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Home Front Friday: Knit Your Bit

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!

During World War II you might have had a friend ask you to help the soldiers out by picking up your needles and yarn and knitting your bit.  The Red Cross popularized the slogan as early as World War I and then revived it with propaganda, leaflets and campaigns to get people to knit for soldiers.

On the Home Front during World War II, knitting served as one more way Americans could support the war effort. The November 24, 1941, cover story of the popular weekly magazine Life explained “How To Knit.” Along with basic instructions and a pattern for a simple knitted vest, the article advised, “To the great American question ‘What can I do to help the war effort?’ the commonest answer yet found is ‘Knit.’” Thousands of Americans picked up their needles to knit socks, mufflers and sweaters to keep American soldiers warm and provide them with a handcrafted reminder of home.

The Red Cross supplied patterns for sweaters, socks, mufflers, fingerless mitts (which allowed soldiers to keep their hands warm while shooting), toe covers (for use with a cast), stump covers and other garments. Cold, wet, sore feet were the enemy as surely as German or Japanese troops.

“The Navy needs men, but it also needs knitters,” newspapers cried.  After the war, some knitters dropped their needles for good. Others kept on knitting throughout their lives in a wide variety of colors — any color, many swore, but Army-issued khaki or olive drab!  Today knitting is popular once again and many enjoy the process of creating something useful.  Luckily, the spirit of sharing is alive and well too.  The Museum has been fortunate enough to be the receiving ground for a great civic service project for the past 8 years, running our own “Knit Your Bit” campaign, so you can send in your hand-made scarves to be distributed to veterans around the country.

Want to get involved?

Learn more about how you can Knit Your Bit.

Sign up for our e-newsletter.

Join us for a Knit-in and keep that generous knitting spirit alive while thanking our veterans.

Posted by Lauren Handley, Education Programs Coordinator at The National WWII Museum

Last Chance for Special Exhibit Field Trip!

Dorothea Lange's picture of young girls practicing school songs, Manzanar Relocation Center. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Dorothea Lange’s picture of young girls practicing school songs, Manzanar Relocation Center. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

There’s still time to bring school groups to the Museum for the special exhibit field trip, From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: Japanese American Experiences in WWII. The story of Japanese American internment and military enlistment, in spite of discrimination, holds many important lessons for today about citizenship, patriotism, and civil rights. From September 8th through October 8th, 2014,  students in grades 6 through 12 have the opportunity to explore this special exhibit to discover what US internment policy was, what life was like for the over 110,000 Japanese American citizens who were placed in internment camps during WWII, and to reflect on the reasons why many Japanese Americans enlisted in the military, in spite of wartime discrimination. Students also build historical empathy and become hands-on historians by investigating 1940s high school yearbooks and propaganda to learn about how Japanese American internment impacted high school students like themselves as friends and classmates were sent away to the camps.

This special exhibit field trip is available Monday through Wednesday at 9:15 am. and 10:45 am, and at 1:00 pm from September 8th through October 8th, 2014. Space is limited to grades 6-12, with 40 students and 4 teachers per time slot, and the entire experiences is 90 minutes. For rates and to schedule the field trip, please call 504-528-1944 x222 or visit The National WWII Museum’s field trip page . To learn more about the special exhibit and pre- and post-visit lessons and activities that are available for the classroom, please visit the From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: Japanese American Experiences in WWII website.

Learn more about this and other educational opportunities by signing up for our free monthly teacher e-newsletter, Calling All Teachers!

Post by Megan Byrnes, K-12 Curriculum Coordinator.


German Bunker Rendering

Rendering of what the Breaching the German Frontier gallery will look like within the Road to Berlin.

The next stop within the Road to Berlin will bring to life another vital aspect of the WWII story – the German Siegfried Line, a network of bunkers, minefields, and barbed wire built into hilly terrain. After the failure of Market Garden, the Allied advance ground to a halt as it encountered the Siegfried Line.  This gallery mimics the interior of a blown-out German bunker, allowing you to see the infrastructure employed by the Germans in defense of their homeland.  The gallery’s content focuses on the stories of the Allied advance into Germany, including the capture of Aachen, the first German city to surrender, while also foreshadowing the many battles that still lay ahead for the American forces.  Once the Allies managed to penetrate sections of the Siegfried Line, their spirits were high and many hoped to be home by Christmas.  These hopes were shattered by Hitler’s final counter-offensive in the West, which became the Battle of the Bulge, the costliest land battle of the war for the Americans.


Susan and Michael Ashner

Susan and Michael Ashner


The Breaching the German Frontier Bunker gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from The Ashner Family Evergreen Foundation. The Foundation was started 12 years ago by Museum Trustee Michael Ashner and his wife Susan to better coordinate their philanthropic efforts. Michael and Susan are both from South New Jersey. Michael grew up in Margate and Susan in Pleasantville.

The Ashners have been involved with the Museum since 2011, when Ginny and former board member David Knott mentioned to them that there was The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. David shared stories of his involvement, and asked Michael if he too wanted to become involved with the Museum. Shortly after their discussion Michael took on a leadership role, joining David on the Board of Trustees.

