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12" Japanese artillery piece captured by the 158th RCT at Cuenca, Batangas in the Philippines in 1945

12″ Japanese artillery piece captured by the 158th RCT at Cuenca, Batangas in the Philippines in 1945

As we continue down the Road to Tokyo, we stop next at the powerful Philippines gallery, which will cover the major events of the American campaign to retake the Philippine islands, offering a special opportunity for observing the build up and outcome of the biggest naval battle in World War II, Leyte Gulf.

The Allies’ return to the Philippines resulted in the beginning of Japanese Kamikaze attacks as well as the immobility of a majority of Japanese naval vessels due to lack of oil supplies. The campaign represents both the Allies’ moral obligation to end Japanese imperialism in the Philippines as well as the Allies’ strategy for reaching mainland Japan.

The Philippines gallery will include five major exhibits: America Returns, Destroying the Japanese Navy, From Leyte to Luzon, Battle of Manila and Leyte Gulf Theater. Computer interactive timelines will immerse and fascinate visitors as they map out events, and a computer interactive Dog Tag Experience kiosk will allow visitors to trace how the war affected a specific service member throughout his time in the Philippines. In addition, each exhibit will display unique interactive features and artifacts that will engage visitors in this remarkable story.

158th Regimental Combat Team wounded wait for litter bearers at Damortis in the Philippines on 14 January 1945

158th Regimental Combat Team wounded wait for litter bearers at Damortis in the Philippines on 14 January 1945

The Philippines gallery has been made possible through a generous gift by The Charlie and Janette Kornman Charitable Fund.


Bring History Alive With Primary Sources

Welcome back to school, teachers! This month’s Calling All Teachers e-newsletter highlights the many ways you can explore the Museum – or bring the Museum and its rich collection of oral histories and artifacts into your classroom.

During our upcoming professional development webinar, you can discover how to integrate the Museum’s digital resources and primary-source-based activities into your curriculum. The Utilizing The National WWII Museum’s Digital Resources in Your Classroom webinar, which will take place from 5:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. CT on Monday, September 21, will touch on resources for primary, middle, and high school audiences. All you need is a computer with a high speed internet connection to watch and interact.

This month’s newsletter also explains how you can borrow actual WWII artifacts for your classroom through our Operation Footlocker program and how you can schedule an interactive Virtual Field Trip that will allow your students to learn about World War II through maps, posters, songs, and artifacts.

If you are local, you can choose from several in-person field trip options, including our STEM field trip and a new trip on our special exhibit Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in WWII. Limited funding is available to subsidize field trips for Louisiana Title I schools.

Local educators are also invited to learn more about our educational offerings and get special access to Fighting for the Right to Fight at our Teacher Appreciation Happy Hour, which will take place in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion from 4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 16.

Finally, the September Calling All Teachers shines a spotlight on Edgar Cole, who is one of the many African American veterans highlighted in our Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in WWII special exhibit and accompanying lesson plans.

Learn more about African Americans’ wartime experiences, and get more classroom resources and ideas by signing up for our free monthly e-newsletter Calling All Teachers and following us on Twitter @wwiieducation.

Post by Dr. Walter Stern, K-12 Curriculum Coordinator at The National WWII Museum. 

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SciTech Tuesday: Harry Daghlian and ‘The Demon Core’

Having sent a uranium bomb to the Pacific Theater, tested a plutonium core at Trinity, and sent another plutonium core to the Pacific Theater, Los Alamos received the plutonium for another plutonium core. The plutonium was sent to the metallurgy group to be pressed into two hemispheres and nickel plated. The plan was to build another plutonium bomb to be delivered to the Pacific Theater for a bombing on August 17 or shortly after that. The announcement of Japan’s surrender on August 15 changed those plans.

The core stayed in the lab at Los Alamos, where it was to be studied to ascertain better ways to achieve critical mass. The idea was to make a core that was just 5% below critical mass and then put it inside a set of neutron reflectors. These neutron reflectors would decrease the mass necessary for criticality.

Harry Daghlian, a young graduate student from Purdue University, had joined Otto Frisch’s team at Los Alamos. This team was in charge of designing ways to assemble a core that would reach critical mass and explode. Plans to develop a more reliable and more powerful nuclear weapon were under way even before the use of the first two bombs.

