As we finish our tour through the first floor of the Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters, we exit out of the Road to Berlin exhibit space and come to one of the most impressive elements of the pavilion, the Atrium. The Campaigns of Courage Atrium is a dramatic entryway to the heart of the Museum’s World War II battlefield experience. The Atrium showcases the Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter plane and three war stations that will orient visitors as they prepare to explore pavilion’s exhibit spaces. Sounds of the Messerschmitt flying will encompass the visitor as they enter the Atrium, highlighting the importance of this warbird.
The five-story Atrium is architecturally striking – it is intentionally compressed horizontally and accentuated vertically, with a magnificent wide staircase balancing the space. Two exterior walls are covered by glass for maximum transparency, ensuring a superb view of the campus from the second level, and a spectacular view of the Atrium from the outside. The remaining walls are fashioned from precast concrete with a gorgeous acrylic burgundy finish. Strategic lighting makes the Atrium shine at night, creating a lovely sight from Andrew Higgins Drive and adding to the beauty of the entire campus. This principal hub connects Road to Berlin with Road to Tokyo on the second floor, and serves as the pavilion’s main entry point from the Battle Barksdale Parade Ground and the second-level sky bridge leading to the Solomon Victory Theater.
PT-305’s original flags. In the frame, the battle flag is pictured above while the commissioning flag lies below it.
The Museum’s PT-305 restoration project recently received a valuable piece of the boat’s history this past September when the boat’s original flags were returned to the vessel. The flags were donated by Mitch Cirlot, the son of one of the original crew members on PT-305, Joseph Cirlot.
Mitch’s dad, Joseph, was the longest serving sailor on PT-305. According to Mitch, how his father ended up with the flags is because he was the last one to rotate off the boat. Joseph’s skipper asked him to take the battle flag and the commissioning flag home with him. He was also given the captured Nazi flag containing the signatures of the PT boat squadron sailors.
With the donation of these flags, Mitch also gave a photograph of his father’s wife Marion Cirlot that was affixed to Joseph’s bunk within PT-305 during the war. Our restoration crew will be placing this photograph back in Joseph’s bunk just as it was nearly 70 years ago during World War II.
We would like to reach out to the families of PT-305 and obtain photos of the crew’s sweethearts, wives, and family that would have likely attached to the bunk. If you have anything to share with our restoration crew about PT-305, please contact us here.
Nobody ever saw that headline, but in a way it was true. 71 years ago Nazi troops landed in North America.
Weather Station Kurt, on display at the National War Museum of Canada, in Ottawa (from Wikipedia)
Northern Hemisphere weather generally moves from west to east. This gave the Allies an advantage in the war. In the absence of the satellites and ground radar we have now, observations stations and data collection in the provided the basis of weather prediction. Just as the Midwest and East Coast had more reliable weather predictions than the West Coast, the Allies had better predictions of conditions in the North Atlantic and the European Continent than the Germans had.
The Germans tried to solve this problem by establishing weather stations across the North Atlantic. They had stations in Greenland and on other islands, and sent specially equipped planes out to collect data too.
In mid-September of 1943 a U-Boat set out on its first voyage from a port on the coast of France. U-537 carried one of 26 automated weather stations made by Siemens. The weather station had two masts and 10 sealed cylinders. One mast held the one cylinder with instruments in it, and was 10 meters high. It was also the transmission antenna. The other mast had an anemometer and wind vane, The remaining 9 cylinders, and most of the mass of the station, was filled with nickel-cadmium batteries that powered the 150 Watt radio transmitter. The transmitter sent out a two minute signal every three hours. The station was code-named Kurt.
U-537 suffered significant storm damage that left unable to dive and unable to fire ammunition. In spite of this the captain successfully gothis ship to Newfoundland, which was then an independent country. They landed in Martin Bay, Labrador and set up the station. Part of the crew remained on board to work on repairs. After installing the station, the crew camouflaged it by strewing packs of American cigarettes about the site. Having repaired their vessel, they returned to France, expecting 6 months of use from the station before its batteries expired.
U-537 in St Martin’s Bay, Labrador (from the collection of the National World War II Museum).
U-867 had left port a month earlier, with a matching station also meant for deployment in North America. This ship, however, was sunk by bombs dropped by a British-manned B-24 off the coast of Norway.
