand launch. The English called the technology VT, or Variable Timer fuzes. It was later called a Proximity fuse.

The Tizard mission brought the plans and data from these tests to the US, and the NRDC prioritized development and production of the fuses. Some improvements were made, and by 1944 a significant proportion of all US electronics output was parts for Proximity fuses. These were made by many companies, including RCA, Eastman Kodak, and Sylvania, in the the first mass-production of printed circuits.

Julius Rosenberg stole some of this technology and passed it to the Soviet Union. The US military was so concerned about the secrecy of Proximity fuses that they limited its use where German forces might capture unused or unexploded devices.

Vannevar Bush, head of the Office of Scientific Research and Development during the war viewed Proximity fuses as of special importance to Allied success, crediting them with a sevenfold increase in effectiveness in defense against Kamikaze attacks, neutralization of V-1 attacks, and in its use in the Battle of the Bulge against land troops.

The triggers were so sensitive that they occasionally took out unfortunate seagulls. Eventually Proximity fuses were used in bombing Japanese cities, and today’s current weapons use similar principles for detonation.

The Germans had been developing similar technology in the 1930s, but dropped it for other weapons with more immediate promise shortly after 1940.


A diagram of the Proximity fuse, published shortly after WWII. From Wikimedia Commons.

A diagram of the Proximity fuse, published shortly after WWII. From Wikimedia Commons.

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


Home Front Friday: Capturing The History

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!

Whether you compile them into a scrapbook or keep them stored in a box, photos are a special medium of history that keep the past alive. WWII was the first major worldwide conflict that was covered by photo journalists for news outlets like LIFE and Time magazines. Journalists geared up and headed off to battle with infantry, naval, and air soldiers. Rather than carry numerous weapons, they were armed with film and lenses. It was up to them to capture the moments of the war effort and send these photos back to the Home Front in order to inform the public of what their boys were dealing with overseas.

Page of a scrapbook kept by a crew member aboard PT 305. Photos courtesy of NWWII Museum collection.

Page of a scrapbook kept by a crew member aboard PT 305. Photos courtesy of NWWII Museum collection.

A picture has the power to induce a lot of emotion, but through this form of communication, the American public saw what was happening, and turned their emotions into an effort. They were inspired to keep scrapping; to keep following the ration rules; to continue sending supplies to soldiers at war. The broad array of emotions that were captured in the photos of soldiers impacted those on the Home Front in a way that guided them to continue raising the bar and working hard in order to get their loved ones home quicker.

LIFE magazine covered WWII with more attention than any other news outlet. According to a recent Time magazine article, they sent a total of 13,000 photographers overseas to the battlefield to take snapshots of the scene, the people, and the events. Their photos and video montages were shown in theaters or put in magazines, newspapers and other forms of publication in order to share the front lines with those on the Home Front. Civilians had every right to know, see, and listen to what was happening on the battlefield. Long gone were the days of solely snapping photos of scenery and day to day life. Photography took an important journalistic approach during WWII and photographers like Robert Capa went as far as landing on Omaha Beach with a platoon to capture first hand footage of the D-Day beach landing. The photos taken by Capa and other photographers alike have lived on and will continue to after our time. Pictures spoke to the Home Front and they speak to us today of a time when teenagers and adults fought side by side to restore freedom.

Taken from LIFE magazine issued in 1942.

Excerpt from LIFE magazine issued in 1942. Example photo of the motivation to stay in solidarity with one another on the Home Front.

American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France. Photo courtesy of International Center of Photography

American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France taken by Robert Capa. Photo courtesy of International Center of Photography.

A Navy Photographer on an aircraft carrier deck in January 1945.

A Navy Photographer on an aircraft carrier deck in January 1945.

Today everybody takes photos of anything and everything: their meal at a restaurant, graffiti on a parking lot wall, or a candid with friends. All of these are history. They are a compilation of peoples’ lives; their interests and their days. Clearly they are not action shots from the D-Day landings or of barrack life, but they do help us remember moments in time and will, in the future, allow us to reflect on particular stages of our lives.

Continued use of cameras and film supplies has led to the improvement and innovation of new techniques, like the ability to replay a video or take an immediate glimpse at a photo right after taking it. Typically we use a USB cord, plug it into a computer, and wait for the upload. But, I’m sure some of us have film from old cameras lying around waiting to be developed or just old photos waiting to be pulled out of boxes and used.

