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Archive for the ‘Museum News’ Category

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5,000 New Photographs Added to The Digital Collections of The National WWII Museum

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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.

 

 

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COUNTDOWN TO ROAD TO BERLIN: INTO THE GERMAN HOMELAND

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NICK PREFERRED_1.9 Into the German HomelandAs we continue our journey through the Road to Berlin, we make our way into the final gallery, Into the German Homeland.

This gallery will tell the story of the major events following the Battle of the Bulge as the Allies pushed into Germany.  The Allies captured the last remaining bridge over the Rhine River at Remagen in March 1945 and invaded the German heartland.   Political controversy erupted as the three Allied powers closed in on the German Capital of Berlin, with the Soviet Army occupying the city in horrible street to street fighting.

As the city was razed around him, Hitler committed suicide and Germany finally surrendered on May 8, 1945 amidst total ruin.  V-E Day finally arrived and Americans celebrated – even as they braced for continued bloodshed in the Pacific. Into the German Homeland and each of its components – Breaking the Siegfried Line, Desperate Resistance, and Final Assault – will reveal the devastation of German cities through exhibits built to mimic blown-out buildings, with projections of fires and photographs scattered throughout the space.

 

Donor Spotlight- The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation

Into the German Homeland gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation. The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation was established in 1958 with a mission of alleviating human suffering. The Foundation’s efforts primarily target south Louisiana, including the New Orleans area, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Joe W. Brown and Dorothy Dorsett Brown moved to New Orleans in the mid-1920s, and their successes in real estate and the oil industry allowed them to pursue philanthropic endeavors. Mrs. Brown led the Foundation until she passed away in 1989, and the Foundation is now led by the Board President, D. Paul Spencer, along with the Board of Trustees. A friend of Spencer’s from their service in the Army introduced him to the Browns after he completed college, and Spencer remained their dear friend and employee for decades afterwards, up until their deaths.

Two anti-tank Infantrymen of the 101st Infantry Regiment, dash past a blazing German gasoline trailer in square of Kronach, Germany. Courtesy of National Archives.

Two anti-tank Infantrymen of the 101st Infantry Regiment, dash past a blazing German gasoline trailer in square of Kronach, Germany. Courtesy of National Archives.

Spencer is a WWII veteran of the European Theater, where he served as a platoon commander in the 90th Infantry Division of the US Army. His platoon was part of a battle in Hof during the latter part of the war, where he recalls “all kinds of hell broke loose.” He remembers a German truck crashing into the side of the road and roughly a dozen German soldiers came toward him. Spencer realized after the crash that his carbine was jammed, and the German soldiers begged him not to shoot. “Thank goodness they were not firing at me. My guys were just behind me a little bit and I was all alone. I put my hand over the cover that was exposed so they wouldn’t see that I couldn’t fire at them.”

Paul Spencer and the men of the 90th Infantry Division engaged in several battles as they made their way through Germany near the end of the war. Spencer and his fellow soldiers liberated the Merkers Salt Mine, where Nazis were hiding gold hoard, silver, and stolen art.

The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation’s loyal support of The National WWII Museum predates the Museum’s opening in 2000. The Foundation has provided significant funding for the Museum’s capital expansion since its earliest phases. The expansion has provided exhibit spaces that have been crucial in the fulfillment of our mission. In addition to generously naming the Into the German Homeland gallery, the Foundation has also sponsored The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation Special Exhibits Gallery, the Saluting the Services: Service Branch Cases within the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, and a gallery in the future Liberation Pavilion.

We are privileged to be able to honor D. Paul Spencer’s service in Into the German Homeland. The Museum and the diverse audiences it serves benefit in many ways from The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation’s remarkable support.