Kurt was rediscovered by a Canadian geologist in 1977 while doing field studies. On its rediscovery its nature and significance was not really understood. At about the same time a retired Siemens engineer, in the process of writing a history of the company, found the log books of the meteorologist who was on the expedition to install Kurt. An expedition sent by the Canadian Department of National Defence found the station damaged but still standing in 1981. Kurt has been preserved in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
Posted by Rob Wallace, STEM Education Coordinator at The National WWII Museum
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!
Halloween has evolved over the decades. During World War II, sugar was rationed, so treats were different than one might find in their pumpkin today. Community organizations threw parties for kids – and at those events kids showed off their creativity by coming up with costumes using what materials they could come up with at their home or by scouring the neighborhood to come up with costumes. Today, why not honor that creative crafty DIY spirit and make your own costume?
Our Victory Belle Dody recently shared how to make your own Rosie the Riveter costume.
All you need is:
1. A red and white bandanna
2. An over-sized denim button-down shirt
3. Blue jeans
4. 1940’s hairstyle: curl your hair (Belles use Caruso steam curlers for the authentic 40’s style curl). Part your hair on the side and take small sections of hair on either side of the part around the temples. Roll those sections with your fingers and sit them close to the hairline. Pin them so they feel secure. Now you have Victory Rolls and luscious curls!
5. 1940’s makeup: emphasize eyebrows using pencil or powder. Add some false lashes for the Hollywood glamour look. Keep cheeks simple with soft pink tones, and top those lips with really red lipstick! Paint nails red to complete the look!
Posted by Lauren Handley, Education Programs Coordinator at The National WWII Museum.
Steve Good during his stop at the Museum posed with his grandfather’s picture and a thank you to his parents for their support.
As it honors the service and sacrifices of the Greatest Generation, The National WWII Museum strives to pass on the war generation’s values, celebrating young people whose actions and goals reflect our country’s highest ideals.
In that spirit, we were thrilled to have a young gentleman by the name of Steve Good put the Museum on his Iron Phi journey. Started by Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity the Iron Phi athletic program seeks to strengthen and support the organization’s brotherhood and to raise money to support The ALS Association’s research to find a cure against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease. What started as a young man’s solution to a mid-life crisis at 30 years old in 2012, Good developed an Iron Phi challenge for himself where he traveled to eight states in eight days riding a Megabus and running over 60 miles throughout his journey’s pit stops raising money for his fraternity and ALS. Now Good is 32 years old and has been doing these runs every year.
Can you see the family resemblance? Here, Good’s grandfather Tech. Sgt. Floyd Harmon stands with a newly received war dog donated to Dogs for Defense. Image courtesy of Linda (Lindy) Harmon Good, in memory of Floyd Eugene Harmon, K-9 Corps, Fort Robinson, Nebraska.
On this year’s run, Good has been running and busing throughout the South gathering his friends for a good run and stopping at meaningful landmarks along the way. What sparked his stop at the Museum during his run through New Orleans on October 22, 2014 was because his grandfather, Tech Sergeant Floyd Eugene Harmon, was previously featured in one of our special exhibits and books Loyal Forces: The American Animals of World War II.
During World War II, Good’s grandfather Harmon stayed on the Home Front training dogs for service in the Dogs for Defense program at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Throughout the war years over 10,000 dogs were trained for war and nearly 3,000 of them were sent overseas. Harmon’s duties included receiving dogs donated by civilians and training them to be used in the war effort. The dogs trained were used for various types of work, from sled and pack, to sentry and roving patrol, messenger, scout, and mine detection work.
When Good ran through the Museum to take his obligatory snap of a landmark and to present a thank you to that leg’s supporter, he described this stop as the highlight of his trip. We presented him with the book Loyal Forces opened to the images of his grandfather training dogs during WWII for his picture. He quickly got his shot and ran off to his next stop in town at Tulane University. Later on his blog, he wrote about his quick stop at the Museum being so meaningful to him that “luckily the sweat running down my face hid the tears.”
Into The German Homeland – Final Assault Rendering
As we continue our adventure through theRoad to Berlin, we stop next at the riveting Breaking the Siegfried Line exhibit, which tells the gripping history of the offensive strategy conducted by the Allies in February 1945 and the counteroffensive at Alsace in attempts to break through Germany’s line of defense.
The Siegfried Line fortified Germany’s western border with France. It consisted of interlocking bunkers systems and hedge-hog teeth tank defenses that stretched for over 300 miles. In August of 1944 Hitler reinforced the Siegfried Line to halt the American forces advancing upon Germany from the Normandy landings. The defensive line proved to be a formidable obstacle, but the Allied forces attacking along the line in the Hurtgen Forest campaign and Battle of the Bulge ultimately broke through Siegfried defenses at great cost in lives. Breaching the line left the Allies positioned for the final drive deep into the German homeland.