Morton Hassman

Morton Hassman

Michael and Susan’s decision to demonstrate personal support for the Museum was also influenced by their family connections to the war effort. Michael’s two uncles, Morton Hassman and Jules Rainess, both served during WWII. Morton was a glider pilot and was killed in Operation Varsity, a massive airborne assault near the end of the war that landed Allied forces across the Rhine. Jules was in the US Army and served in the difficult New Guinea campaigns. Fortunately, he survived his combat tour.

Jules was reserved in discussing his wartime experiences. “He was a big man at six feet two inches tall,” Michael said. “When he enlisted he weighed 180 pounds. When he came back from New Guinea, he was down to 120 pounds.” Michael and Susan have named the Breaching the German Frontier Bunker gallery within the Road to Berlin in honor of the service and sacrifices of Michael’s uncles.

Jules Rainess

Jules Rainess

Michael said he and Susan support the Museum because they “believe the cost and sacrifice of protecting our freedom and liberties needs to be shared with both current and future generations. We also believe the world should understand how strong a free citizen military can respond when provoked.” They feel that all who visit the Museum “cannot help but come away with some level of appreciation for the contributions that American soldiers and civilians made during WWII. I encourage everyone to visit the Museum and bring their friends and family. Each time I go there I enjoy it more and the people I bring enjoy it also.”

Museum President Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller said the institution “has always turned to its national board for leadership and support, and we are inspired by the generosity of Susan and Michael Ashner. The Breaching the German Frontier gallery that they are sponsoring in our new pavilion will bring to life the story of the daunting challenges faced by our citizen soldiers even during the final phases of the war in Europe.”

Michael also recently began his second three-year term on the Museum’s Board of Trustees. The National WWII Museum is extremely grateful for Michael’s leadership on the board and for Michael and Susan’s strong show of support for the Road to Victory capital campaign.


Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Coordinator, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.

New Digitized Yearbooks in Time for Back to School!

We’ve been hard at work this summer adding on to our digital collection of WWII-era yearbooks, See You Next Year: High School Yearbooks from WWII. In addition to being a great classroom tool to teach students about using primary sources, these yearbooks provide a unique perspective on WWII, allowing visitors to experience the setbacks and triumphs of the war through the eyes of America’s youth.

Dunbar High School in Dayton, OH

Named after the late 19th century poet and Dayton native, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School was initially intended to be a middle school, but soon admitted high school students as well due to its immediate popularity. Dunbar followed in the tradition of America’s first all-black high school in Washington, D.C., with which it shares a name. The school also served as a center of employment for African American teachers, who often found themselves unemployed after completing teacher training due to the preference for hiring white teachers. Emphasizing that separate truly is inherently unequal, Dunbar’s yearbook more closely resembles a pamphlet in its design; there are no individual student portraits, no extravagant prom photos, and it is smaller than yearbooks at white high schools, measuring at less than 8×10 inches.

Moses Brown School in Providence, RI

Founded in 1784, the Moses Brown School is one of the oldest preparatory schools in the US. Its founder and namesake, Moses Brown, was a Quaker abolitionist and started the school to educate other young Quakers. While originally co-ed in accordance with the Quaker belief of gender equality, the school became boys-only in 1926, and would remain so for 50 years. The yearbook itself was put together during America’s earliest official involvement in World War II, and went to print several months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A thorough class history documents the fear and confusion students felt, and discusses how faculty became air-raid wardens. While the school’s Quaker tradition was anti-war, many students ultimately joined the military. The school would also hire many veterans after the war to serve on their faculty, several from nearby Brown University, where many local Providence veterans used their GI Bill to earn a degree.

And thanks to the generosity of two of our Museum volunteers, we’ve also added new yearbooks from Albert Lea, MN and our homebase, New Orleans, LA!

Albert Lea High School in Albert Lea, MN

Albert Lea was a small town during World War II, with a population of just over 12,000 people, and truly felt the effects of so many young men and women leaving to enter the military or seek employment in industrial cities. Many of the boys left school mid-year ‘in order to preserve the four freedoms.’ By the end of the 1945 schoolyear, more than 30 Albert Lea High School alumni were killed in action, with many more like Museum volunteer Ross Gamble still set to enter the Armed Forces. In addition to the personal losses, the same Home Front issues impacted the students daily; ‘rationing makes the food problem difficult,’ says the caption next to her portrait, ‘but [cafeteria chef] Mrs. Mable R. Crynes continues serving nutritous and inexpensive meals.’ Students held war bond drives each week, and gathered supplies to donate boxes to the Red Cross. Additionally, many boys took part time jobs at the local post office during school holidays to assist in getting packages overseas.

Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, LA

“It didn’t occur to us that we’d end up in the service,” yearbook donor and WWII veteran Tommy Godchaux stated during his oral history. Despite his feelings at the time, the pages of the 1942 Pioneer yearbook from the exclusive Isidore Newman School are chock full of wartime imagery, from the title illustration featuring an armed Uncle Sam carrying a tank and a Higgins Boat landing craft to its advice column for boys and girls. Everything from popular trends to contemporary music is interpreted through the war, including the role students must play in supporting the Allies. The Pioneer also reveals student attitudes toward gender roles in features like “For Girls Only” as well as the school-wide Pioneer Poll, in which 80% of boys and 56% of girls voted against women wearing slacks. In February 1942, with America’s involvement in WWII just three months old, one student ponders “Should we hate our enemies?”

View the full See You Next Year: High School Yearbooks from WWII collection and find out how you can help represent your state!

Posted by Gemma Birnbaum, Digital Education Coordinator at The National WWII Museum.

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SciTech Tuesday: This Day in History–Tubes were everywhere!

In World War II militaries learned to apply old technologies for new purposes. For example, the chemistry of combustion was used in engines and in rockets and bombs, but that technology went back hundreds of years. The science of electronics was newer, but 30 year-0ld inventions became the basis of one of the world’s newest technologies–a powerful, code-breaking computer.

Lavoisier and combustion

David_-_Portrait_of_Monsieur_Lavoisier_and_His_WifeAntoine-Laurent Lavoisier was born on this date in 1743. He was a great experimenter, and early chemist. He was born into a wealthy aristocratic family, and used his capital to purchase into a private company that the French government hired to collect taxes. This made Lavoisier even more wealthy, and he used that money to build and supply a large laboratory. In 1778 he conducted a set of experiments that showed air to be a mixture of two gases. Lavoisier named the gases oxygen and nitrogen. He then showed that oxygen was the gas involved in combustion, overturning the prevailing phlogiston theory. In his studies of combustion Lavoisier established the conservation of mass in chemical reactions. He also systematized the naming of chemical compounds. His wealth and aristocratic heritage helped Lavoisier to build his scientific career, but they and his role in tax collection also led to his death. He met his end at the guillotine in 1794.

Combustion is obviously very important in designing many of the weapons used in WWII. The internal combustion engine provided the power for all the tanks and armored vehicles in the war, and the vast majority of the aircraft. Later, rocketry developed but it also used combustion as the primary source of energy. Lavoisier was an empiricist, not overly interested in applications of the work he did. But his investigations helped develop chemistry into a systematic field of study, and his discoveries about conservation of matter and combustion are critical to the last century of technologies.

de Forest and vacuum tubes


Lee de Forest holding two of his Audion tubes

Lee de Forest was born in 1873 in Iowa. He was one of the great American inventors in the early 20th century. He called himself the Father of Radio, and said, ‘I discovered an Invisible Empire of the Air, intangible, yet solid as granite.’ de Forest was only overstating his importance by a bit. Edison had invented the lightbulb, and the ‘wireless’ could use radio waves to send signals, but when de Forest developed the Audion vacuum tube in 1906 he provided a major advance in technology. The Audion, the first triode, allowed amplification of signals and thus the real broadcasting of radio. de Forest was a character in the mold of Tesla—bombastic and competitive. He argued in legal and public venues against Marconi and Edison, and competed for business advantage and reputation. 

Behind all the bluster, de Forest’s inventions were transformative. 

A vacuum tube is a sealed container with electronics inside. The electronics inside include an open circuit across which electrons move because of heat or other energies provided. 

The first vacuum tubes developed from incandescent bulbs. Edison discovered that a light bulb with a filament of metal in it would generate a current from the filament, but only if the bulb were on and hot. This release of electrons from a hot wire is called thermionic emission. Since the electrons were released into a vacuum they traveled across to the other wire, and created an electrical current. This ability to make a circuit work conditionally was critical for computing, and vacuum tubes were used for this until transistors were invented in the late 1940s. 

Vacuum tubes can also be used to turn alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC). The Audion tube that de Forest invented was a another kind of tube. A simple triode (because it contained three electrodes) the Audion could be used to amplify signals of any frequency. de Forest didn’t actually understand how it worked, but he certainly found ways to use it. Throughout the teens and 20s other folks worked out improvements to the Audion, and diodes in general. By adding more electrodes they developed complex tubes that could reliably provide all sorts of functions. 

The two most prominent uses of tubes in WWII are in communications and computing. 

Radar and radio both depended entirely on vacuum tubes. To generate, control and modulate radio impulses, these devices used all sorts of tubes, including triodes like the Audion. Without the technologies of radio and radar it is hard to imagine how the war might have gone, since the Allies clearly had superior abilities in this area.

In fact, all complex electronics in this era were built either with simple switches and relays, or with tubes. So all the planes and tanks and ships of the era were filled with tubes too.

The original Colossus at Bletchley Park.

The original Colossus at Bletchley Park.

