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1942 Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship

Spelling Bee Champion Richard Earnhart

Image from Time Magazine

On May 26, 2016, after 24 championship rounds, the 89th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee saw the crowning of two co-champion spellers, Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Janga.

74 years ago today, the 18th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee was held with eleven-year-old Richard Earnhart from El Paso, Texas taking the top prize.  Earnhart captured the 1942 championship by correctly spelling the word ‘sacrilegious.’  For his prize, Earnhart received $500 and a two-day trip to New York City.  When asked how he was enjoying Manhattan, Earnhart replied that he found it ‘swell…but I would kinda like to get back to normal life sometimes.’

The National Spelling Bee would not occur again until 1946; Scripps postponing all future contests until the successful conclusion of WWII.







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

Home Front Friday: We Salute You!

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!

Last Saturday was National Armed Forces Day! You may be able to imagine why this special day is so near and dear to the Museum.

Before World War II, the United States had more horses than people in its military. It ranked 18th in army size, just behind Romania. That all changed after the attack on Pearl Harbor. People began registering in droves, and before long, the United States military had swollen massively for the war effort. At its peak, 12,364,000 Americans came under the jurisdiction of the United States military – the second largest military in the entire war, with only the Soviet Union beating it out.

After Pearl Harbor, America launched a massive campaign to recruit new soldiers into the military. Artists, filmmakers, and intellectuals were hired by the government to encourage enlistment.

via the National Archives.

This very famous image of Uncle Sam was actually created during the First World War. However, the poster was brought back with a vengeance when the United States entered into World War II. (via the National Archives)

The recruitment process was not for the faint of heart. Not long after being accepted, new recruits would be shaved, given a new uniform, and hauled into barracks. They were then put through very rigorous training to get them in peak physical condition so that they may have a better chance of survival at the front. Training was also designed to teach the new recruits how to follow orders and work together as a team. They were taught how to operate weapons swiftly and without hurting themselves, to fly planes and to launch ships. Of course, just about everything had to be done with pounds and pounds of heavy equipment on their backs!


81st Infantry Division soldiers during review at the Camp San Luis Obispo parade grounds on 5 February 1944.


81st Infantry Division servicemen marching throughout California landscape during training exercises at San Luis Obispo, California on 14 March 1944.


81st Infantry Division 105 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage/ Priest troops preparing 105mm shells to use during training exercises at San Luis Obispo, California on 14 March 1944.


81st Infantry Division soldiers during training exercises at San Luis Obispo, California on 14 March 1944.


Our hats go off to all of the young men and women who dedicated their time, services, and even lives to the United States Armed Forces. In honor of this very special day, we are going to teach you how to make your very own paracord survival bracelet:


  • Paracord
  • Plastic buckle
  • Scissors
  • Lighter



  1. Measure out between 7-10 feet of paracord. It is better to have too much than too little to work with!13275461_1107825399240658_993710270_o
  2. Use your lighter to burn the ends so they don’t fray.13275231_1107825372573994_425876557_o
  3. Fold your paracord in half so that the ends meet. Slip both ends of the paracord through one end of the buckle. Bring them back around and put them through the loop created at the other end and tighten.13282761_1107825319240666_584531852_o 13275147_1107832439239954_30046276_o13288437_1107825279240670_1666976199_o
  4. Slip both ends of the paracord through the other side of the buckle. Pull until the length between the two buckles is your desired wrist size. Don’t pull too tightly! 13282803_1107825275907337_1563454959_o
  5. Unbuckle the buckle. Be careful to keep the wrist measurement you just took – don’t let the loose side of the buckle slide around! Separate the two strands of paracord that are not part of the measurement.13288380_1107825272574004_1490619203_o
  6. Start with the left strand. Lay it over the measurement section. Then, take the right strand and lay it on top of the left one.13287912_1107825255907339_421490667_o 13288575_1107825242574007_753036522_o
  7. Wrap the right strand around backward and thread it through the loop made by the left strand. Pull both strands and tighten. This is your first weave. 13287871_1107825219240676_1058643414_o
  8. Next, do the same thing on the right side. Lay the right strand on top of the measurement section, and then lay the left strand on top of the right strand. Wrap the left strand backward and thread it through the loop made by the right strand. Pull and tighten. This is your second weave. 13282447_1107825209240677_2143023232_o
  9. Repeat these steps, alternating sides, until you get to the end!13282460_1107825152574016_667247134_o
  10. Once you get to the end, make a final weave closest to your buckle. Then, take your scissors and clip the excess paracord. Use your lighter again to singe the edges so they don’t fray. If you like, you can mold the singed edges while they are still warm to flatten them out and make them less likely to come undone. Be careful – the cord will be hot!13275028_1107825149240683_2068885418_o
  11. All done!13288685_1107825132574018_1942395620_o 13313450_1107824845907380_756553304_o