Donor Spotlight: Lt. Col. Robert Kelso and Mrs. Betty Kelso
The Breaking the Siegfried Line exhibit inside the Into the German Homeland gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from Lt. Col. Robert Kelso and his wife, Betty. Lieutenant Colonel Kelso is a veteran of two wars and currently lives in San Antonio.
Infantrymen of the 255th Infantry Regiment move down a street in Waldenburg to hunt out the Hun after a recent raid by 63rd Division. Image courtesy of National Archives.
Kelso served in the Army during World War II and is believed to be the youngest known soldier injured during the conflict. With his recruiter unaware of his real age, Kelso entered service at age 13 and was wounded by a German bayonet at 14. He received the Purple Heart as a result of the war injury.
During World War II, Kelso was assigned to the 342nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion and fought throughout Europe as a private. After World War II, Kelso served in the US Army Reserve, but in 1963, after the onset of the Vietnam War, he returned to active duty at the rank of captain. He completed two tours in Vietnam, first as an advisor with the 22nd ARVN Division, then with the famed 25th Infantry Division “Tropic Lightning.” His awards include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and French Legion of Honor.
Robert and Betty Kelso first became involved with the Museum when a civic leader of San Antonio sponsored a traveling event to San Antonio for veterans and supporters. After his initial visit to the Museum, Kelso felt compelled to make a gift. He felt that naming the Breaking the Siegfried Line was the most appropriate fit. Kelso states that he vividly remembers “crossing the line in Germany” and it is something he will never forget.
The Kelsos are proud supporters of other institutions that serve the military community. They have supported the National Army Museum since 2008, and graciously offered their home and ranch to 21 service members recuperating at Brooke Army Medical Center, so that they could take a day trip and escape the rigors of hospital rehabilitation life.
The Museum is grateful for the generosity of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kelso and his wife, Betty, as they help to advance the capital expansion.
In addition to stories about production and factory life, The Higgins Worker also profiled and memorialized former Higgins workers killed in action. The issue from 20 October 1944, reported on the death of Anthony Sconza, who, prior to entering the service, had been a shipfitter at Higgins’ Industrial Canal plant.
Sconza’s service and sacrifice are featured in our upcoming exhibit in Campaigns of Courage: Road to Berlin. Sconza’s family donated the casket name plate from his casket, when his remains were returned home to New Orleans.
This past the September, The National WWII Museum hosted a travel tour rediscovering the continent where the Allies saved the world. Hear from Museum’s Assistant Director of Collections & Exhibits Toni Kiser about her experience on the trip below.
I have recently returned from a great tour of London, Southern England, and Normandy as the museum representative on our recent Victory in Europe Normandy Tour! Part of what made this trip so special was that best-selling author Alex Kershaw (The Bedford Boys, The Longest Winter, The Liberator) came along as the tour historian.
Our trip started with us gathering in London and setting off for a full day of touring on September 9th. Our first stop was Grosvenor Square to visit the Roosevelt and Eisenhower statues. Ike’s headquarters during World War II on this square and it was then nicknamed “Eisenhower Platz.”
A WWII Flight Jacket on display at the Imperial War Museum in London.
The best part of the day though had to be our stop at the newly renovated and recently reopened Imperial War Museum. They were closed for several months to renovate their galleries in anticipation of the centenary of the World War I. The museum was an amazing experience; the new World War I gallery was packed with artifacts, digital interactives, and the personal stories of World War I soldiers. The World War II section featured some great items as well. I particularly like this flight jacket they had on exhibit.
We ended the day with a trip to the Churchill War Rooms where we were given a special behind the scenes look and presentation by Phil Reed who was instrumental in the opening of the War Rooms to the public. We continued our look into Sir Winston Churchill on September 10th with a trip to his home, Chartwell. Although, its three ponds made it too easy of a target for the Luftwaffe during the war Churchill still considered this his home. He said of his home, “A day away from Chartwell, is a day wasted.” I was struck with be the beauty of the English countryside and imagine that he must have felt very peaceful there. I loved this chair situated next to a pond of goldfish where Churchill was said to often sit.