The Colossus and the Colossus MK2 were built with tubes. They replaced earlier computers that were based on relays and switches. Because the tubes could simulate conditional logic they were able to form the basis of what was then the world’s most powerful computer. Colussus, and its tubes, ran continuously, using 15 kW of power—mostly for the tube heaters. The British built a total of 10 of these computers, and as long as they were kept on, their tubes performed reliably. Colossus was able to break in hours codes that had taken weeks on the earlier relay and switch computers. Colossus began working at Bletchley Park in February 1944 and worked until it was upgraded to become Colossus MK2 on June 1 1944. The ability of the Allies to decode important captured Axis messages with the knowledge of the Axis was critical to winning the war in Europe.

Learn more about sciences during World War II in our upcoming lecture:

Ethnobotanist Dr. Mark Plotkin will be discussing the use of plant products like quinine and rubber, in WWII, at the Museum on Thursday, September 11th. For more information on this lecture, visit us here.

Check in next week to read about some plants that have been important for Home Front and war technologies, in honor of this event.

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

all images from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons

Red Ball Express Created

70 years ago today, within an environment of institutional prejudices and against a stubborn German foe, the most famous American service unit of World War II – the Red Ball Express – was born.  Throughout most of the War, the predominant assignments given to African-American servicemen was within the Quartermaster and Transportation Corps.  Nevertheless, although many African-American soldiers found themselves segregated from white units and relegated to non-combat roles,this did not keep them, or the over 75% African American drivers of the Red Ball Express, out of the fight.

The Red Ball Express – its name taken from a railroad term meaning express freight – was a massive, round-the-clock convoy of supply-trucks, organized in north-western France as an immediate response to the problem of keeping the forward-area elements of the American First and Third Army supplied with petroleum, oil and lubricants (also known as POL supplies). Following the late July 1944 break-out in Normandy, American forces found themselves outpacing the reach of their supply lines. In an effort to solve this crisis – described by war correspondent Ernie Pyle as “a tactician’s hell and a quartermaster’s purgatory” – and bridge the gap between the soldiers at the front and the supply dumps at the Normandy beach-heads, the Red Ball Express was born.

On August 25, 1944, the Red Ball Express highway – two long-distance, one-way ‘loop highway’ routes – was opened at the port town of Cherbourg.  Similar to the human circulatory system, the Red Ball highway’s northern route was for delivering supplies and the southern route was for returning convoys, with both routes open only to military traffic. A shortage of trucks and drivers for the Red Ball Express routes saw any non-essential vehicles pressed into service and many ‘volunteers’ – some of whom had never driven any type of automobile before – thrown behind the wheel and transformed overnight into drivers. One Red Ball recruit recalled that ‘Red Ball trucks broke, but they didn’t brake.’ On average, over 900 ‘deuce-and-a-half’ trucks were rolling on the Red Ball Highway at any one time, carrying thousands of tons of supplies forward, fueling the American advance.

Though only in existence for three months, from between August 25th and November 16th, 1944, the importance of the Red Ball Express and the heroic efforts of its drivers was clearly understood by Allied leadership in this, the world’s first “100 percent internal combustion engine war.” Over the course of 83 days, the Red Ball Express and its drivers delivered over 500,000 tons of supplies vital to the American war effort and the liberation of Europe. The Red Ball Express also served as indisputable proof of the quality of African-American soldiers. In an October, 1944 message to the troops, General Eisenhower was not at all faint in his praise for the Red Ball Express’ drivers.

October 1944

TO: The Officers and Men of the Red Ball Highway

1. In any war, there are two tremendous tasks. That of the combat troops is to fight the enemy. That of the supply troops is to furnish all the material to insure victory. The faster and farther the combat troops advance against the foe, the greater becomes the battle of supply.

2. Supplies are reaching the continent in increasing streams. But the battle to get those supplies to the front becomes daily of mounting importance.

3. The Red Ball Line is the lifeline between combat and supply. To it falls the tremendous task of getting vital supplies from ports and depots to the combat troops, when and where such supplies are needed, material without which the armies might fail.

4. To you drivers and mechanics and your officers, who keep the Red Ball vehicles constantly moving, I wish to express my deep appreciation. You are doing an excellent job.

5. But the struggle is not yet won. So the Red Ball Line must continue the battle it is waging so well, with the knowledge that each truckload which goes through to the combat forces cannot help but bring victory closer.


General, U. S. Army


The National WWII Museum echoes the words of General Eisenhower and honors the contributions of the brave men of the Red Ball Express and all African-Americans in World War II. The National WWII Museum’s Red Ball Express mobile outreach program, which today ‘delivers’ hands-on programming about World War II history to New Orleans region schools, takes its name in their honor.

This post by Collin Makamson, Family Programs & Outreach Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum


In our last blog post of the Road to Berlin countdown, we covered the Pushing Beyond the Beachhead and Race Across France exhibits within the Northern Europe: Breakout and Liberation gallery. Now, let’s examine the remaining WWII stories that will be told through this immersive gallery and the generous sponsor of these exhibits, the Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation.