 

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The National WWII Museum Receives An Original Robert Capa Photograph from the Invasion of Normandy

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Robert Capa's "American Troops Approaching Cherbourg, France," June 26, 1944. Gift of David and Tiffany Oestreicher, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Robert Capa’s “American Troops Approaching Cherbourg, France,” June 26, 1944. Gift of David and Tiffany Oestreicher, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Some say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the newest donation to our collection speaks much more. Thanks to a generous gift from David and Tiffany Oestreicher, the Museum now possesses an original silver gelatin print from famous Hungarian-born war photographer Robert Capa’s coverage of the Invasion of Normandy. This new addition tells an intimate story of war in the signature style of a remarkable talent.

Born October 1913 in Budapest, Capa began his photographic career in Berlin during the early 1930s. Known for redefining wartime photojournalism with his up-close perspective of troops in conflict, he created some of the most poignant and memorable images of the five wars he captured up to 1954, when he was killed on the field while covering the First Indochina War.

The photograph donated to the Museum by the Oestreichers, entitled “American Troops Approaching Cherbourg, France,” depicts a scene on June 26, 1944—three weeks after the Americans’ D-Day landing during World War II—of an American soldier leaping towards a hedgerow with a rifle in hand as he dodges enemy sniper bullets. It is an 8″ x 10″ silver gelatin photo printed July 7, 1944, that includes the original wire service caption and label on the photo’s backside.

The addition of this photograph to the Museum’s collection is not only exciting for the Museum; it is a great contribution to the collection of culture in New Orleans.

How the photograph made its way to the Museum is an interesting story: While on a family trip to London, New Orleans attorney David Oestreicher and his wife stumbled upon a gallery exhibit of Capa’s photos and wondered if The National WWII Museum had any in its collection. He said, “I thought it would be a neat surprise for my wife as a gift for Mother’s Day – a great gift for her, do a small thing for the city and a great thing for the Museum. I’ve long admired the Museum as a great addition to New Orleans’s cultural landscape.” He secretly purchased the photograph and presented it to his wife, who in turn joined him in donating it to the Museum.

Together David and his wife, Tiffany, seek to put the city of New Orleans on the map as a cultural mecca for the visual arts. Through their involvement and leadership in the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation and the New Orleans Ballet, they have further projected those ambitions. The Museum is honored to have been touched by the Oestreichers’ generosity and thrilled to have this “rare glimpse of the drama of the Normandy campaign,” as the photo’s caption states, by a legendary photojournalist.

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COUNTDOWN TO ROAD TO BERLIN: AMERICAN COUNTERATTACK

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NICK PREFERRED_1.8 Battle of the Bulge

As we continue our journey through The Road to Berlin, we stop next at the American Counterattack exhibit, which will highlight the extreme conditions faced by the Allies and the bold maneuvers they employed in order to defeat the German advances in the city of Bastogne. As US General George Patton mobilized three divisions to relieve the Allied troops, a sudden break in the harsh winter weather enabled essential air drops of supplies and offensive bomber missions to proceed. German forces were stunned and left vulnerable to Allied counterattacks.

After the Siege of Bastogne, although the Allies continued to face harrowing conditions and setbacks as they marched closer to Germany, the Germans were quickly losing strength as well. The Allies rallied to the offensive in January 1945, reaching the Siegfried Line and breaking the final German resistance at the Battle of the Bulge.

The American Counterattack exhibit will commemorate these events as the pivotal moment in overcoming German forces to advance to the final stages of the War in Europe.

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2nd Infantry Division combat patrol members lie flat on the ground to escape enemy fire near Odenval, Belgium, 23rd Regiment. From the collection of The National WWII Museum.

The American Counterattack exhibit has been made possible through a generous gift by Mr. and Mrs. Terrence Hall.

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COUNTDOWN TO ROAD TO BERLIN: SIEGE OF BASTOGNE

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As we move forward on our journey through the Road to Berlin, we stop next at the Siege of Bastogne exhibit within the Battle of the Bulge Gallery, which will focus on the significance of Bastogne as a vital crossroads town that would be crucial for either the Allies or Axis to advance, as it was a hub for several major roads in southeast Belgium.