Our last day in England then, became all about Dwight D. Eisenhower. We started our day with a drive to Southwick House where the original map coordinating the D-Day landings is still located today. This is where Ike gave his iconic, “Okay, let’s go” command. Then we popped over the Portsmouth D-Day Museum to view the Normandy Tapestry and learn about how the town of Portsmouth helped to prepare for the D-Day invasion.
View of the Solent Straight from Portsmouth, England.
Then our group boarded the Brittany Ferry to take us from Portsmouth, England to Caen, France. So just like those soldiers and sailors of D-Day, we too made a Channel crossing. However, in much calmer seas and more creature comforts along the way!
September 13th began our tour of Normandy with a stop at Pegasus Bridge. As luck would have it on this Saturday morning the bridge was raised while we were there to allow a few pleasure craft to pass through. It was so exciting to see it in action!
We continued that day with stops at the Ouistreham Bunker (of which the museum has a replica in our galleries) and Hillman Battlefield. Then we went to the seaside town of Arromanches to see the remnants of a Mulberry Harbor “B” and tour the Musee du Debarquement.
Tourgoer Ms. Valluzo in a German Bunker in Normandy.
Our day ended with a visit to the Ryes British War Cemetery. Here, tour historian, Alex Kershaw gave us the story of the Casson brothers buried next to one another. The museum laid flowers at their grave and took time for our group to pay respects to the soldiers and sailors buried there.
After a tour of the British exploits at Normandy it was time to turn to the Americans. Our first stop on September 14th was Chateau de Bernaville where we learned the story of the first German General killed in the Normandy invasion. General Wilhelm Falley was killed in the wee hours of the D-Day invasion by paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division. He had set up his headquarters at the Chateau in early 1944 and was in his staff car returning to the Chateau when the paratroopers encountered the car and were able to barrage the car with gunfire and ultimately kill Falley.
The battle for the bridge at La Fiere is just minutes away from the Chateau and we stopped there on our way to Ste-Mere-Eglise to visit Iron Mike and understand the importance of the bridge.
We then toured the Airborne Museum in Ste-Mere-Eglise as well as the church, learning the story of paratrooper John Steele of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Then we drove on the Brecourt Manor to hear the story of Dick Winters and the destruction of a German artillery battery located on the property. Then we were off to visit Utah Beach and the Utah Beach Museum. We ended the day with a quick stop at the church in the little village of Angoville-au-Plain, learning of the efforts of the story of the medics of the 101st Airborne and the soldiers they treated.
Tourgoers exploring the German fortifications at Point-du-Hoc.
September 15th brought clouds, but lucky for us, no rain. We trekked the cratered landscape of Point-du-Hoc, and explored one of the German fortifications still there.
We continued with a visit to Omaha Beach, where Alex walked us through the last steps of many of the young men from Bedford, Virginia who made up the 116th Infantry Division landing on bloody Omaha.
We then went to the Normandy American Cemetery where many of those 116th Infantry Division soldiers are buried. At this cemetery over 9,000 American service men and women are laid to rest for the sacrifices they made not just on D-Day, but as part of the many operations to liberate Europe from the Third Reich.
Our final day together started at the Memorial de Caen, and then took us on a drive through the French countryside to Montormel to see the valley where, with the help of Polish troops we were able to close the Falaise Gap. Although, not a completely successful venture (it’s estimated that 50,000 German were able to escape the pocket, leaving us to fight them again later) the closing of the gap meant the end of the battle for Normandy. And then, like many American soldiers we finished our Normandy journey with a night in Paris.
Tourgoers at Chateau de Bernaville
Author Alex Kershaw with tourgoers at Omaha Beach.
Flowers laid on the graves of the Casson brothers in the Ryes British War Cemetery.
A glimpse into Chartwell, Winston Churchill's beautiful English countryside home. Churchill often sat in this chair next to this pond of goldfish.
In the past two weeks the news has been full of announcements of the 2014 Nobel Prizes. The efforts of the Allies to develop a nuclear bomb in the Tube Alloys and Manhattan Projects involved 21 Nobel Prize winners.
James Chadwick, a British scientist who spent World War I in an internment camp in Germany, led the Tube Alloys project, and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1935 for his discovery of the neutron. Chadwick was born 20th of October in 1891.
