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Home Front Friday: How Green is Your Garden?

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!

Today is Arbor Day, which is all about going green! April is also Lawn and Gardening Month, making it a perfect time to discuss one of the most defining aspects of life on the home front during World War II: Victory Gardens!

During the war, everything was rationed, including food, to make sure that the soldiers serving abroad had enough to eat. Not only that, but trains and trucks that were used to transport food products before the war were now being used to ship soldiers, ammunition, and weapons. In order to keep families fed, the United States government encouraged them to plant Victory Gardens in their backyards and grow their own food.

via the National Archives

via the National Archives


via the National Archives

via the National Archives

The United States became home to more than 20,000,000 Victory Gardens during the war. By 1944 Victory Gardens were responsible for producing 40% of all vegetables grown in the United States – more than 1 million tons! City homes without backyards resorted to window box gardens or rooftop gardens that the whole building tended to. Schools would often grow their own gardens to provide for the children’s lunches. Excess food was canned and saved for the winter months. Victory Gardens were also responsible for introducing Swiss chard and kohlrabi to the American dinner table because they were easy to grow.

Did you know the National World War II Museum has its own Victory Garden? Check it out:


Everyone knows that the first step of gardening is to make sure that your plants get enough water. But have you seen how expensive watering cans are? Why spend $15 or more when you can make a watering can from objects you probably have lying around your house already? In this post, we’ll show you how to make one out of a milk jug in under five minutes!


  • Milk jug
  • Safety pin/thumbtack/nail


1. Wash out and clean your milk jug.


2. Use a thumbtack to poke holes in the cap. Twist the thumbtack around to widen the holes.


3. Voila! You now have a watering can that cost you practically nothing to make!


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


SciTech Tuesday: The Ring of Fire and WWII

On September 1, 1923 at 11:58 AM an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 occurred in a bay just south of Tokyo. Tokyo and Yokohama, a relatively young port city with a strong international influence, were the closest large population centers. After the earthquake a tsunami with an 11 meter high crest hit Yokohama and surrounding areas. Fires spread throughout Tokyo and Yokohama, and with water mains broken by the quake there was no way to fight them. The earthquake led to a 2 meter uplift on the coast, and a 4.5 meter horizontal displacement of land. Even though it lasted only 14 seconds, it was a huge amount of energy released. 570, 000 homes were destroyed, and more than 140,000 people were killed. With telegraph technology connected to radio, news from Japan to the countries of the West moved rapidly. The US and other countries mobilized support for victims of the earthquake within 24 hours.

Japan had annexed Korea more than a decade earlier, and, in the months before what came to be called the Great Kanto Earthquake, a group working for the liberation of Korea had been conducting terrorist attacks. Rumors spread in the aftermath of the quake that Koreans were looting and starting fires. Violent attacks on Koreans, and anyone thought to be Korean, followed. The government tried to protect Koreans, but also covered up any attacks that occurred.

This event, and Japan’s dependence upon the West for support in recovery, fueled growing nationalism. The expansion of Japanese influence and the later war in the Pacific can be traced in part to this earthquake in 1923.

Earthquakes were, and still are, common in that part of the Pacific. So are volcanoes. These geological factors shaped the islands, and when US troops fought there in WWII these conditions shaped logistics, and even the path of the war.

There is a diamond shaped continental plate—the Philippine plate-pinned between the much larger Pacific and Eurasian plates. The Pacific plate is moving slowly but relentlessly west, pushing the Philippine plate ahead of it. Where the plates meet the Pacific sinks below both the Philippine and Eurasian plates, and the Philippine plate dives under the Eurasian plate. This pattern of plate convergence is called subduction, and leads to earthquakes and volcanoes. Where the plates come together in the ocean they form volcanoes which can emerge from the ocean, creating islands. From New Guinea to the Marianas and Iwo Jima (on the east side, between the Philippine and Pacific plates), from the Philippines to Okinawa and up (on the west side, between the Eurasian and Philippine plates) to Japan (split by the Eurasian and Pacific plates), all those islands are formed from volcanic activity. Some of those islands are very old, mostly dead, volcanoes, and the coral reefs that surround them (like Tinian, or the Bikini atoll). Others are younger, and form very high tropical peaks (like in the Philippines). Iwo Jima, which in its original Japanese name means ‘sulfur island,’ was formed by slightly different volcanic activity that led to its peculiar geography. There is abundant groundwater on Iwo Jima, all of it very hot and enriched in minerals. The frequent volcanic activity there is mostly steam created by the interaction of groundwater and magma (molten rock).