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


Remembering Melvin Rector

Melvin Rector

One of the last images taken of Melvin Rector on tour with The National WWII Museum’s Masters of the Air 2016 tour.

The National WWII Museum recently hosted one of the most emotional tours in the history of the institution’s travel program. During Masters of the Air 2016, we lost Melvin Rector, Technical Sergeant, 339th Bomb Squadron, 96th Bomb Group, shortly after finishing a tour of RAF Uxbridge just outside of London. The loss of Melvin is surely on the hearts and minds of everyone who attended the tour, as well as Museum staff and Melvin’s family who were here back in the States.

The special care Melvin received in England, along with the abundant media attention, was a testament to Melvin’s service. Melvin was a radio operator/gunner on a B-17 and flew eight combat missions over Germany in the spring of 1945. Four of his missions encountered heavy flak, and on April 3, 1945, his plane returned with several holes in the wings.

Tour historian Donald L. Miller, PhD and tour manager Maddie Ogden represented the Museum with honor and the utmost professionalism while managing Melvin’s arrangements and continuing on with a memorable tour. We are grateful for their service to the Museum’s travel program.

Melvin Rector passed away at 94 years old. He joined the Masters of the Air tour so that he could see his air base one more time, but unfortunately he passed away only three days before the group was to arrive at RAF Snetterton Heath. The bravery, courage, and sacrifice that Melvin exhibited during the war years has become our nation’s heritage. His fearlessness and determination will live on for many years to come.

SciTech Tuesday: Nylon

What are you wearing?

In 1940 the answer was likely some combination of cotton and wool–maybe silk and linen.

Today there is a huge range of synthetic fibers used to make clothes. Spandex, lycra, dry-wick, polyester, acrylic–these fibers in today’s clothes all owe their existence to nylon.

Just at the beginning of the Great Depression, Charles Stine was head of DuPont’s chemistry division. He had convinced the executives at the company to give him money to build a new laboratory and fill it with scientists. At first he had trouble getting chemists to move from academia to industry, but eventually he found a young scientist named Wallace Carothers, who taught Organic Chemistry at Harvard. Carothers was intrigued by the research on polymers conducted by a German scientist, Hermann Staudinger. He wanted to see if he could make polymers, long chains of organic units, from smaller and simpler chemicals by stringing them together.

Carothers found success pretty shortly, when in 1930 a research assistant in his lab created a very long polymer they could pull into long threads. This was the first polyester. It was impossible to use in clothes because it’s melting point was too low, and it was soluble in water, but it was a start.

Eighty-two years ago today, May 24, 1934, another research associate of Carothers’, made thread from a polyamide that was strong and elastic. It was the first nylon. Unfortunately one of the precursors in its synthesis was very difficult to make. The research continued, and they found a way to use benzene as a starting product. By 1938 DuPont was building a nylon production facility in Delaware.

DuPont decided to focus on making fibers for textile companies to make stockings, replacing silk. Nylon stockings entered the retail market in 1940, and by 1942 DuPont fibers were in 30% of all stockings.

All that changed immediately in 1942. Nylon production was diverted to make ropes. tire cording, and parachutes for the military. When production of nylon returned to the retail market after the war, demand was incredible. In one case in Pittsburgh in July 1946, 40,000 women formed a line over a mile long to wait for the release of 13,000 pairs of nylon stockings. Struggling to meet demand throughout the rest of the 1940s, DuPont licensed the manufacture of nylon in 1951.

By the 1960s nylon, polyester and other synthetic fibers were at their peak, comprising more than 60% of all fibers produced worldwide. Shortly after that they lost some of their luster, and by the 1970s had decreased to about 45% of all production. In the last two decades new forms and uses of synthetics fibers have increased, and not just in clothing. Similar forms of the same fibers are used to make furniture and kitchen products.