Men of the 30th Infantry Division carry a wounded German soldier to Battalion Aid Station in Thirimont, Belgium. Company B, 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment. (Courtesy National Archives)

Men of the 30th Infantry Division carry a wounded German soldier to Battalion Aid Station in Thirimont, Belgium. Company B, 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment. Image courtesy of National Archives.

With their eyes on Antwerp, the Germans were determined to gain control of Bastogne.  They encircled the town and its resident Allied forces.  The beleaguered American troops, including the 101st Airborne, were running critically low on food and supplies and were vastly unprepared for the harsh European winter.

Siege of Bastogne will feature defense tactics used by the Americans to fend off the Germans, and features the story of Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Archer Gammon, who died in the line of duty while singlehandedly defending against impending German attacks. Despite the adverse conditions, the Americans sustained their resistance until reinforcements arrived. Commander McAuliffe’s refusal to surrender to at Bastogne remains a symbol of American resolve and the determination that was necessary to break the German stronghold.

 

Donor Spotlight- Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth L. Blanchard Sr., in honor of Don Blanchard

The Siege of Bastogne exhibit in the new Road to Berlin galleries has been made possible through a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth L. Blanchard Sr., in honor of Don Blanchard.

Kenneth Blanchard has been a supporter of The National WWII Museum since 2000. He first became involved through his company, Superior Energy Services, where he worked for 26 years before retiring in 2010. Superior is a major supporter of the Museum’s Road to Victory Capital Campaign, sponsoring the Voices of Courage oral history exhibit in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.

Recognizing the importance of the partnership of Superior Energy Services and The National WWII Museum, Blanchard became inspired to contribute personally. He states that the Museum “provides an informative and inspiring experience for future generations,” and that without outside support “the stories of these brave men and women would be lost.”

Men of the 2nd Infantry Division march through the snow. (Courtesy National Archives)

Men of the 2nd Infantry Division march through the snow. (Courtesy National Archives)

Ken and Jane Blanchard have attended several Museum events. They usually have been accompanied by Ken’s father, Don Blanchard, who served in the 2nd Armored Division, known as “Hell on Wheels.” Blanchard states that when his father visits the Museum, he is often moved to tears by the “recognition of the sacrifices and service” given by so many from his generation. It was his father’s courage and bravery that inspired Ken Blanchard to name the Siege of Bastogne exhibit in the Battle of the Bulge gallery, an important feature in the new pavilion, Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters. Don Blanchard fought in the historic battle and was in the siege in the winter of 1944.

When Blanchard was growing up, his father never discussed the war. It wasn’t until his father visited the Museum for the first time that he began to open up about his involvement. Ken pitched the idea of recording his oral history for the Museum archives, and recalls, “It was not an easy sell.” Don was eventually persuaded, and ever since, he has been more comfortable sharing his stories, including comments for a feature article for a Lafayette newspaper.

Ken Blanchard asserts that the Museum is the “one of the best things to ever happen to the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana, and this area of the country” and that the Museum is “capturing and presenting in a very unique and very professional way” one of the most important events in modern world history. He is particularly moved by veteran volunteers at the institution. Their dedication to the Museum and desire to help visitors is inspiring. The volunteers also have made it easier for his father to feel comfortable discussing his role in the war effort.

Blanchard states that it is important to invest in the expansion of The National WWII Museum, whether that investment comes in the form of time or gifts. He said the Museum is particularly effective at telling the war story in an interactive way, immersing visitors in a decisive time in history.