The geological theory that explained volcanoes and earthquake patterns, called Plate Tectonics, wasn’t solidified until the late 1960s. So troops went into this zone, where there were more than two dozen large earthquakes (> 6.0) between 1940 and 1946, without any way to predict what was going on, or any understanding of what each stop on the island-hopping path to Tokyo would bring.

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

Get in the Scrap this Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day, and it’s all about going green! During World War II, going green wasn’t just about saving the environment, but helping out on the Home Front. Recycling, called scrapping back then, and conserving materials, could mean the difference between defeat or victory over the Axis!

Here at The National WWII Museum, we think that every lesson in recycling and going green can also be a lesson in history! That’s why we started the Get in the Scrap! project for middle school classrooms. Inspired by the scrapping efforts of students during WWII, Get in the Scrap! is a national service learning project for students in grades 4-8 all about recycling and energy conservation. Your students have the power to affect positive change on the environment; much like students 70 years ago played a positive role on the Home Front in securing victory in WWII. It’s the perfect addition to your Earth Day celebrations!

We currently have 110 classrooms, 3,723 students from 34 states registered. Here are some of the awesome project updates teachers have sent us:

Want your students to join the fun? Sign up today at http://getinthescrap.org/toolkit/! The project officially closes for this school year on May 31st, so you have well over a month to complete activities and earn points and prizes. Here are some great Earth Day activities to get you started:


  • Design and Install Switch Plates (8 points): Saving energy is as easy as flipping a switch! So why do so many of us leave the lights on when we’re not in a room? Let’s fix that problem by making eye catching light switch plates to remind us to turn the lights off when we aren’t using them.


  • Scrap Catchers (8 points): Whether you call them cootie catchers or fortune tellers, this paper origami activity can teach your students about recycling and energy conservation through fun and games.


  • Daily Recycling Facts (12 points): Take your Get in the Scrap! journey from Earth Day to the end of the school year! There’s no better way to get in the habit of getting in the scrap than learning a little about recycling and energy conservation each day. Spend 50 days in your classroom revealing a new recycling fact. We’ll provide the first 25 facts, but then it’s up to your students to research and find their own. Perfect as a bell ringer activity.

Post by Katie Atkins, Education Intern and Chrissy Gregg, Virtual Classroom Coordinator

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Louisiana History Day National Finalists Selected

Louisiana State National History Day ContestThis past Saturday, April 9, over 200 middle and high school students from across Louisiana visited The National WWII Museum to compete and take part in the annual Louisiana National History Day State Contest.  National History Day is a national student research contest in which students, working as either individuals or in groups, create projects relating to an annual theme which are evaluated and critiqued at school and regional level contests.

Having already advanced from one of five regional contests in Monroe, Baton Rouge, Shreveport or New Orleans, these students and their projects represented the best student work Louisiana had to offer.  Competition was fierce and exciting throughout the day with over 120 projects in 18 different categories seeking an opportunity to advance to the National History Day National Contest in Washington D.C..  The judges deliberated throughout the day and ultimately selected 61 middle and high school students to represent Louisiana at the National Contest the week of June 12 – 16, 2016.

The National WWII Museum is proud to serve as the state sponsor for National History Day in Louisiana and we are expecting great things from this year’s student delegation.  Congratulations to all the winners and to all the students and teachers who participated!   


This post by Collin Makamson, Student Programs Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum



Home Front Friday: Getting It Together

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!