Here is a cool craft for your weekend that’ll let you add some history to your homes. Give your past some new life.


  • Stick from your yard, piece of wood, or anything that can serve as a steady support.
  • Twine
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Photos!! (or film)


1. Cut four pieces of twine and tie them to the object you have as the support.

2. Connect the twine from opposite ends over the top of stick and tie a knot. This will allow it to hold onto a hook or what you choose to use to display it.


3. Tape the backs of your photos or film to the twine.


4. Display and enjoy!



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

Robert M. Citino, PhD, joins Museum as Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Historian

Robert M. Citino, PhD, recently joined The National WWII Museum as Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Historian, a job title that only hints at the many roles he’ll play here.

Robert M. Citino.

Robert M. Citino.

Consider: With Museum Senior Director of Research and History Keith Huxen, PhD, Citino will cohost the upcoming 2016 International Conference on World War II—stream it live at ww2conference.com from November 17–19—and will cap the Conference’s prelude Espionage Symposium by conducting a sure-to-be-fascinating conversation with Major General John Singlaub.

With Museum President & CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, he’ll lead an exciting new 2017 Museum tour of Normandy, the Seine River, and Paris.

Dr. Citino was sparked to a lifelong interest in World War II when his father, a veteran of the Pacific war, handed him a copy of Guadalcanal Diary.

“So I sat down and read the book,” said Citino of Richard Tregaskis’s classic account of embedding with US Marines for the early stages of the battle. “From there, I couldn’t read enough books on World War II.”

He went on to write nine books of his own, with a 10th due soon. Citino comes to the Museum after academic postings at the University of North Texas, Eastern Michigan University, Lake Erie College, the US Military Academy at West Point, and the Army War College. He currently chairs the Historical Advisory Subcommittee of the Department of the Army.

Among his areas of specialization as a historian is the German military, a pursuit enhanced by his fluency in the German language, which he began to study as an undergraduate at Ohio State University. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, he went on to get advanced degrees at Indiana University. Among his many academic honors, Dr. Citino was voted the No. 1 professor in the nation on the student-populated website RateMyProfessors.com

Dr. Citino is a regular contributor to World War II magazine and other publications, and speaks about the war widely, including as a regular presenter at the International Conference. Among the  roles he’ll fill at the Museum, Dr. Citino will play a key part in the formation of the planned Institute for the Study of War and Democracy.

“I think the sky is the limit for what this place can achieve in the future,” he said.

Here’s an edited Q&A with Dr. Citino:

Q: Is there a moment you recall when you started on this path? Was there something you read, or a teacher, or one of your parents, who inspired you? I know your father was in World War II. Was there a eureka moment when you saw your path?

A: I get asked that a lot, because I’m an American who writes books on the German army, which is a kind of unusual career path perhaps. In a broader sense, in terms of World War II, you mentioned my father. My father was Army, and he fought on Guadalcanal. The word sounded so exotic to me as a little kid. What is Guadalcanal? I remember my father purchasing Richard Tregaskis’s great book, Guadalcanal Diary. Tregaskis was, at the time, what we would call an embedded reporter, for lack of a better term, with the Marine Corps on Guadalcanal. And my dad handed me this book called Guadalcanal Diary.

I was a precocious little boy. I don’t know how old I was, 4th or 5th grade maybe, but my dad told me to read this book. So I knuckled down, sat down and read the book. From there, I couldn’t read enough books on World War II. For me, oddly enough, that was my dad’s war—the Pacific war, carriers, aircraft soaring through the Pacific sky. Even today that stuff gets me going. Not in a scholarly way; I just love reading about it. You might say I’m a buff on the Pacific war. I loved reading books on World War II and that lasted all the way through high school. I went off to university—I was born in Cleveland, so I went down to Columbus—and in those days you had to take a foreign language to graduate. As you may know, that’s not necessarily true at a lot of American universities anymore. I don’t think it’s quite this flippant, I may be inventing it in my mind, but I think German was offered at a time that seemed to fit in the rest of my schedule. It wasn’t at 8 in the morning and it wasn’t 7 at night. I took German and I had an aptitude for it. I learned to read it really quickly and to read it a pretty high level. I feel thankful I was given that particular gift.