The Museum is fortunate to have the encouragement of Ken and Jane Blanchard. We are grateful for their support of our programs and capital expansion

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COUNTDOWN TO ROAD TO BERLIN: SURPRISE ATTACK AND NORTH SHOULDER EXHIBITS

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Battle of the Bulge Rendering

Battle of the Bulge Rendering

As we continue our journey through the Battle of the Bulge gallery inside the Road to Berlin, we stop next at the Surprise Attack exhibit. This exhibit focuses on the initial response of the Allied Forces from the surprise German attack during the winter of 1944-45 through oral history stations, artifacts, and content panels. From there, we then move on to the North Shoulder exhibit, which through an in-depth examination of military response, will honor the soldiers who fought and were ultimately victorious at Elsenborn Ridge.

 

Surprise Attack

This exhibit will explain the strategy behind Hitler’s counterattack during the winter of 1944-45 and the initial response of the Allied Forces. Hitler planned to break through a weak spot in the Allied lines, occupied by only three divisions, in a drive to Antwerp, Belgium, splitting the British army to the north and American forces to the south. The operation was Hitler’s last desperate attempt to turn the tide of the war. The Germans hoped the element of surprise, the dense forest terrain of the Ardennes, and the harsh weather conditions would all work to their advantage – and their efforts were initially successful. Many American units were surrounded and, in some cases, entire regiments surrendered.  Though the Allied forces rallied in time to prevent disaster, and would eventually achieve victory, Surprise Attack will show that Germany remained still a capable and dangerous enemy.

North Shoulder

This exhibit will cover American defenses against the German assault in key locations along the northern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge. The exhibit will provide an in-depth examination of the military action at Elsenborn Ridge, where the 1st, 2nd, and 99th Army Divisions played a pivotal role. Although the Germans possessed superior armor, they were held in check by innovative American tactics including coordinated time on target artillery strikes, new proximity fuses for artillery shells, and more advanced air power. Both sides suffered many casualties. Ultimately, the German troops were unable to break through American lines at Elsenborn Ridge. The exhibit will also focus on three towns: Stavelot, La Gleize and Stoumont. The North Shoulder exhibit will honor the soldiers who fought here and show that their valiant efforts were crucial to American victory.

Chow is served to American Infantrymen (Courtesy National Archives)

Chow is served to American Infantrymen (Courtesy National Archives)

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COUNTDOWN TO ROAD TO BERLIN: BATTLE OF THE BULGE

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NICK PREFERRED_1.8 Battle of the BulgeAs we continue our journey through The Road to Berlin, we stop next at what will be an extraordinary immersive gallery space, the month-long Battle of the Bulge – the US Army’s largest battle of World War II.  Grappling with bitterly cold weather, more than 30 divisions and 600,000 men fought desperately to halt the Germans after the surprise assault in December 1944.  Walking through the gallery, you will be surrounded by the dense, snow-covered Ardennes forest, with projections of soldiers and battle scenes partially visible through the trees, allowing you to sense the extreme environmental conditions that made this battle one of the most difficult of the war.  Oral history stations, artifacts, and content panels will guide you from the surprise German attack to the Siege, to the ultimate hard-won Allied victory.  Finally, you will join the Allies as they push through the German border and write the final chapter in the war in Europe – the fall of the Third Reich.

 

Donor Spotlight- The Starr Foundation

 

C.V. Starr

C.V. Starr

The Battle of the Bulge gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from The Starr Foundation. The Foundation was established in 1955 by Cornelius Vander Starr, who served in the US Army during WWI. He died in 1968 at the age of 76, leaving his estate to the Foundation, and he named his business partners – Ernest E. Stempel, John J. Roberts, Houghton Freeman, and Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg – to run the foundation under Greenberg’s leadership. The partners were all WWII veterans: Stempel, Roberts, and Freeman all served in the Navy in the Pacific and Greenberg served in the Army in Europe.

Greenberg served throughout the European Theater – from landing on the beaches of Normandy to fighting in the Battle of the Bulge to the liberating concentration camps in Germany. In recognition of his service and contributions to the Allied victory,  Greenberg received the Legion of Honor from the French government on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day earlier this year. When being praised for his brave military service, Greenberg responds that he was “only one of millions of WWII veterans who fought for our country.”