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

Worker Wednesday: Edna Bougon Rushing

This month we’ve received many special donations, including a welder’s mask used at Higgins Industries by welder Edna Marie Bougon Rushing. The mask was donated by her daughter Ina Rae Whitlow during a visit to the Museum. Edna is on the right in the center photo and far left in the photo on the right. Edna Bougon Rushing was one of roughly 25,000 employed by Higgins Industries in the New Orleans area. Thank you to Mrs. Whitlow and to all of our artifact donors for helping us tell the story of American experience in WWII!

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

Home Front Friday: Hello Nurse!

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!

Yesterday was International Nurses Day, a very special day for us here at the Museum!

Nurses are some of the most important people in our society today, and the same thing was true during the war. Before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States had fewer than 1000 nurses in its Army Nurse Corps. By the time World War II had come to a close, that number had ballooned to more than 50,000 women! The army established specific nurse training procedures to teach its new recruits the ropes, with special programs dedicated to anesthesiology and psychiatric treatment.

Army nurses served under enemy fire in field and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains, hospital ships and in general hospitals overseas as well as in the United States. Because of their aid, fewer than 4 percent of the American soldiers who received medical care in the field or underwent evacuation died from wounds or disease!

nurse corps

Nurse Corps at Fort Benning, Georgia, circa 1942-43

Iwo Jima Nurse

Ensign Jane Kendiegh, USNR, of Oberlin, Ohio, the first Navy flight nurse to set foot on any battlefield, bends over a wounded Marine on the airstrip on Iwo Jima, 6 March 1945


The government recognized the tremendous service that nurses brought to the war effort, and began offering free education to nursing students between 1943 and 1948. Initially, the number of Black nurses allowed to serve in the Army Nurse Corpse was limited to 160, but a public outcry forced the authorities to drop that policy in 1944. After that, more than 2000 black students enrolled in the Cadet Nurse Corps program and funding for Black nursing schools increased dramatically.

Being so close to the front, many of these army nurses suffered wartime casualties, just like the soldiers on the field. There were 201 army nurse casualties during the war, with 16 of them being caused directly by enemy forces. Sixty eight American sevrvicewomen were captured as POWs in the Pacific. However, more than 1,600 nurses were decorated for bravery under fire and meritorious service!


Nurses during army training at Fort Meade, Baltimore, Maryland, 1940s


Army nurse adjusts an IV inserted into a soldier’s arm. Soldier is lying on hospital bed with head bandaged. Italy. 1944-45


Nurse assisting an injured soldier in Italy, 10 November 1943


Nursing provided many opportunities for women to branch out during the war. The Army Nurse Corps, the Navy Nurse Corps, and the American Red Cross all gave women the opportunity to participate, sometimes even militarily, in the war effort. Hitler, meanwhile, called America foolish for putting its women to work….which is probably why he lost the war!

In honor of National Nurses Day, we’re going to teach you how to make your very own ice packs and heating packs – the perfect remedy for sores, scrapes, and bruises!

What you need for an ice pack:

  • Plastic bag
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Water
  • Food coloring (optional)


  1. Mix one cup of rubbing alcohol with 2 cups of water. The less water you add, the less dense your gel will be.
  2. Place the mixture in a plastic bag. Try to get as much air out of the bag as you can – this will prevent it from popping. If you like, you can use two bags to protect further against leaks.
  3. It may help to add a bit of brightly colored food coloring to your ice pack so you can see what it is at a distance – and to signal to little kids that it isn’t for eating!
  4. Freeze! The gel inside will get cold enough to soothe while still remaining soft and pliable.

What you need for a heat pack:

  • Old sock or other cloth container
  • Uncooked rice or oatmeal
  • Needle and thread (optional)
  • Scents (also optional)


  1. Fill your sock with the rice or oatmeal.
  2. If you like, you can add fragrance oils to make your pack smell nice!
  3. Either sew or tie the sock closed. (Sewing is recommended so your filling doesn’t spill out!)
  4. Microwave for 1-3 minutes.

Always remember to never apply these packs directly to the skin – wrap them in a washcloth or paper towel first!