Did you know that April is National Welding Month? The secret ingredient that holds the world as we know it together, welding has sent us to the moon and back, produced monuments of steel where we work and live, and defended us in wartime!

The United States welding industry reached its peak in 1944. By then, it was producing twice the amount of war power than all of the Axis nations combined. Factories that had previously produced everyday products such as iceboxes and toasters were immediately converted to produce war machines. Auto manufacturers began producing tanks, trucks, guns, shells and parts for airplanes and ships. The aircraft industry had employed more than 2 million workers by 1944.

You may have seen the propaganda poster of the American cultural icon Rosie the Riveter gracing the walls of history classes or women’s studies classes. She has come to symbolize the can-do attitude of women left on the home front while their husbands were at war. Rosie most commonly appears on Howard J. Miller’s famous “We Can Do It!” poster for the Westinghouse Company. Another popular Rosie print is Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post depiction of Rosie, in which she is taking her lunch break while stamping on a copy of Mein Kampf.


The Westinghouse poster. (via the National Archives)

The Rockwell magazine cover. (via the Saturday Evening Post)

Did you know that Rosie has a friend? Her shipyard counterpart is Wendy the Welder, a similarly powerful woman based off of Janet Doyle, a worker at the Kaiser Richmond Liberty Shipyards. After the debut of the first all-welded ship in 1940, riveting ships fell out of style in favor of the quicker welding method.


A Wendy the Welder at the Richmond Shipyard in California. (via the Library of Congress)

Want to know more about welding during the war? Click here to find out all about the industry!

Unfortunately, we don’t know how to weld, and we don’t want to tell you to do anything where you might hurt yourself. But we can show you how to make this nifty paper tank instead:

What you need:

  • Two sheets of paper
  • Scissors
  • Dowel (optional)


  1. Start by folding your paper in half lengthwise.12962629_1076961612327037_35547372_o 12966671_1076963875660144_1144136635_n
  2. Next, unfold the paper. Then fold the outer sides of the paper inward, so that it is folded into fourths. Line the outer edges onto the middle line you made with the first fold.12922359_1076961542327044_1909564908_o12962588_1076961515660380_2014974063_o
  3. Next, take two corners of the paper (don’t unfold the two new sections!) and fold them inward, lining them up with the middle fold. 12947045_1076961498993715_2097071506_o 12970129_1076961485660383_16899144_o
  4. Once you have done that, take the outside edges and fold them in half again. Line up the outside edges with the middle fold. Some of the top triangle will get folded too – don’t worry, it’s normal!12959332_1076961472327051_143727731_o12953002_1076961458993719_661806482_o
  5. Once you have done that, take the two edges facing the middle and fold them out to the outer edges. Basically, take the flaps you have just folded and fold them again going outwards. 12970521_1076961388993726_1865959649_o 12946848_1076961372327061_343736134_o 12962601_1076961352327063_1997339267_o 12970628_1076961338993731_1969362082_o
  6. Now comes the tricky part. Flip the entire paper over so that the blank side is facing you. Now take the ends and bring them together, so that the structure is almost in thirds. Don’t fold, just curve!! The blank side should be facing inward. 12941077_1076961318993733_283770941_o
  7. Now, slide the triangular part underneath the two outer tabs on the square part. The outer tabs should then slide into the tabs behind the triangle. This part takes time! You may have to mold the tank to fit.12952841_1076961315660400_496999158_o 12970549_1076961298993735_708111433_o12952986_1076961302327068_60489715_o
  8. Now time to make the treads! Look at the bottom of the tank. There should be a fold. Gently push out the folded part so that it extends up to the top part of the tank. Again, this takes time!12959495_1076961258993739_2097885575_o12953180_1076961245660407_1634555189_o12948323_1076961285660403_886807625_o
  9. Now time for the gun. Take another piece of paper. We are going to be rolling it as tightly as we can, diagonally, from corner to corner. If you want to, you can take a dowel or other thin object to help you roll it tightly. 12952740_1076961115660420_1302511857_o
  10. Once you have rolled the paper, it will likely be too long for your tank. Simply trim away the excess and slide it under the triangular flap on the top.12941207_1076961132327085_1033263424_o 12970460_1076961188993746_757829874_o12922301_1076961145660417_1484344027_o
  11. All done!12941215_1076961122327086_112371125_o

This definitely takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if you need to try a few times to get it looking right! Here is a video showing the whole procedure to help you along. Good luck!