I have this WWII love and I have this language, so it was two eureka moments—my dad giving me Guadalcanal Diary and that I could access fairly sophisticated literature in another language. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I read German-language literature—archival sources, memoirs—in order to get some sense of what was going on in what Wellington famously called “the other side of the hill.”

This Museum, of course, is dedicated to the memory of the US Army and US soldier. And I’ve delved pretty deeply into those waters, as well—I’ve taught at West Point, I’ve taught at the US Army War College—I am a US military historian. But my real scholarly bona fides have been putting together that interest—that love, if you will—for studying World War II with some ability to access what the Germans thought they were doing.

When you get right down to it, it’s the most interesting question of all: a medium-sized power stuck in central Europe suddenly thought it was capable of conquering the world, and gave a pretty good impression of it in the first couple of years of the war. We look back and it all seems inevitable today that the three great powers—Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States—would crush Germany. It didn’t look inevitable at the time. And so what the Germans thought they were doing on the battlefield, how they thought they were going to construct victory in World War II: that’s what I study. Not just Hitler, but the entire military establishment; I’m much more interested in general officers down to field-grade officers than I am in Hitler.

So saying that my dad fought in World War II is not a good answer. I was born in 1958. Everybody’s dad on my street on the west side of Cleveland fought in World War II, and most of the kids my age outgrew their love of World War II and went on to other professions and other endeavors, but I never did.

Was your dad one of those guys who didn’t talk about his service?

He certainly never gave me any combat stories. My father on Guadalcanal was a medic, so I can only imagine some of the things my father saw. A medic in a jungle environment is the worst possible combination. You’re undersourced, the climate’s horrible, the insect life, the dirt level. My dad didn’t give me a lot of stories. He met Eleanor Roosevelt. She was apparently on some kind of morale-building tour of the South Pacific, maybe on New Caledonia. I’ve never really looked it up. He had a passing encounter with Bob Hope and Jerry Colonna.

In terms of combat stories, it wasn’t really a rah-rah thing. I think my dad’s experience of World War II was that it was something he had to do. Everybody had to do it, and I think he was pretty happy that World War II was over. I think that is a fairly standard view of lot of WWII veterans. Probably the ones that come to the Museum are a little more interested, or maybe at this late stage in their life are more interested in talking about it now.

When I was growing up, I heard it as a series of vignettes. They were almost never shooting or explosions or combat or dying. I just didn’t hear those stories. He didn’t seem to carry weight. I was the youngest child of five, so it’s tough to psychoanalyze your parents. My dad was a pugnacious guy. I don’t know if he was pugnacious because of his wartime experience or if he was just born that way. We’re southern Italian. Citino. That’s the toe. I always have to ask my students, because many are spatially challenged, does it look like a boot to you? Most people say, yes it does, but there’s always a few people in class who say it doesn’t. But the toe of the boot is Calabria, and one of the first phrases of Calabrian dialog I ever learned means “Calabrians have hard heads.” They’re kind of pugnacious naturally. Whether my dad was carrying the weight of his WWII experience or the weight of 5,000 years of poor peasant ancestors, which is what Calabria still is today, is an open question. He’s passed now. I tell you, when I walked into Road to Tokyo, if my dad were here, I don’t know how he’d relate to the Guadalcanal gallery. I was stunned by it and I have never set foot on Guadalcanal.

About your specialty, was it something that was unstudied in Germany after the war? Were German scholars able to study their own army?

To their credit, Germans have faced the WWII experience in a really direct and full-on way. Perhaps not immediately, but certainly in the years since 1945. It would be difficult to say that the Germans have been living in denial, compared for example to the Japanese, for whom the subject of World War II and the story of exactly what happened is still not a topic for public conversation. The Germans have faced the WWII experience.

By and large, German scholars—not popular authors, but university professors by and large—are not too interested in operations, how and why this campaign took place, what its turning points were, what its pressure points were, how it could’ve gone differently. By and large, German scholars who study war today study atrocity. They study the Holocaust. The Holocaust and World War II become one in the German public and scholarly mind. So if you’re a young scholar and you want to write another book on the Battle of Kursk, that would be a difficult sell in the German scholarly community.

I got my PhD in 1984, and that process I’m describing was already well underway. And so you can fill your bookshelf with books on the German army written by American scholars. The vast majority are written by people who don’t read German, who have no ability to access original sources in the original tongue, so there’s a lot of stuff translated. It’s not like you can’t read any German documents. The US Army interrogated virtually all of the junior top-ranking German generals all the way down sometimes to lieutenant colonels about their wartime experience, and they’re all on file at the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Those interrogations, those reports, have been translated. But reading something in its original language and reading something in translation are just two different things.