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

SciTech Tuesday: The National WWII Museum’s 2016 Robotics Challenge

The theme of the 4th Annual National WWII  Robotics Challenge was Can Do! That was the motto of the Seabees in World War II. The Seabees (officially they were the United States Naval Construction Force) built bases, airstrips, and all sorts of things, especially in the Pacific Theater. Their nickname came from the fact that they were organized in Construction Battalions. Their average age was older than most of the military, because these were experienced construction workers and working engineers given this special assignment.

The war in the Pacific, which is the focus of The National WWII Museum’s newest gallery, The Road to Tokyo, held many challenges. The volcanic islands, the vast expanses of ocean between them, the lack of infrastructure (or the destroyed infrastructure), volcanoes and earthquakes–all made the logistics of this campaign a great challenge. Robotics was not really a part of World War II, but solving problems by extending the abilities of current technology was. Today, robotics is a great way to extend the abilities of technology, and it is a way to engage young people in learning to solve problems with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

The Robotics Challenge has two parts–A Design Project and the Robot Competition–and involves teams of up to 10 3rd-8th grade students.

In the Robot Competition, students use Lego Mindstorms robots to accomplish a series of tasks. They program their robot to complete as many tasks as it can in 2 minutes and 30 seconds. This year the tasks included moving ships to a harbor, crossing the equator, and fighting malaria. The tasks use models and analogies to teach the history of WWII at the same time as they teach programming and problem-solving skills.

The Design Project this year asked students to design a Rhino Ferry with a limited range of supplies. Rhino Ferries were pontoons, basically sections of pontoon bridges or harbors, with engines on them. They had to test and redesign until they came up with a final design, and to propose a cost and construction plan. This project helps build student skills in STEM that might not be used as much in the competition.

We wouldn’t have been able to have had a successful challenge without the help of a dedicated and enthusiastic team of volunteers, who assisted The National WWII Museum’s Education  staff in running this event. In particular, Chevron (which also provided major funding for the challenge) sent many volunteers. The robotics team from Fontainebleu High School served as referees, and this was a crucial assist.

Forty teams participated in the 2016 Robotics Challenge–36 made it to Challenge Day. I think all of us AND all  of them are winners, since we are preparing these youngsters for the future. The winners in each category of awards are listed below.

Rhino Ferry Project

  1. Gretna No. 2–Barrow’s Bravehearts
  2. Phyllis Wheatley–761st Tank Division
  3. St. George Episcopal–Higgin’s Heroes

Robot Design and Process

  1. After the Bell Robotics–Legotrons
  2. Madisonville Jr High
  3. Faith Christian Academy

Robotics Competition

  1. TIE Patrick Taylor Academy–TIE Fighters and Central Alabama Community College–Legonators
  2. Faith Christian Academy
  3. Girl Scouts of Louisiana East–The B7 Teens

Special Award

Metairie Park Country Day School–The CDs (outstanding work by a very young team)

Grand Champions

Girl Scouts of Louisiana East–The B7 Teens (all around excellence and amazing teamwork)

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

Featured Artifact: Terezin Currency

Terezin note, Gift of Ela Stein Weissberger

Terezin note, Gift of Ela Stein Weissberger

In 1938, when Czech Jew Ela Stein Weissberger was eight years old, her family fled their home near the Czech-German border to Prague. Her father was in the porcelain business and her mother’s family owned a glass factory. They lost everything. Her father was arrested by the Gestapo and never seen again. Ela, her mother, sister, and grandmother were on one of the first transports to Terezin (Theresienstadt) Concentration Camp, arriving in February 1942.

Roughly 150,000 people were held in Theresienstadt, mostly Czech Jews like Ela Stein Weissberger. The camp became a propoganda tool for the Nazis most notably when the Nazis allowed entry to the camp by Danish Red Cross and International Red Cross delegates in June 1944. These visits occured after a long period of adjustments to and deportations from the camp to give the appearance of relatively comfortable living conditions. While there, the delegates  viewed a performance of the children’s opera Brundibár, composed by Czech Jewish composer Hans Krasa in 1938 and first performed in the camp on September 23, 1943 under the watchful eyes of Nazi guards. The role of the Cat in the Brundibar Opera was performed by Ela Stein Weissberger. She appeared in the 1944 performance for the International Red Cross delegation that visited Terezin and also in the German propaganda film, Der Führer schenkt die Juden eine Stadt (The Fuhrer gives the Jews a city). The opera would have 55 performances at Theresienstadt in total and became a symbol of hope for the Jews in the camp.