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

SciTech Tuesday: The Birth of the North Atlantic Air Route

One of the undersold stories of the Allied victory in WWII is logistics. Thousands of planes and millions of men, and countless tons of supplies made their way across large oceans to the battle fronts. Much of what and who made its way to Europe went by way of what might seem a strange set of hops across the North Atlantic. From Eastern Canada, to Greenland, to Iceland and then to Scotland, newly built airfields accommodated a great traffic moving mostly eastward.

Preparation for this effort began even before the US entered the war. The Destroyers for Bases agreement provided the beginning of this process. In May 1941 US troops from the First Air Force 21st Reconnaissance Squadron arrived in Canada. With them was Captain Elliott Roosevelt, the president’s son, who made surveys in Canada that led to several bases built there, and eventually to bases and airfields in Greenland and Iceland.

The curvature of the Earth, the Earth’s rotation, and prevailing winds make this North Atlantic route a relatively efficient path from North America to Europe. However, when it started use in Spring of 1942, losses were at about 10%. Winter weather over the North Atlantic is treacherous, and even in Summer it can be risky. Today planes fly the route at 30,000-40,000 feet, aided in their Eastward path by the jet stream. Decades ago the planes didn’t often reach those altitudes, and winds were more a hindrance than an aide. The National WWII Museum displays a B-17 named My Gal Sal in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. This plane made an emergency landing on the ice of Greenland when forced down in bad weather during one of the early flights on the North Atlantic route.

The development of the route led the US to explore Greenland, and purge the German troops thinly scattered across it. They were maintaining weather stations on the Greenland ice, and making forays into the seas to disrupt shipping. Eventually the US made its own weather stations and bases there, including three important airfields. These locations maintain their strategic importance today.

Air transport also took a route East across the Mid-Atlantic. This route was much longer, but less at risk from poor weather. Planes equipped with extra fuel tanks left southern Florida for Bermuda, stopping in the Azores before heading to Cornwall.

Great Britain had maintained troops and bases in Iceland for a few years by this team, in an uneasy relationship with the Iceland government. The US took over these operations in July of 1941, under an agreement with the government of Denmark. Construction on new airstrips was undertaken by both the Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy Seabees, and all bases were completed by late Summer of 1943.

The airfield at Reykjavik was turned over to the Icelandic government after the war and became a civilian airport. The base and airfield at Keflavik (formerly Meeks) became an important strategic part of NATO’s plans during the Cold War.

Today the North Atlantic route is highly regulated and one of the busiest corridors for air traffic in the world. Pioneered by very young pilots in the 1940s who couldn’t take advantage of all its benefits, the flyway today binds continents together today with primarily economic, and not military, exchanges.

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

National Former POW Recognition Day

On April 9th, National Former POW Recognition Day, we remember the American men and women held captive during war. Over 120,000 Americans were held as POWs during WWII. 12,228 died in captivity. National Former POW Recognition Day, as designated by Congress, falls on the anniversary of the United States’ surrender on the Bataan Peninsula, beginning the Bataan Death March.

Pfc Jack W. Grady was captured in the Philippines and survived the Bataan Death March and captivity as a POW in Japan. The Museum recently received a collection of material from Grady’s daughter. This material includes over 60 postcards and letters send across North America to Grady’s parents after hearing a shortwave Radio Tokyo broadcast that Grady participated in while a prisoner. Also included are the short notes that Grady was allowed to send to his family, letting them know that he was still alive. In the postcard pictured above, Grady mentions not having received word from his family for over a year. This was all too common in the case of Pacific Theater POWs, whose average length of captivity was over three years.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

Getting Around the Museum on History Day

We hope everyone is excited for this Saturday, April 9 and our Louisiana National History Day State Contest.