French civilians welcome US troops in Lyon, France on September 4, 1944.  U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph, Gift of Regan Forrester, from the collection of The National WWII Museum. 2002.337.938

French civilians welcome US troops in Lyon, France on September 4, 1944. U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph, Gift of Regan Forrester, from the collection of The National WWII Museum. 2002.337.938


As the Allies approached Paris, Hitler ordered his troops to burn the French capital. The exhibit Liberation will tell the story of how the French Resistance and ordinary citizens rose in rebellion to retake their city.  Unable to crush the uprising, the Germans fled as the US 4th Infantry Division and Free French 2nd Armored Division arrived to join the fight. Liberation will cover this major step in the Allied advance, exploring both the celebration by Parisians of the end of German occupation and the last remnants of enemy resistance which remained in the following days.

Exhausted from their rapid advance inland from the Normandy beachhead, U.S. soldiers relax for a few minutes in Normandy, France in June 1944.  U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph, Gift of Regan Forrester, from the collection of The National WWII Museum. 2002.337.938

Exhausted from their rapid advance inland from the Normandy beachhead, U.S. soldiers relax for a few minutes in Normandy, France in June 1944. U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph, Gift of Regan Forrester, from the collection of The National WWII Museum. 2002.337.938


Life of a GI will give visitors insight into the world of the foot soldier by examining aspects of their daily lives.  The exhibit will explore topics such as what life was like in a foxhole, and showcase GI loyalty to their units and the various tools used by infantrymen. Many primary artifacts will be featured in Life of a GI including photos, letters, utensils, field rations, mess kits, gas masks, playing cards, and prayer books, all conveying the practices and sacrifices experienced by Allied troops during the war in Europe.


Operation Market Garden was an ambitious strategy devised by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and supported by Eisenhower. This exhibit will explore the Allied attack that took place in Holland in September 1944, and the logistical challenges that dogged the operation.  Allied airborne forces were to seize a narrow route of elevated roads and river bridges which would allow armored units to punch through into Germany. Instead, despite many heroic efforts and early gains, the Germans ultimately prevented outnumbered British paratroopers from securing the vital bridge at Arnhem while the American attack on Nijmegen stalled.  The Allies’ hopes for a quick advance through the Netherlands and a quick end to the war were dashed.


No End In Sight will discuss the difficult months that the Allies faced in fall 1944 as they pressed onward toward Germany.  The German forces intensified their resistance along the front, and the Allied troops became bogged down in the heavily defended Hürtgen Forest and in the Vosges Mountains.  The Allies launched a risky offensive to seize key bridges in the Netherlands and cross the Rhine River, but Operation Market Garden failed. Casualties were high and supply lines were overstretched.  Visitors will learn how with the approach of winter any hope of concluding the war by year’s end evaporated and the Allied advance slowed to a crawl.


Advance Into Germany will introduce visitors to the trials faced by Allied forces after the failure of Operation Market Garden as they continued to fight across Western Europe.  As the Allied advance slowed to a halt along the heavily defended German Siegfried Line, some of the fiercest fighting yet to occur in the war took place in the dense Hürtgen Forest on the Belgian-German border. Even though American forces captured Aachen, the first German city to surrender in October 1944, the drawn out operation provided a bleak forecast of the battles still ahead. Some units had spent months in combat, such as the famed 30th Infantry Division, which was nominated for a presidential citation for its exemplary service as the unit suffered more than 15,000 casualties. Despite the many setbacks, this exhibit will discuss the continued determination of the Allies to reach Germany.


Donor Spotlight- Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation



Photo of Collins Cerrè Diboll, Jr.

These exhibits within the Northern Europe: Breakout and Liberation gallery have been made possible through a generous gift from the Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation. Born to Collins Cerrè Diboll and Marry Jesse Diboll, Collins Cerrè Diboll, Jr. spent his youth on Jefferson Avenue in Uptown New Orleans. His father was a partner in one of New Orleans’ leading architectural firms, Diboll and Owen, and his mother was a talented singer.

Collins attended a variety of schools including the prestigious Rugby Academy on St. Charles Avenue, and also the Gulf Coast Military Academy in Gulfport, Mississippi. Collins graduated from Tulane’s School of Architecture and joined his father’s firm where he practiced until his death.

Collins was very private about his philanthropy during his lifetime, so many were surprised when he left the bulk of his estate to form the Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation when he passed away in 1987. Since that time, Collins’ foundation has distributed millions of dollars to various charities, most of which are situated in New Orleans.

The Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation has generously sponsored exhibits within the future Northern Europe: Breakout and Liberation gallery as well as the Museum’s digitization project. When deciding which organizations will be beneficiaries of their philanthropy, the trustees of the foundation, including Herschel L. Abbott, Jr., and Donald L. Diboll always ask themselves, “What would Collins support?”

The trustees knew they wanted their gift to The National WWII Museum to tell the story of the European Theater because that is where Collins served in the Army Corps of Engineers. Friends of Collins also recall stories he told about jumping the hedgerows in Germany.  A re-creation of these hedgerows will be an essential feature of the Foundation’s named exhibits, showing that Allied forces had to continually overcome great obstacles.