Florence A. Davis, President of The Starr Foundation, remembers when Museum founder Stephen Ambrose first met Greenberg in 2001. Tom Brokaw arranged the meeting and shortly thereafter The Starr Foundation awarded the Museum a $1 million grant in support of the institution then known as The National D-Day Museum.

Florence Davis

Florence Davis

During this time the Museum was also building out its D-Days of the Pacific galleries within the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion. The Foundation chose to name the Introduction Gallery to honor the service of The Starr Foundation directors, particularly the three that served in the Pacific. Eager to dedicate a space that would preserve the story of the European Theater in Greenberg’s honor, The Starr Foundation generously provided an additional gift in 2010 in support of the Museum’s Road to Victory Capital Campaign to name the Battle of the Bulge gallery.

Davis first visited the Museum in late 2001, soon after the attacks on 9/11, and she recalled the Museum was “a good reminder of the ideals that Americans fought for in the past and what we continue to fight for today.” Her late father also served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946. He passed away when she was young and, as it has for so many others, the Museum provided her an indirect way to learn about his experiences and life during the war.

One of The Starr Foundation’s focuses is to “invest in education and international affairs,” Davis explained. “The Museum is place for families to learn about American and world history. Visitors gain a sense of how the American system of government worked under circumstances of global combat. The Museum educates visitors about the positive lessons of how the country pulled together on rationing, war bonds, and enlistment in huge numbers, as well as the negative lessons of the (racial) segregation of troops and internment of Japanese Americans. Understanding the entire history of WWII, warts and all, is very important.”

The Museum’s growth and impact can be attributed in part to The Starr Foundation’s tremendous support of the Museum’s capital expansion. We feel privileged to honor the service of The Starr Foundation’s directors, a group of heroes whose service and sacrifice preserved the freedoms we have today. The Museum is grateful for the Foundation’s support and for the leadership of Greenberg and Davis, who have played key roles in developing the Museum into a world-class institution.

Post by Katie DeBruhl, Donor Relations Coordinator at The National WWII Museum.

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COUNTDOWN TO ROAD TO BERLIN: MESSERCHMITT BF 109

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This week on the Countdown to Road to Berlin we are taking a quick break from walking you through the galleries to highlight the Messerschmitt Bf 109. This German airplane is suspended the Atrium of Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters, and can already be seen by Museum visitors passing by as they anxiously await the pavilion’s grand opening this December.

 

Atrium within Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters

Atrium within Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters

The story of the European Theater of World War II cannot be told without discussing the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Also known as the Me-109, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the most produced fighter aircraft in history and was flown by the top German fighter aces of World War II. With a range of 621 miles and a maximum speed of 398 miles per hour, it was a formidable foe for allied air forces. The US Army Air Corps engaged in countless air battles with the Bf 109 while on bombing and reconnaissance missions over Europe. Undoubtedly the major threat that the 9th Air Force and its B-26 pilots faced daily was from such German fighter planes. Faster and more maneuverable, the Bf 109 offered fierce opposition to the B-26, which had a maximum speed of only 282 miles per hour.

 

This plane will “dive” toward you both virtually and acoustically, creating the sensation that one is under attack by the Axis enemy, and sounds of the Messerschmitt flying will encompass you as you enter the Atrium. A “Fly Boys” interactive feature will also allow you to explore the plane’s cockpit.

 

Next up- The Battle of The Bulge gallery.

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COUNTDOWN TO ROAD TO BERLIN: BREACHING THE GERMAN FRONTIER BUNKER GALLERY

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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

DONOR SPOTLIGHT- THE ASHNER FAMILY EVERGREEN FOUNDATION

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.

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COUNTDOWN TO ROAD TO BERLIN – EXHIBITS WITHIN THE NORTHERN EUROPE: BREAKOUT AND LIBERATION GALLERY

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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.

PUSHING BEYOND THE BEACHHEAD

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

RACE ACROSS FRANCE

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.

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