Upon arriving at the Museum, you may notice some growing pains as construction of our new “Founder’s Plaza” is taking place. Here’s how to get around during National History Day.

  • Firstly, Andrew Higgins Drive and the Museum main entrance will be closed to all traffic, both motorized and pedestrian, on the day of the contest.  Students, depending on their projects, will enter the Museum and check-in through TWO separate entrances.
    • Through the temporary main entrance on Magazine Street on the corner of Andrew Higgins Drive for those students with DOCUMENTARY, PAPER & WEBSITE projects. This is just steps away from the Soda Shop entrance.
    • Through the Firehouse for those students with EXHIBITS & PERFORMANCE projects. The firehouse is located on Magazine Street just shy of Poeyfarre Street.
  • Secondly, Parking is available at one of four surface parking lots all within one block of the Museum. If you choose to park in a paid lot, make sure to follow directions clearly to avoid ticketing or booting of your car.
    • The Museum parking garage is not yet open or available for parking.
  • Thirdly, Student Check-In will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 9 inside one of the two Museum entrances listed above.  Students needing directions should look for our Victory Corps youth volunteers who will be outside providing directions all along the Magazine Street sidewalks.
    • At Check-In, all students will be given a room & interview time assignment
    • DOCUMENTARY, PAPER & WEBSITE interviews will take place in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
    • PERFORMANCES will be held in the Stage Door Canteen near the American Sector Restaurant
    • EXHIBITS will be set up in the U.S. Freedom Pavilion:  The Boeing Center
    • For those students with PERFORMANCE & DOCUMENTARY projects, please ensure that you can set up and operate all of your props and technology yourself.
    • For those students with PAPER and WEBSITE projects, your projects have been submitted to the judges for pre-viewing
  • Finally, the Awards Ceremony will be held in the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and should begin at around 2:00 p.m..  All are welcome to attend.

We look forward to seeing everyone there, and thank you in advance for your patience while getting around. It’s going to be a great day at the Museum!

Launch PT-305! | This Is Only the Beginning!


Thanks to all our supporters, we’ve just wrapped up a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to help launch PT-305! Now we can get to work on making the dream you contributed to a reality.

The first order of business will be getting PT-305 out of her current home, the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion, which will be an achievement in its own right. A wall of the building will have to be temporarily removed so the boat can be transferred to the proper transportation.

From there, she will undergo Coast Guard testing before venturing to her permanent home, the new, custom-built boathouse for permanent, interactive display that your support will also help make a reality.

We’ll send out surveys shortly to make sure fulfillment of rewards moves swiftly, as promised. We will also be posting updates on PT-305’s journey here as we get them, so stay tuned! And thank you again for all your support. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Tuskegee Airmen Share Their Stories

This month’s Calling All Teachers e-newsletter highlights a once-in-a-lifetime chance for your students to interact with Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American pilots during World War II.

During our FREE webinar from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. (CDT) on Thursday, April 21, you and your students will be able to learn alongside these aviation pioneers. The program is perfect for students in grades 5–12, but all audiences are welcome to view and participate. You’ll also receive curriculum materials related to the program upon registering, so sign up today!

The April Calling All Teachers e-newsletter also shares big news about Get in the Scrap!, a national service learning project inspired by World War II and all about recycling and energy conservation. We now have over 100 middle school classrooms and over 3,000 students from 32 states participating, and there’s still time to sign up your class before the project closes on May 31.

Finally, this month’s Calling All Teachers shines the spotlight on the Holocaust since April is Genocide Awareness Month. The Museum has several resources you can use to guide your examination of this important topic. In addition to a fact sheet about the Holocaust and a lesson plan examining personal and collective responsibility during the Holocaust, you and your students can search the Museum’s Digital Collections to find many relevant oral histories. These include an interview with Holocaust survivor Charlotte Weiss, who describes her experiences at Auschwitz and encounters with the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, as well as interviews with concentration camp liberators such as Karl Mann.

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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