I think I developed a kind of feel for military German—specific words used in specific ways; military discourse, if you want to put it that way—describing the German experience. I can say I think I was doing something different. My books are scholarly. I’ve written nine and I’m putting the finishing touches on No. 10. I’ve had pretty good luck in the scholarly community. The books I’ve written have been well-received. I’ve also managed, I think, to reach a more popular audience in perhaps a way that not every scholar does. I’m certainly not talking about a Rick Atkinson level of popularity, but within a scholarly community that has some outreach to ordinary-interest Americans, the general reading public. That’s a phrase that excites all publishers. For World War II magazine, I have a regular column that comes out every two months.

With scholarly books, you sell in the hundreds. It gets you promotion to associate professor. It gets you tenure. I’ve been fortunate in doing that. My work on the German army reads a bit different than what people are used to reading. I have a pretty cold eye. Perhaps when I was younger I was enthused about the German operational achievement. I’ve developed a colder eye as I’ve gotten older. It’s always written from the inside, which gives it a slightly different cast.

Maybe one of the most impressive things about your career is your ranking on RateMyProfessors.com. It’s an incredible achievement. One of your students wrote, “I went into this class with zero understanding of the specifics of operational warfare, and I didn’t care about it either. By midterms I was driving everyone nuts explaining the nuts-and-bolts of Israel’s Sinai campaign.”

That was my Arab-Israeli War class.

That’s as good as it gets. What’s the secret?

RateMyProfessors.com in an online service. It’s owned by MTV. That was 2007 when I was given that. It wasn’t an award, it was a rating. And then it was a publicity flurry, so it got into USA Today, something we all dream about.

It’s a self-selected group that goes online. Amongst professors, we often kind of pooh-pooh it. I take that honor for what it was. A lot of my students over the course of many, many years bothered to take time out of their busy schedules and say something nice about me online. So, I was really pleased by it. The ancillary benefit was that an MTV camera truck pulled into my driveway one day at Ypsilanti, Michigan—at the time I won it, I was at Eastern Michigan University—and I don’t think my youngest daughter cared very much about what I did for a living until I was on MTV. They filmed me. They would read me those comments and they would film what I had to say. It was very funny. Those videos, if you Google “Citino” and “MTVU”, should still be online. I even got to play Fender Telecaster. I whipped off “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin, or whatever it was they asked me to play.

citinobook2You asked me what the secret is. Any answer you give to that question is probably going to sound self-serving. I really love the subject. I live and breathe the subject. It’s not something I do when I walk into a classroom and then forget when I walk out of the classroom. And it’s not just World War II. It’s history in general. I’m a historian. I’ve taught 500 students in History of Western Civilization 101 all the way to very detailed classes and graduate seminars. I really do love history. If you can’t get geeked up walking into a class to talk about World War II for 45 minutes, and you’re making pretty good bread doing so …

Maybe it’s the Italian heritage. I talk with my hands. I love talking to people. I think it’s a combination of loving that experience, loving your ability to express yourself, and then being given a topic that just became an obsession of mine from a very, very early age. I think if you read a lot of comments on RateMyProfessors.com, you hear it again and again: “The enthusiasm level of this class.” “The professor really digs this material. He really seems to be into it.” And I am. So maybe that is my secret. I was given a gift in that my talents matched up perfectly with my obsession. You know, I’d also like to be a power forward in the NBA, but that’s not happening. I had to drop that one early for a whole host of reasons.

My question was kind of a bridge to your role here at the Museum.

This is a new position, so it’s a work in progress, as I see it. I think everybody has a lot of good ideas about what the senior historian should be doing here. At the first level, I think one of the things I’m going to be doing is showing the flag, the academic and scholarly flag, for this institution, and reach perhaps some venues that it hasn’t really cracked in its 16 years of existence. I’m thinking of scholarly conferences. I give, I don’t know, maybe 10 or 12 public lectures, maybe more than that, a year, and a larger number of smaller talks, sometimes to local groups. I get invited by all sorts of diverse audiences. I’m flying next week to Washington, DC. General Milley, the chief of staff of the Army, read one of my books and told one of his officers, who got in touch with me. I’m addressing a seminar of very senior leaders in the Pentagon next week. So I have that scholarly side. I’m going to continue to publish books and articles, and every time I do that, there’s going to be The National WWII Museum speaking to various public groups. I have my toe in the intellectual military side, and now the Museum is going to be part of that conversation in the future.

