COUNTDOWN TO ROAD TO TOKYO: EXHIBITS WITHIN GUADALCANAL
As we continue down the Road to Tokyo and through the second half of the Guadalcanal gallery, we come to the final two exhibits that detail the visual experiences had by the Allied forces within the ruthless jungle terrain and the tactics used to secure victory.
This exhibit explores the central strategic importance of control of the Henderson Field air base to both sides in the campaign. Battles at sea and land raged around gaining ultimate possession of Henderson Field, including the Battle of Santa Cruz, the Naval Battles of Guadalcanal, and the Battle for Henderson Field. An environmental projection will project still images and historic footage related to Henderson Field with an ambient war soundtrack. As well as being a visual component to the scenic environment, the projection is meant to be a visual diary of the experiences of American troops on Guadalcanal throughout the campaign.
War Without Mercy
War Without Mercy will explore the cruel nature of the Japanese enemy and their fighting tactics in an unforgiving jungle environment. The Japanese used the ridges and foliage to their advantage, approached silently, utilized snipers in trees to slow American advances, and attacked relentlessly all through the night. These tactics, which created a frightening “jungle as a bogeyman” feeling, left many marines and soldiers feeling disconcerted and grappling within a war of nerves. Learning hard lessons, US troops responded by developing new tactics and learned to use the terrain and foliage to their own advantage.
Donor Spotlight: Gustaf W. McIlhenny Foundation
The War Without Mercy exhibit has been made possible through a generous gift by The Gustaf W. McIlhenny Family Foundation.
The McIlhenny family, well known in Louisiana and worldwide for the creation of the iconic Tabasco products, is steeped in military history and includes John McIlhenny who was a Rough Rider with President Teddy Roosevelt.
The Gustaf W. McIlhenny Foundation was formed in 1997 by Edwin “Rod” Rodriguez at the request of Gustaf W. McIlhenny. The Foundation focuses on funding institutions nationwide, though primarily in Louisiana, which promote community conservation, health and education programs that stress traditional values. The Foundation has been an advocate of The National WWII Museum dating back to 2004.
Though having been involved with the Museum for many years, Rod Rodriguez became a member of the National WWII Museum’s Board of Trustees in 2014. His father was a key player on the Home Front, working as the head of a working gang at Higgins Industries during the war. He first took his family to visit the Museum soon after the 2000 opening, having purchased bricks honoring his wife Elizabeth’s father, Douglas McIlhenny.
Walter McIlhenny, Elizabeth’s cousin, was in the first wave of Marines at Guadalcanal. He was attacked by a Japanese solider wielding a Samurai sword and struck in the head, but his helmet protected him. He survived the blow, killed his attacker and went on to serve throughout the Pacific, winning the Navy Cross for his courage. Gustaf, whose name the Foundation bears, was not in the military himself, but had three brothers who served throughout the war.
Rod believes that it is important for the Gustaf W. McIlhenny Foundation to support the expansion of The National WWII Museum because of its ever-growing importance as an educational institution. He said that “the older this country becomes, our next generations are not going to know the great sacrifices that were made during WWII by America,” and that this needs to be kept in the forefront of all minds. He noted that the Museum is a repository for history and must act as a learning center for the future. Now that the Museum has achieved such success, and become more acclaimed nationwide, he stated that the Foundation is determined to help further its success and statue on an international basis.
Rod recognizes that the Museum is a tremendous asset to the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.
While his time with the Museum has produced many memorable moments, Rod particularly treasures the conversations he has had with the Medal of Honor recipients the Museum has highlighted over the years. Rod believes that these servicemen and women “function at another level.” They completed extraordinary feats “because they were in the situation to save their brothers…there are really no words to justify some of the things these people have done.” He mentioned specifically the presentation of Walt Ehlers’ Medal of Honor by his daughter Cathy, during the dedication ceremony of Road to Berlin last December. He states this powerful moment is hard to top.
Rod went on to note the importance of bringing his children, and now grandchildren, to the Museum in order for them to “realize the sacrifices this country has made for democracy and freedom.” He mentions that while each generation deals with these sacrifices on a different scale, the actions of the Greatest Generation should never be forgotten.
The Museum is fortunate to have the encouragement of Rod Rodriguez and The Gustaf W. McIlhenny Foundation in helping the Museum complete our Road to Victory Capital Campaign.