On August 21, 1945, Daghlian was building a box of tungsten carbide bricks around the plutonium core when he accidentally dropped a ring right next to the core. This caused the core to go immediately supercritical. The response of the neutron detectors used in the investigation told what had happened, and he removed the bricks from around the spherical core. He prevented a worse disaster by his quick response, but suffered a fatal dose of radiation, estimated at 200 rad of neutron radiation and 110 rad of gamma radiation. He was taken to a hospital and isolated, dying 25 days later of radiation poisoning. This was the first known criticality accident, and little was known of the effects of acute radiation exposure. The only other staff member nearby was a security guard sitting about 4 m away. He died of acute myelogenous leukemia 33 years later.

On May 21, 1946, Louis Slotin and 7 other physicists were using the same core to test beryllium spheres as neutron deflectors. Slotin had an (unapproved) procedure where he lowered the top beryllium sphere onto the core while holding a screwdriver angled on the edge of the bottom reflector sphere to keep them from fully closing. He was leaving Los Alamos, and was showing his replacement the procedure when the screwdriver slipped, the spheres enclosed the plutonium core, and it went super-critical. Slotin flipped the top sphere off the core quickly, but not before receiving an estimated 1000 rad of neutron radiation and 114 rad of gamma radiation. The other 6 scientists were standing behind him, and so were mostly shielded by his body. Alvin Graves, who was closest to Slotin, received 166 rad of neutron and 26 rad of gamma radiation. Slotin died 9 days later of radiation poisoning. Graves, who was hospitalized for several weeks of treatment, left the hospital with neurological and vision problems. He died 19 years later, at the age of 53, of heart failure.

This plutonium core, the third ever made, was detonated during on of the Operation Crossroad tests on Bikini Atoll on July 1, 1946. It was detonated using two beryllium spheres just like Slotin and Graves were testing.

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


all images from Wikimedia Commons

50% off Museum Admission for Louisiana Residents in September!

Look out Louisiana—we’ve got a deal for our home state!

During the month of September, present a valid Louisiana driver’s license and get 50 percent off Museum general admission! The Museum has undergone a stunning and rapid expansion in recent years, adding three pavilions—the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion, US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, and Campaigns of Courage: European Pacific Theaters—which has only enhanced our immersive telling of the war that changed the world.


Plan Your Trip to The National WWII Museum this September!

NOTE: Valid Louisiana driver’s license required. Limited to four Museum admissions per guest. Other discounts cannot be used in combination with this promotion. Excludes admissions to Beyond All Boundaries and Final Mission.

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A P-40 in flight in 1942

A P-40 in flight in 1942

As we continue down the Road to Tokyo, and through the China-Burman-India gallery,we stop at our final exhibit of the gallery which will detail the role of the United States Armed Air Forces and their critical assistance in securing Allied success in CBI.

Flying Tigers/Air Power

This exhibit portrays the important role of the USAAF in the China-Burma-India campaign. The exhibit will discuss the successes they had against Japanese air attacks early in the war, and how the 10th AF provided critical transport and air support to British, Chinese, and American forces while conducting raids against key Japanese targets in Southeast Asia. This exhibit will also tell the detailed story of the famous P-40 Flying Tigers. Created under authority of the U.S. government, the Flying Tigers were the most successful Allied fighter squadron in the Pacific at the time, flying under contract with the Chinese government and using a warning network and unorthodox combat tactics. Finally, the exhibit will unveil the history of the “Aluminum Trail,” the air route over Himalayas, which acted as the only means to ferry men and supplies into China.



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Soaring Valor: Gary Sinise Foundation and The National WWII Museum Partner to Honor the Greatest Generation

WWII Veteran being greeted by a youth baseball team upon arrival to New Orleans.

WWII Veteran being greeted by a youth baseball team upon arrival to New Orleans.

On June 24, an honor flight of 50 WWII veterans arrived in New Orleans to a hero’s welcome, kicking off three red carpet days in New Orleans. Along with the trip’s sponsor, Gary Sinise, the veterans were greeted with jazz music, Mardi Gras beads, and throngs of cheering supporters including members of the Armed Forces and youth baseball teams. It was a headline moment in the Soaring Valor initiative, launched earlier this year by the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Museum with American Airlines, and designed to bring veterans—and their stories—to The National WWII Museum.

All 50 veterans now have their wartime stories recorded as part of the Museum’s oral-history collection, which the initiative also supports through sponsorship of an oral-historian post at the Museum as well as funds to send historians to those veterans who cannot travel. This support helps the Museum accelerate its work to collect as many oral histories as possible—a mission that increases in urgency with each passing year. According to Museum president and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, “Every time we lose a veteran, it’s like losing a library. All of those memories and firsthand experiences are gone.”