As you know, Dr. Mueller has some pretty big ideas about this Institute for the Study of War and Democracy that we’re going to be getting underway. I don’t think the Museum will ever be a research library in the way that Harvard has a research library. You have to have hundreds of years and millions of books and another building—another 15-story building, in fact. I don’t think it’s going to do that. But it can have a role as a center of scholarship, as a clearinghouse of information, as a call of first resort for a student.

Say a graduate student wants to do something on the Home Front’s industrial mobilization. I or someone in the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy could have information to answer that student or that scholar. If you need a recommendation for a good speaker on whatever topic, the first place you would call would be The National WWII Museum. That’s what I see the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy doing. I think it’s going to require people who love the Museum and love the subject matter but who also have a foot in the scholarly and public community, so you get that synergy. It’s going to part of the Museum, but the displays here are always going to be what attracts people here. Right now, I guess I’m the first investment or the first installation of what the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy is going to be.

Here’s why I think the work is important, if you don’t mind me riffing off of your question. I love the operational side. That’s what I write. That’s what I’m really excited about. But the war is a big story, and in essence the war is about human freedom and human liberation. If World War II had been lost and the other side had won World War II, the globe would be a very different place. I know the Museum is going to have a Liberation Pavilion. If you look at how a place like America, or Western Europe, has changed since 1945 and the end of the war, it’s essentially been a story of individual liberation. It’s kind of messy. We don’t often like it. I know that for as many people who loved the 1960s in America, there was an equal number who hated them. Polling numbers for the Vietnam War, if they ever fell below 50 percent, I’d be surprised. I don’t have those numbers, but support for the war was always very high.

At any rate, people began to do their own thing, and you couldn’t be doing your own thing in a world run by the fascists. The Museum will always be about the operational side. I think that’s the heart and soul of what goes on here. Road to Tokyo, Road to Berlin—man, those are going to be bringing audiences in forever. But the Museum has to represent the broadcast possible meaning of World War II. We should be open to all approaches, and all themes, and I think the sky’s the limit for what this place can achieve in the future.

What kind of a Museum dedicated to World War II, with Higgins boats and aircraft everywhere, also puts up a Canopy of Peace? To me, when I heard that, that was the greatest thing I ever heard. I came here for my interview and saw them laying the pile caps. Unbelievable.

The Peace Canopy is nonfunctional. It doesn’t do anything, but it says something. While we celebrate the memory of the heroes who fought World War II, I don’t think anybody should really celebrate the war. The fact that a war had to be fought to maintain our basic freedoms is a human tragedy. It just shows how little we’ve progressed, not how far we’ve come. And that’s why I think putting up the Canopy of Peace is such a great thing for this Museum. I was really, really impressed when I saw they were doing it.

Story by Dave Walker, communications manager at The National WWII Museum.

Dr. Alexandra Richie Previews 2016 International Conference on WWII, Germany-Poland Tour

Decorated historian Dr. Alexandra Richie is a guest speaker at the Museum’s 2016 International Conference on World War II and will again lead a premium Museum tour, The Rise and Fall of Hitler’s Germany, in 2017.

Dr. Alexandra Richie.

Dr. Alexandra Richie.

A 12-day journey through Germany and Poland tracking the ascension then destruction of the Third Reich, the tour visits Berlin, Dresden, Kraków, and Auschwitz, among other destinations.

At the International Conference, titled 1946: Year Zero—Triumph & Tragedy and focused on the postwar events that continue to shape our world today, Richie will speak during a session titled The Iron Curtain: The Descent and the Western Response with Conrad Crane, PhD, then again on a panel presentation titled World War II in Memory: Germany, Japan, and the United States Today joined by Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, Gerhard Weinberg, PhD, and Hans van de Ven, PhD.

Richie’s first presentation, scheduled for 9:25 a.m. Saturday, November 19, is titled The Soviet Subjugation of Eastern Europe. The second panel discussion is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. later the same day.

The entire International Conference, scheduled for November 17–19 in New Orleans, will stream live and then be archived at ww2conference.com.