Roughly 34,000 people died in Theresienstadt and another 87,000 were transported to death camps before the camp was liberated by the Soviets on May 8, 1945. Ela Stein Weissberger survived and after liberation, moved to Israel and joined the Israeli Army and then the Israeli Navy.  She then moved to America with her husband in 1958. Ela has dedicated much of her life to traveling around the world educating the public about the Holocaust.

Ela Stein Weissberger saved this Fünf Kronen (five crowns) note from her time in Theresienstadt. She gave the note to Museum Historian Hannah Dailey when Dailey recorded an oral history interview of Weissberger’s wartime experiences. The currency, designed in 1942 and distributed first in May 1943 was used mainly for sham purposes, but also to create a semblance of normalcy within the camp. Inmates could purchase supplies from stores, stocked from the plundered belongings of other inmates. Inmates were also required to pay postal taxes and receipt taxes on mail and parcels sent and received. These notes were saved by survivors and by collectors and they stand today as evidence of the extent of the bureaucratic landscape of the Nazi camp system.

Three performances of Brundibár will take place in May 2016 at The National WWII Museum’s US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Ela Weissberger, the sole surviving member of the Brundibár cast at Theresienstadt, will be the Guest of Honor at each performance. To purchase tickets for the Brundibár performances at the Museum on May 14-15, 2016, click here.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.


Prom Season in Wartime

Bolton High School Victory Court, Alexandria, Louisiana.

Bolton High School Victory Court, Alexandria, Louisiana.

Despite war time shortages due to rationing as well as the oftentimes daily reminders that their country was engaged in an all-out, global war, many of the traditions of student life endured through the years between 1941 and 1945, including that all-important milestone of high school life:  the annual spring prom.  Much as with proms or formals today, students 70 years ago put on their fancy best for a night of excitement, dancing and fun.  However, no sector of American life was free from the inescapable influence of the War, not even the high school prom.  Many schools adopted patriotic or “Victory” motifs as the themes to their prom courts and dances.  Others used the event of the prom as a fund-raising or war bond-selling opportunity for the war effort.  Also, at the same time when the country was united in support of millions of troops serving across six continents, some American students found themselves attending separate and racially segregated prom celebrations, some even taking place behind the barbed wire of the ten Japanese-American internment camps.

See You Next Year – High School Yearbooks from WWII documents student life during the war years, presenting full-page images from high school yearbooks collected from across the United States.  These snapshots represent a select handful of images that can be found in over 30 of the yearbooks featured within the See You Next Year project.  Whether you attended your first high school prom this year or many years ago, these images show that the optimistic spirit of youth never changes, even if the hair styles, fashion choices and societal challenges do.

For more images and glimpses into the lives of students during WWII, check out See You Next Year – High School Yearbooks from WWII.


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

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Remember Them This Memorial Day

This month’s Calling All Teachers e-newsletter highlights an opportunity for you and your students to interact with Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger as she shares stories from her childhood at Theresienstadt concentration camp.

As a propaganda tool, the Nazis approved of certain cultural activities at Theresienstadt, included the staging of a children’s opera, Brundibár. During our FREE, live webinar from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. CT on Friday, May 13. Ela will not only relate her personal story of struggle and survival, but also her casting as the role of the cat in Brundibár, and what the staging of this opera around the world means to her today. Teachers will also receive curriculum materials related to the program upon registering, so sign up today!

The May Calling All Teachers e-newsletter also provides information about the winners of our Student Essay Contest as well as the Louisiana students who are headed to Washington, D.C., for National History Day. The Museum is proud to serve as the state sponsor for National History Day in Louisiana.

Finally, this month’s Calling All Teachers shines the spotlight on the Museum’s My Memorial Day website, where students can learn more about the contributions of WWII men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country. The My Memorial Day website features brief biographies of individuals such as Marine First Lt. Leonard Isacks, who sustained fatal injuries on the beach at Iwo Jima in February 1945, along with photographs and artifacts that highlight these brave men and women’s wartime experiences. Online students can read a heartfelt letter that Isacks wrote two months before his death, in which he told his “dear little boys” to never be bullies and to stand up for “the smaller fellow.” He also urged his sons to “have courage to do the things that you think are right.”

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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