David remembers coming to the Museum with former foundation Trustee Donald W. Diboll, who was one of the three original trustees of the Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation and also a cousin of Collins. David enjoyed watching Donald see the Museum and observe the progress the Museum has achieved through the foundation’s support.

The foundation’s gift to support the Museum’s expansion was made after Donald passed away last year, but David feels confident that “Donald would have enjoyed it too.”In the meantime, Donald’s son, Don Diboll, has joined David and Herschel as a co-trustee of Collins’ foundation and is delighted with the newest gift.

The Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation leads by example. David Edwards noted the importance of remembering “the spirit of the people and the time of WWII. They are the vanishing generation, so we should honor them while they are still around to see it. For any person of Collins’ age, the war was part of their lives. The war touched everyone and no one was exempted.”

David says that the trustees of the Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation hope that others will “see that a great guy like Collins can do some pretty great things for the world in which he lived. Collins would be happy that we are supporting The National WWII Museum.” We are extremely grateful for the leadership of Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation and for the foundation’s generous support for preserving the story of Collins and other WWII veterans for the benefit of generations to come.

Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.

“These people could have been my grandparents”

It’s been more than a month since I started my internship at The National WWII Museum now and I’d like to share my experience with you all. I come from Paris, France, where I was born. I recently graduated in Museum Studies and Military Heritage at the Ecole du Louvre and I decided to look for a job experience in a museum abroad…that led me to New Orleans.

June 20, I arrived here and discovered first the French Quarter and the incredibly rich history of this city. Then I visited The National WWII Museum: the glass windowed buildings let the visitor see planes and boats even before coming in, it is D-Day in the middle of New Orleans. Inside, I was welcomed by veterans and discovered this huge museum. The conception of the museum is really different from the way we show World War II in European, and especially, French museums because the point of view is not the same at all:  The National WWII Museum displays the American experience of the war, while in France exhibits would usually concentrate on the European Theater of Operations.

After this impressive visit, I started to work in the Curatorial department. My job is focused on a French collection of archives that need to be described and, for some of them, translated. Most of the documents come from the former Saint-Lô Museum that transferred its collection to The National WWII Museum when it closed. Saint-Lô is a small town of Normandy, very close to the D-Day beaches, that suffered a lot from the German Occupation, and the Allies bombings. The museum had collected the personal archives of local people to keep memory of the life of French people during wartime in Normandy: farmers, shopkeepers or soldiers.

These documents can be very moving; these people could have been my grandparents. This is also the case of another collection I had to document and translate: Marie-Louise Lévi-Ménard recently donated her personal archives to The National WWII Museum, she was a twenty year old woman in 1944 and entered in Resistance. She lived near Granville, in Normandy too, and started to secretly write communiqués of the London radio in order to keep the neighborhood informed while the Allies were preparing D-Day. Radio sets were forbidden and requisitioned by German authorities, and it was really hard to get enough paper and ink because of the shortage. German officers occupied her home during three days and she stole a typewriter from them to make more copies of her communiqués.

Documenting and preserving these collections is essential for the museum even if you don’t always see these objects in the exhibits. The museum keeps the testimony of people who lived and made World War II; it also helps historians and researchers.

While here, I participated in a presentation of French Legion of Honor medals. Six American WWII veterans who fought in Normandy were awarded the highest French decoration for their actions in the liberation of France. So The National WWII Museum can tell the stories of the ones who fought and died and celebrates those who are still able to relate D-Day.

I am really enthusiastic about my experience at The National WWII Museum, I have learned a lot and New Orleans is a very nice place to stay and visit not only for the Museum but also for the rest of the city where so many cultures meet.

Post by The National WWII Museum Intern Margot Delvert

SciTech Tuesday: This day in history–Closing out Shark Week

This is a very busy day in history. On this day:

In 1812, the USS Constitution fought the battle that gave it the name ‘Old Ironsides.’ In World War II, boats (including the Higgins landing craft and the PT boats) were still made of dense woods.

In 1839, the French Academy of Sciences heard a report by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre about a photographic process that came to be named after its inventor—the Daguerrotype. Photographic techniques developed quickly over the next 100 years, and the wide use and distribution of photos really shaped the cultural impact of World War II. Some of the world’s most iconic images came from that war, and were influential in building support for the war at in homes and towns far from the from lines.

In 1871, Orville Wright was born. Forty five years later, airplanes were involved in World War I, and less that seventy years after his birth airplanes were one of the most important parts of World War II. Orville Wright died in 1948 so he saw these developments in his lifetime.

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 9.27.21 AM

A test flight of the B-25 over southern California.

In 1940, the B-25 Bomber took its first flight. The B-25 saw extensive use in World War II, and 10,000 were made during its production history.

In 1942, the Allies made a failed attempt to invade France. The Battle of Dieppe provided valuable lessons used later in the Normandy Invasion on D-Day. These lessons included the importance of embarkation and disembarkation craft, and the ability to get armored vehicles onto shore. Air support was also a failure of the Dieppe invasion, and became an emphasis for the later, successful, invasion. This makes clear the importance of the Higgins boats for the success of D-Day.