Dr. Richie’s most recent work, Warsaw 1944, became the No. 1 best-selling book in Poland and won the Newsweek Teresa Torańska Prize for Best Nonfiction 2014, while her first book, Faust’s Metropolis: A History of Berlin, was named one of the 10 top books of the year by Publishers Weekly.

She lives in Warsaw with her husband and their two daughters. She divides her time between the UK, Canada, and Poland, where she is Visiting Professor of History at the Collegium Civitas, an English-speaking university in Warsaw.

Here’s an edited email Q&A with Dr. Richie:


Q: Can you tell us about your panel?

A: I will be on a panel with Dr. Conrad Crane, and we will be discussing the creation of the Iron Curtain which descended on Europe after World War II. Dr. Crane and I have divided the panel to show these events from different perspectives. He will be looking at this history from the American point of view; I will be discussing how the people of Eastern Europe, who had suffered for years under Nazi rule, came out of the war only to find themselves occupied by the Soviets. I will also be putting forward the Soviet perspective in an attempt to explain why Stalin behaved the way he did.

You are a Professor of History at the Collegium Civitas in Warsaw. Can you tell us specifically about Warsaw’s experience as it shifted from World War II to the Cold War?

Poland’s tragedy is that it lies between Russia and Germany, two nations which have invaded and carved up Poland between themselves for centuries. Many forget that in 1939 Poland was invaded not only by Nazi Germany in the west, but also by the Soviets in the east, a situation that was only ended by Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. As the war progressed, it became clear that the Soviets would liberate Poland. Poles were understandably nervous about coming under the Soviet yoke once again. They did not want to be ruled from Berlin, but they didn’t want to be ruled from Moscow, either. This was the reason for the ill-fated Warsaw Uprising, in which the Poles attempted to liberate the capital city from the Germans just before the arrival of the Soviets so as to act rather as “hosts” to the liberators. Of course, it backfired when the Germans proved much more resilient than the Poles had anticipated, and when Stalin refused to come to the aid of the beleaguered Polish Home Army.

In a little-known tragedy of the war, the city was decimated, with the loss of 200,000 civilian lives and the destruction of 80 percent of Warsaw. Worse still, it quickly became clear that Stalin had no intention of allowing the Poles their freedom. Between August 1944 and August 1945, over 100,000 Poles, even those who had fought alongside the Red Army, were arrested by Stalin’s secret police; many were executed or sent to the gulag.

At the same time, Stalin lied outright to the western Allies about his intentions in Poland. On October 13, 1944, Stalin, Churchill, and the Polish prime minister in exile Stanisław Mikołajczyk met in Moscow. Stalin played along with the idea that Poland would have free elections and become an independent country when the war was over. The official minutes read, “Marshal Stalin was just as resolute as the British and American Allies in the wish to see Poland as a sovereign and independent State, with the power to lead its own life.” But Stalin also added rather ominously that he expected Poland “to be friendly to the Soviet Union.”  It would take some time before the West fully understood that being “friendly” meant that the Poles and others behind the Iron Curtain would be utterly subjugated to the Soviet system.

One of the key tenants of the Museum’s mission is defining “what the war means today.” Can you tell us what World War II means in Poland today?

For Poles and indeed for others in the former Eastern Bloc, the Second World War was simply devastating and has left deep wounds which have yet to heal. World War II was the deadliest war in history and Central and Eastern Europe were particularly badly affected. Three million Soviet prisoners of war were killed through brutality and starvation. Around 25 percent of the entire population of Byelorussia perished.

The Holocaust—the deliberate destruction and murder of the Jewish population of Europe—saw the deaths of six million human beings. The statistics are simply overwhelming, and yet one has to remember that each number represents an individual, a person with parents and family and friends whose life was cut short because of a barbaric conflict over which they had no control.

For many in Central Europe, World War II did not really come to an end until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and Soviet troops finally withdrew from Central Europe. At last, people were able to live in free and independent countries and enjoy rights including membership in NATO and the European Union. Throughout the long struggle for freedom, the United States was always a role model; it is no surprise that Poland remains one of the most pro-American countries in the world.

In May 2016, I led a tour from Berlin to Dresden, from Kraków and Auschwitz to Gdańsk, to Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia and to Warsaw, tracing The Rise and Fall of Hitler’s Germany. It was a very moving experience to travel in this part of the world with the wonderful group brought together by the Museum. When we went to places like Auschwitz-Birkenau, we really understood what we were fighting for all those years ago. I look forward to welcoming a new group on the tour next year.