Alfred Nobel was born 21st of October 1833. His parents were very poor, and of their 8 children only Alfred and three others survived to adulthood. Immanuel Nobel, Alfred’s father was an engineer in Stockholm, and the son learned a great deal about engineering and especially explosives from the father. The family owned a factory that produced armaments for the Crimean War, but which struggled to make money when the war ended. Alfred and one of his brothers took over the factory operations and made it profitable. Alfred Nobel invented the blasting cap in 1865, dynamite in 1867, and ballistitite (a forerunner of cordite) in 1887. The growth of family factories using their patents for explosives made Alfred and his family very rich.
In 1896, without his family’s knowledge, Alfred Nobel made a will assigning 94% of his assets (about 1.7 million pounds at the time) to a trust to give annual prizes in 5 areas. Three prizes were for science (Physical Science, Chemistry, and Medicine or Physiology), one for literature, and one that is now called the ‘Peace Prize.’ In his will Nobel said the prize ‘is to be given to the person or society that renders the greatest service to the cause of international fraternity, in the suppression or reduction of standing armies, or in the establishment or furtherance of peace congresses.’
Alfred Nobel’s intentions in establishing these awards has been a topic of speculation in the decades since his death in 1896. It might be that he felt guilty for the damage to individuals and societies caused by his inventions. A premature obituary read ‘Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.’ It might be that his only concern was his reputation, and the reputation of his family.
The National WWII Museum is pleased to announce the release of 5,000 new photographs to our Digital Collections website at ww2online.org. This new content provides access to the best photograph collections both held by and entering the Museum on a daily basis.
The photographs just released on the website support many upcoming initiatives at the Museum and fills an aspiration to release material unseen by the majority of the general public. Although most of the first release of images in January 2014 contained Signal Corps and other official branch images – in the future, we will release many personal images created by those who were living the war, capturing how they experienced it personally. Major photographic content areas in this release span the globe from Ghana to Guam and support activities from ‘Crossing the Line’ ceremonies, to color images of B-29s on Saipan, to Home Front ship building. Just to highlight a few unique collections released are Higgins Industry images, images from Africa and the Middle East, German photographs, and Tulane University doctors in North Africa and Italy.
All efforts are being made to include content from all service branches including women’s auxiliary units and encompassing all world theaters. Ideally, our online collections would be representative of all major events and battles in World War II, but as we are a collection of unsolicited donations, we unfortunately do not have representative collections for every event. Providing access to materials surrounding each event is a priority for the digitization project here at the Museum as much as providing access to materials from all theaters of war, service branches and civilian experiences and minorities.
If you possess any authentic photographs from World War II, we invite you to consider donating them to the Museum where they can tell the story of the war for future generations. You may learn more about what we seek and how to donate here.
Close-up view of the construction of a boat's hull in Louisiana in the 1940s. Collection of Higgins Industries photographs from unidentified donor, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
Demonstration of several LCPLs riding up the Lake Pontchartrain seawall during ceremony for completion of the U.S. Navy's 10,000th Higgins Boat at Lake Ponchartrain. Soldiers are exisiting the landing crafts as crowds behind look on. "File No. 631C-24. Subject: 10,000th boat. Photographer: Rutherford. Date: Jul 23, 1944." New Orleans, Louisiana. 23 July 1944. Gift in memory of Andres N. Horcasitas, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
Two U.S. Army soldiers at a crossroads in Ghana in the 1940s. Possibly Air Transport Command. Gift of Jason Sloan, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
A group of local children gather near a US Army jeep in Ghana in the 1940s. Gift of Jason Sloan, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
Eight women Red Cross workers; some holding jackets and other parts of uniforms, one holding a small dog or puppy, probably on Tinian in 1945. Gift of David Lawrence, from the collection of the National WWII Museum.
Nose art on a B-29 named Booze Hound at Isley Field on Saipan in 1945. Gift of Lisle Neher, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
Crew of the B-29, Z Square 7, Hell's Belle, 42-24680, taken in Hawaii in 1945. Left to right: SSgt. Jack N. Lebid, Sgt. George Andrews, SSgt. Angelo M. Campanini. Gift of Lisle Neher, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
An M4 Tank buried on the beach at Saipan in 1945. Gift of Lisle Neher, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
Crossing the Line ceremony participants including the court with King Neptune and his Queen Amphitrite aboard the US Navy destroyer USS Maury. An African American man is also participating in the court; he holds a milk bottle and appears to wear a diaper. A Caucasian man on the courtÂ’s left appears to be a priest figure. "U.S.S. Maury (DD401) 5/5/42. A Happy Day or is it?? Walter. PTO. 5 May 1942. Gift in Memory of Walter and James Williams, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world - why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today - so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.