In 1944, the Liberation of Paris began. After several days of a general strike, the German forces began to meet resistance from the citizens of Paris. With news of the Allies on the way to Paris, some troops and assets began to make their way out of the city. But before leaving the Germans made some attempts to weaken the city. Hitler had given orders to destroy the city before retreating—orders that were not followed. However, they did set a barge of mines afloat in the Seine which destroyed most of an assembly of windmills in Pantin, a northern suburb of Paris that provided power to mills and industry for the city of Paris.

Closing out Shark Week

Finally, last week was Shark Week. Many in the scientific community regard Shark Week with ambivalence—sharks are fascinating creatures, and important parts of ocean ecosystems, so it is great to give them some attention. However, sharks are threatened by fishing practices, climate change, and habitat change, and much of the media attention to them is hyperbolic and might lead to more fear than understanding. One of the biggest shark attacks in human history is an example of this difficult mix of misunderstanding, fear, and science. 

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The USS Indianapolis in harbor

In late July of 1945, the USS Indianapolis was on a secret mission to carry parts for the atomic bomb Little Boy to an air base in Tinian. Due to the secrecy of the mission, the cruiser was unescorted. Reaching Tinian on the 26th of July, the Indianapolis headed to Guam for supplies and crew changes, and then was moving towards the Philippines. On the way to the Philippines the ship was hit by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine. Within just a few minutes of being struck the ship sank, taking about 300 of its crew of almost 1200 down with it. The remaining 900 were in the sea with few lifeboats or lifejackets. Naval command was unaware of the sinking of the ship until a routine patrol flight spotted survivors in the sea three and a half days later. Much of the crew succumbed to hypothermia, hunger, and dehydration. Much was made in the aftermath, and since, of shark attacks. 317 men survived, leaving almost 600 more who died awaiting rescue.

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An oceanic white-tipped shark with pilot fish. Note the long fins and tail.

Two important points about the sharks. First, the reports of sharks taking live survivors may be overstated. It is likely that they were drawn to the site and began a feeding frenzy soon after the sinking. Second, the sharks involved were likely to have been oceanic white-tipped sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus), not great whites (Carcharodon carcharias). The two are in very different shark families, and are not closely related. Great whites are generally restricted to coastal areas of temperate waters. Oceanic white-tipped sharks (avg 3 m)are smaller tha great whites (avg 4-5 m) and much different in shape. They are less familiar to us because they are restricted to deep waters, but most deaths of shipwreck victims in the open ocean are from these sharks, which are thinner and have much longer tail and pectoral fins than great whites. Oceanic white tipped sharks have been known as ship followers to sailors as far back as the 16th century. They tend to be solitary and slow-moving, but when drawn to a common food source they will enter a feeding frenzy. They tend to be scavengers more than hunters. White tipped sharks give birth to live offspring after a gestation of one year and are frequently fished for their fins. They often follow schools of large fish like tuna, and so are caught along with them. 

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

all images from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons


In last week’s blog post of the Road to Berlin countdown, you learned about the story of the story of the Allies experiences in France in WWII in the Northern Europe: Breakout and Liberation gallery. This week, let’s explore the content of the gallery’s first two exhibits: Pushing Beyond the Beachhead and Race Across France.

You will also learn the story of Frank Denius, a WWII veteran who, along with the Cain Foundation, has generously sponsored the Race Across France exhibit In Honor of The Men of The 30th Infantry Division.


Made possible through a gift from the Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation

This exhibit will explore the many unexpected obstacles that the Allies faced as they moved inland into France. The British and Canadian forces attempted to advance from Gold, Sword, and Juno beaches, but were stalled by fierce enemy resistance outside Caen.  At the same time American forces were struggling through the bocage, a region of compact fields and tall, dense hedgerows that proved ideal defensive terrain for the Germans. Pushing Beyond the Beachhead will convey how the Allies still faced a deadly fight in the weeks after D-Day, and how they slowly advanced forward to the port of Cherbourg and the town of Saint-Lô through grim determination.

Soldier stands alongside the rubble of the town of Loriol-sur-Drome, France on September 3, 1944. U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph, Gift of Regan Forrester, from the collection of The National WWII Museum. 2002.337.896

Soldier stands alongside the rubble of the town of Loriol-sur-Drome, France on September 3, 1944. U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph, Gift of Regan Forrester, from the collection of The National WWII Museum. 2002.337.896


Made possible through a gift In Honor of The Men of the 30th Infantry Division

Race Across France will tell the story of how American forces battled for weeks to break through the Normandy hedgerows before launching Operation Cobra on July 25, 1944.  Allied bombers took advantage of our air superiority in a massive strike that hit some of our own troops but also paralyzed the German defenders, allowing American troops to suddenly punch through the German lines near Saint-Lô and overwhelm the stunned enemy. General George Patton’s Third Army spearheaded the race across the French countryside, determined to encircle the rapidly retreating enemy in the pocket at Falaise. The exhibit will convey the resolution of the Allied Forces as units poured through the opening, broke out into the open terrain, and doggedly closed in on the Germans through fierce fighting.