For Sinise, that mission touches a personal chord: “My uncle Jack was a navigator on a B-17 Flying Fortress, flying 30 missions over Europe. He was a true inspiration in my life. When he passed away last year at the age of 90, it was comforting to know that his story was part of the Museum’s oral-history collection, and that he had the opportunity to visit such a remarkable institution. I think other families deserve that, and through our educational program at the Gary Sinise Foundation, I’m thrilled to help make it happen for some of them.”

This June, Soaring Valor brought that experience to 50 veterans, whose presence honored our campus, and whose visit left a deep impression on all involved. As he departed with tears in his eyes, Cruz Sartuche, a 99-year-old Navy veteran, said, “Never in my life have I experienced such a welcome. This is the welcome I wish I got when I came home. I could pass tomorrow in comfort knowing this Museum is here for all to see.”

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Museum’s Post-Katrina Defender Now Advancing Its Mission

IMG_2124Louisiana National Guard Staff Sergeant Patrick Stephen already was fond of The National WWII Museum on Andrew Higgins Boulevard, having visited repeatedly, when Hurricane Katrina struck the city a decade ago, ushering in a time of misery and chaos.

That sentiment – an appreciation for the Museum’s mission – surfaced in a forceful way a few weeks after Katrina made landfall, when Stephen, part of an Army Guard unit protecting the Morial Convention Center and storm victims gathered there, noticed a smattering of individuals wearing fresh t-shirts from the institution then known as The National D-Day Museum. “I knew it was a problem,” he recalls.

Stephen got clearance from a superior to briefly leave his post. He gathered six other guardsmen, said, “We’re going to go on a mission,” and the group piled into two Humvees and headed toward the Museum several blocks away. As they pulled up, they noticed that a falling telephone pole had collapsed a wall of the Museum’s gift shop. A small crowd had gained entry to the store and looting was in full swing.

The guardsmen quickly dispersed the looters and secured the shop. One episode of mayhem was halted. And later, Stephen kept an eye on the Museum from his assigned zone at the convention center, watching the street corridor for any new signs of trouble.

Stephen isn’t eager to summon memories of harrowing scenes that his 239th Military Police Company faced as it helped restore order in a devastated city. But the episode at America’s WWII museum holds special meaning, for the part-time guardsman now serves proudly as one of the Museum’s traveling oral historians.
It is a dream job for Stephen, 37, who graduated from a history master’s program at the University of New Orleans. His work with the Museum began in June.

Traveling to three states, Stephen has already logged more than 40 oral history interviews, part of a concerted effort by the Museum to add to its collection of more than 7,000 personal accounts from the war. The recording of these stories is foundational to the institution’s mission, building on interviews conducted by Stephen Ambrose decades ago.

“I believe in the Museum,” Patrick Stephen said. “If I believe in it, it’s easy for me to go on the road (and meet with veterans). I don’t even have to sell them – I just tell them about the Museum, and they can see my conviction.”

A native of Gainesville, Florida, Stephen has periodically served on active duty with the Army since the late 1990s, including a tour of Kuwait and Afghanistan. Still affiliated with the Louisiana Guard, he now is a 1st lieutenant serving as a military intelligence officer.

Stephen said an internship at the Museum in 2013, during which he gathered information on the Museum’s WWII veteran volunteers, convinced him it was the place to seek a position after grad school. He now enjoys running into ranking Army officers he has known from past tours, who are quick to say, “Tell me about this awesome job you have.”

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Home Front Friday: Celebrate Your Dog…Tags!

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

For nearly 20,000 years people have been living with, befriending, supporting, and needing domesticated dogs—they are man’s best friend, after all. Celebrate your furry loved one this Wednesday, August 26th, as it is National Dog Day!

During WWII, dogs served many purposes abroad, in the field, and on military bases. Service dogs could sniff out bombs or mines, chase after Axis forces, carry messages, or even to just provide a bit of a morale boost on base. At home, after the war, many soldiers adopted retired service dogs, puppies, adults, and elderly dogs. Focus On: Loyal Forces is the museum’s online exhibit featuring information about service animals during the war.

One American soldier actually rescued stray dogs that he found while he was serving in Germany. Even back then, adopting a little furry friend was a respected and appreciated practice. Listen to the oral history here.

Rightfully so, the term “dog tag” literally comes from a dog’s tag. Upon receiving your tickets to the museum, you will also get a “digital dog tag” that will take you through the lives and experiences of real Americans who lived during World War II. More information about the digital dog tags can be found here!