Story by Dave Walker, communications manager at The National WWII Museum.

SciTech Tuesday: The Battle of the Atlantic

Seventy five years ago, although the U.S. was not officially engaged in the war, ships under the flag and carrying U.S. goods and passengers were being attacked by German U-boats.

In June 1941 the SS Robin Moor, though carrying no military supplies or personnel, was sunk by U-69 off the coast of Sierra Leone after passengers and crew were given a short time to evacuate on life boats. The U-Boat 552 sank the U.S. naval destroyer USS Reuben James on 31 of October 1941, off the coast of Iceland.

The Battle of the Atlantic began in 1939 when Germany began a blockade of England. The balance of power and nature of the battle changed over the years. With the loss of the French Navy and the occupation of Norway in 1940, England lost an ally and the Germans were able to add to the numbers of U-boats in the Atlantic, and to use French bases to launch ships.

Germany had the upper hand in the long-running battle from June 1940 until early 1941. The British Navy responded by moving to larger and less frequent convoys, and the U.S. added some escorts to defense of cargo ships. England also shared its developments in ASDIC (later called SONAR) and depth charges with the U.S., but there were great limitations to the early technology. The depth charges went only to half the depth the U-boats could dive, and ASDIC could not be used in close proximity to submarines, or at all on surface vessels. In early 1941 the British changed coordination of convoy escorts, and their casualty rate declined. Radar sets that tracked broadcasting submarines further aided the Royal Navy in locating U-boats. In response, Admiral Donitz, who commanded the German U-boat fleet, moved his ‘wolf-packs’ hunting convoys farther west into the Atlantic, in a gap in air support that left the convoys particularly vulnerable.

When, in the middle of 1941, British codebreakers began to reliably translate Enigma codes, the battle swung in the advantage of the Allies, but this reprieve was brief. German production of U-boats overwhelmed that advantage in late 1941 and convoy casualties again began to rise.

When the U.S. entered the war at the end of 1941, Donitz directly targeted the ports of the eastern seaboard. In early 1942 U-boats patrolled the coast of the U.S. and sank over a million tons of cargo without losing a single submarine. As the U.S. began escorting convoys, they pushed the U-boats back into the mid-Atlantic. Convoy losses were large, but not critical at this time.

Through 1942 and 1943 technological advances by the Allies shifted the balance of naval power. The Allies began to use ‘hedgehogs,’ contact-fuzed bombs, and Leigh lights. U-boats ran on batteries will below and surfaced to recharge batteries, replenish air, and attack. They could move much more quickly on the surface than below. The early RADAR systems could not detect at short range, and so the Leigh lights allowed aircraft to spot surfaced U-boats.

Allied losses rose again in the Spring of 1943, as the number of U-boats peaked and the Germans improved the Enigma key, making their code unreadable for a period of a couple of weeks. But further technological advances on the part of the Allies finally decided the Battle of the Atlantic over the Summer of 1943.

There were finally long-range aircraft in place that could hunt and destroy U-boats. Anti-ship modified B-24s based in Newfoundland supported convoys in the mid-Atlantic. Additionally, centimeter-band RADAR technology was deployed on aircraft and ships. This more sophisticated RADAR allowed location of U-boats by ships and planes, and was undetectable by German technology.

The Allies pressed their new advantage, and focused resources on the Bay of Biscay, where the Germans based most of their U-boats. This finally reduced the efficacy of the German U-boat fleet.

Without victory on the Atlantic, it is doubtful the Allies would have been able to move the troops and supplies into position for the invasion of Normandy. In fact, in Spring 1943 there was serious doubt whether England had enough food and supplies to survive even without sending material overseas. Innovation in technology and its deployment won the Battle of the Atlantic.

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

all images from the collection of the National WWII Museum.

PT-305 gets a colorful—and deceptive—paint scheme

pt-305-new-paint2One of the final touches to the restoration of PT-305 is a fresh coat of paint. But this isn’t just a fresh coat—it is the camouflage pattern applied to PT-305 in November 1944, called “Measure 32 modified.”

During World War II, US Navy ships were rarely painted gray. There were a large and diverse number of camouflage schemes for a number of tactical situations. Generally speaking, camouflage is not intended to make a ship disappear, but rather to make a vessel’s course, speed, and class difficult to determine. For large vessels, the Navy issued specifically designed camouflage patterns. For PT boats, official designs set a general standard but the camouflage patterns of individual boats were ultimately determined by squadron commanders.