Elderly French lady gratefully kisses a US soldier in Bourg, (likely Rhône-Alpes), France on September 6, 1944.  U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph, Gift of Regan Forrester, from the collection of The National WWII Museum. 2002.337.907

Elderly French lady gratefully kisses a US soldier in Bourg, (likely Rhône-Alpes), France on September 6, 1944. U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph, Gift of Regan Forrester, from the collection of The National WWII Museum. 2002.337.907

Donor Spotlight- Frank Denius and the Cain Foundation

Frank Denius, WWII-era photo

Frank Denius, WWII-era photo

The Race Across France exhibit has been made possible through a generous gift from Frank Denius and the Cain Foundation In Honor of The Men of The 30th Infantry Division. Franklin W. Denius spent his childhood in the small town of Athens, Texas. As a teenager he attended a military prep school, Schreiner Institute in Kerrville, and then at the age of 17 he enrolled at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina (under the U.S. Army’s educational program). Within a year, he entered active duty on June 3, 1943. After training as a forward artillery observer, an especially dangerous job that required operating between friendly and enemy lines, he was assigned to the 30th Old Hickory Infantry Division.

Frank arrived in England in February 1944. On June 7, 1944, his unit waded ashore at Omaha Beach and went into action providing fire support for the 29th Infantry Division for six days, then his artillery battalion returned in support of the 30th Division. On July 17, 1944, his observer party came under enemy fire, and his commanding officer was killed. He took command of the situation and began calling in fire, and the 30th Infantry Division overcame the German opposition.

In August, he found himself and 700 other men surrounded by a German counter-offensive designed to split Allied forces. For six days, they resisted the German counterattack from atop Hill 314 during the Battle of Mortain. He was calling fire missions almost non-stop for 72 hours and stopped the Germans. When they were finally relieved only 376 of the men came down that hill, as roughly half the American defenders were killed or wounded.

In December 1944, Frank’s unit was in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge and found itself in the path of another German offensive. Frank said he disobeyed an order to withdraw, and began calling for fire that repelled a German Panzer attack. Although wounded by German rocket fire on January 25, 1945, he fought through Germany until VE-Day and came home in August 1945. Frank fondly remembers returning home from the War as an honored member of the 30th Division on the Queen Mary, enjoying a private room with a real bed and a working shower.

He then returned to Texas and was discharged in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston on October 2, 1945.  He has been awarded the Purple Heart twice and the Silver Star a total of four times. While some of his medals were awarded in public ceremonies in France, in 1954 he recalls “receiving a box full of medals from the Department of Defense at my doorstep that I did not even know I had received.” Through the GI Bill he was able to attend the University of Texas and earned degrees in business and law.

Frank’s first contact with The National WWII Museum came through the newspaper. He was told there was an article in the newspaper about Andrew Higgins, who manufactured the boats that Frank had used to land on the Normandy beaches. He read the article and learned more about the location of the Higgins factories and that New Orleans was a natural site for what was then the National D-Day Museum.  In the mid 1990s, Frank attended a lecture by Museum co-founder Stephen Ambrose at the University of Texas campus, in which the historian discussed D-Day and the campaign to build the Museum.

Frank serves as President of the Cain Foundation, which has generously sponsored the Race Across France exhibit Frank toured the exhibit space in its earliest stages last winter and shared that, “having seen it in the raw with all the cables hanging around, I know it is going to be wonderful and I am looking forward to seeing it when it opens.”

Frank Denius at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer

We are very thankful that Frank and the Cain Foundation chose to honor the 30th Infantry Division through a gift to The National WWII Museum. Frank wants those men “to be forever acknowledged for their tremendous roles in the battles they fought. The 30th Infantry Division deserves the recognition for their service in WWII for all generations to come. Every generation of Americans will have to pay a price for freedom, and the 30th is a good illustration of the price that those guys paid in their generation.” His regiment was nominated for a presidential citation for its exemplary service during the Allied advance, including a vital role in all five major battles of the European Theater:  Normandy, Northern France, Central Europe, Ardennes/the Battle of the Bulge, and Rhineland, Germany.

Frank supports The National WWII Museum to “memorialize the brave men and women of WWII and honor the freedom that America provides to new generations. The Museum will give them a patriotic feeling that I think no other experience will do.”

We are privileged at the Museum to be able to honor the 30th Division in the Race Across France exhibit within Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters and benefit from the Cain Foundation’s generous support.  We are thankful for the partnership of Frank Denius and the Cain Foundation in honoring the Citizen soldier and preserving the story of the 30th Infantry Division for generations to come.

Next Up- The remaining exhibits within the Northern Europe: Breakout and Liberation gallery and the story of the donor who generously supported them, the Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation.

Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.