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


Pfc. Edeleanu prints news bulletin on bulletin board outside Intelligence tent of Kyaukpyu Camo the day before OSS, AFU, and departure via convoy for Rangoon.

Pfc. Edeleanu prints news bulletin on bulletin board outside Intelligence tent of Kyaukpyu Camo the day before OSS, AFU, and departure via convoy for Rangoon.

As we continue down the Road to Tokyo, and through the China-Burman-India gallery, we stop next at two exhibit spaces detailing the military efforts to keep China in the war as well as discussing the importance of Sino-American Cooperative Organization and the Office of Strategic Services during the first years of the war in the Pacific.

This exhibit will tell the story of the critical logistical and military efforts made by the Allies to keep China in the war. This includes support for the Kuomintang government within a divided China, and General Stilwell’s pivotal role in dealing with the political challenges encountered in Nationalist China.

Keeping China in the war against Japan was essential for the success of the United States in the Pacific Theater. Allowing Japan to reap the benefits of Chinese resources could have been potentially hazardous to the war effort in the Pacific. General Joseph Stilwell entered the region in 1942 and worked to coordinate the Chinese and US efforts on the ground. The 10th, 14th, and 20th Air Forces all had units in the area to help with the effort. Operation Ichi-Go, carried out by the Japanese was a successful attack and seizure of multiple US Air bases in China.

Lacking the major battles of the European and Pacific theaters, the China-Burma-India campaign’s importance lay in keeping the Japanese from further expanding their empire. China was the next domino to fall to Japan, and that could have made it more difficult for American forces in the Pacific.

"Col. Hu. Commander 103rd Division Artillery, 8th Army. July 1945. China."

“Col. Hu. Commander 103rd Division Artillery, 8th Army. July 1945. China.”

Raiders and Covert Ops

This exhibit will describe the Sino-American Cooperative Organization and the Office of Strategic Services during the first years of the war. By attaching to the 14th Air Force, OSS expanded intelligence gathering, set up networks behind enemy lines, conducted “black propaganda,” and provided Chennault with target data and pilot rescue service. The exhibit closes with a personal story on General Johnny Alison.

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was important to the success of Allied military operations in the China Burma India Theater. The OSS activated a special branch for military operations called Detachment 101. Detachment 101 authorized behind the lines covert action against Japanese forces in Burma and in China. General Stilwell’s Chinese forces were able to take advantage of covert resources, as well as Wingate’s Raider. Merrill’s Marauders took advantage of covert intelligence, the knowledge they ascertained was critical because it allowed them to conduct their missions successfully. The OSS also helped facilitate different local guerilla groups that were against Japanese expansion. The OSS’s was critical to success in the China Burma India Theater because it allowed for Allied forces to coordinate in an unconventional way. As a result of the terrain and the Japanese ability to remain undetected, covert activities were essential in intelligence gathering. Covert intelligence also helped in rescuing downed US Airmen in the area.




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Behind the Scenes of We’re All in this Together!

This fall, the Museum is debuting a brand new student program in partnership with WYES-TV, an interactive Electronic Field Trip about the American Home Front. In “We’re All in this Together! How Students Like YOU Helped Win WWII,” students will be able to see themselves during this critical part of our history, forming important connections with the past.

Give it Your Best!

Today’s students embark on a mission with Museum volunteers who were students during the war years as their trusty guides. Together, they explore the Museum and examine how even the youngest Americans made a difference in aiding the war effort. The war shaped their lives in fundamental ways—what they ate, how they dressed, what they read in their comic books, heard on the radio, and saw at the movies, and even what they learned and did in school.  From collecting scrap, rationing, to growing Victory Gardens in their backyards, and buying war stamps with their allowance, even those who were too young to work or serve in the military certainly did their part.

We have been filming some segments in preparation for the live show later this fall all across the Museum. Marveling at materials needed to build tanks and planes in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, learning the popular dance moves of the time from the Victory Belles, and discovering why some pennies were made out of steel during the war, are just a couple of the fun-filled moments we’ve captured so far.

Teachers, mark your calendars! The live show, which you can view right from your classroom computer, will launch on Wednesday, November 4th. If your students feel inspired by what they see in the Electronic Field Trip, your classroom can sign up for the Museum’s service learning project, Get in the Scrap! With the support of the Museum and an easy-to-follow project toolkit, your classroom can be a part of this national recycling and conservation effort, and even earn cool prizes.

Stay tuned–many more details to come!

Post by Chrissy Gregg, Virtual Classroom Coordinator