“Measure 32 modified” was an experimental pattern intended specifically for making torpedo attacks. The “Thayer blue” on the forward part of the hull made the vessel more difficult to see from a distance at night when approaching a target head-on during the initial stages of a torpedo attack. The color transitions to a “deck blue” on the aft part of the boat to aid in the retreat from a torpedo attack.

Up close, darker blues are more difficult to see, making class and course more difficult to determine. “Deck blue” also reduces visible shadows from concentrated light sources, such as searchlights and star shells, making it more difficult to determine the boat’s location.

pt-305-period-paintThe blue painted on the deck was intended to reduce visibility of the vessel when viewed from aircraft.

In addition to the three shades of blue on the boat, PT-305 also carried aircraft recognition coloration. “Insignia yellow” was painted on the bow, “insignia red” across the stern, and a large red-and-yellow star was painted on top of the radar dome. This was intended to make PT boats in the Mediterranean easily identifiable to Allied aircraft.

More than a year of research using photographs and period documents went into determining the camouflage pattern applied to PT-305. The re-creation of the “Measure 32 modified” applied to PT-305 has restored her unique identity and highlights her combat history.

Read more about PT-305: pt305.org

Watch a video about PT-305’s paint scheme: http://bit.ly/2d1xUjp

Story by Josh Schick, Museum curator.

Home Front Friday: Rice and Chicken Casserole

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!

Plentiful and delicious, poultry held a lot of nutrition that week by week fed the hard workers of the Home Front. While smoked and other red meats were shipped to the Front, people back in the states found themselves eating perishable parts of animals, such as livers or kidneys. They were also encouraged to eat fish because there was no fear of a shortage. As a more tasty option, kitchens also fixed many chicken dishes because they were, and still are, easy to fix as well as pair with many types of vegetables that families on the Home Front grew in their Victory Gardens.


All Home Front hands were on deck during this war, so if that meant that they had to learn to raise their own chickens and tend to their own vegetables in order to make their ration coupons last and have access to vegetables and fruits year round, then they learned. For those who were new to the world of gardening, US agricultural companies listed tips on how to make seeds spurt into multitudes. Also, the US government and other companies issued pamphlets, like the ones below, were filled with recipes, instructions on how to get the most out of their rationed ingredients or homegrown items, as well as information on how to buy particular items at the stores.

IMG_3104 Capture










Recipe for the Chicken and Rice Casserole from The Victory Binding of the American Woman's Cook Book: Wartime Edition

Recipe for the Chicken and Rice Casserole from The Victory Binding of the American Woman’s Cook Book: Wartime Edition


  • 1 large cooked chicken
    • I used chicken breast and sauteed it rather than baking a whole chicken.
  • 2 cups of uncooked rice
  • 1 1/2 of tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350.

Step 2: Bone the chicken and cut the meat into 1-inch pieces.

  • I didn’t bake a whole chicken, but rather sauteed a few chicken breasts and added tomatoes, onions, and rosemary to the mixture. Tomatoes were a popular vegetable grown in Victory Gardens, and rosemary was commonly grown herb.

Step 3: Boil the rice in salted water until tender then drain it.


Step 4: Stir in the butter, milk, eggs, and salt.



Step 5: Place a layer of the rice mixture in greased casserole then add the chicken.


Step 6: Top the chicken with the rest of the rice.


Step 7: Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. This recipe will serve about 10 people.


Although it may not be the worlds’ most photogenic dish, its lack of beauty is made up for in its rich taste. Everyone in my house was just as much a part of the clean plate club as civilians on the Home Front. They may have had many limitations when it came to feeding themselves, but they quickly learned how to make the best of their situation. They were cooking for health as well as victory, and civilians embraced the motto, “Food Fights for Freedom.” Food sent to the soldiers were what refueled their energy levels, and meals on the Home Front were nutritionally made to live a hearty and healthy life while working for the war effort.

Food propaganda from Cooking for Health: How to Choose and Cook the Right Foods published by the American Stove Company in 1942.

Food propaganda from Cooking for Health: How to Choose and Cook the Right Foods published by the American Stove Company in 1942 to encourage better nutrition and teach Americans how to get more from their food.

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