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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 RhÃ´ne-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
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.
In our last blog post of the Road to Berlin countdown, we covered the D-Day Theater and D-Day Beach exhibit. Now, we examine the story of the Allies experiences in France through Northern Europe: Breakout and Liberation, followed by a spotlight on our donors that have generously sponsored this important gallery.
Rendering of the Northern Europe: Breakout and Liberation gallery
The breaching of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall and establishment of a secure beachhead in Normandy was followed by a campaign of dramatic highs and lows, wins, and losses. After battling German troops in the hedgerow country and Normandy’s coastal towns, Allied forces broke through enemy lines and raced across France. This gallery will immerse you in the obstacles experienced by the Allies – from the disheartening struggle amid the dense hedgerows, to the German counterattack at Mortain, to the major setback in Operation Market Garden. Exhibits also will recall a successful amphibious assault in Operation Dragoon. You will rejoice along the way as the Allies liberate Paris and finally push Germans back to their border.
Donor Spotlight- Jennifer and Phil Satre
Jennifer and Phil Satre at Lake Tahoe on their 41st wedding anniversary,
The Northern Europe: Breakout and Liberation gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from Jennifer and Phil Satre in memory of his father, Sam Satre. Both California natives, Phil and Jennifer met when they were students at Stanford University. Their parents were a part of “the greatest generation” and both of their fathers served during WWII.
Throughout her childhood, Jennifer’s parents, Pat and Patricia Arnold, often spoke about the war. Having already graduated from college, her father joined the Army Air Corps 5 months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was first sent to Cal Tech University for training in meteorology and then assigned to the 12th Weather Squadron in North Africa. Jennifer says, “Mostly he talked about the wonderful camaraderie amongst the men and how much each soldier depended upon another.” He returned to the states and was decommissioned in the summer of 1945 as a major in the US Army Air Forces.
After the United States entered the war, Jennifer’s mother joined the American Red Cross and served in England at several different air bases. Jennifer has a collection of letters her mother wrote to her family which relate her work to boost the morale of the soldiers while on base. This involved a variety of activities such as establishing the base donut-coffee shop, planning parties, and corresponding with the families of hospitalized soldiers. Jennifer remembers her mother telling her about the tension and, often, sadness that came with standing at the air field and counting the planes as they returned from missions. According to Jennifer, “Regardless of whether or not our parents talked about the war, our generation was really shaped by our parents’ experiences during WWII.”
Sam Satre, a farm boy from Minnesota, met June Sterling in Menlo Park, California, while he was on leave from his service in the US Calvary in mid November 1941. According to Phil’s mother, it was love at first sight and they were married soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Phil’s father had been in the cavalry for two years when the US involvement in WWII began to gain momentum. The cavalry that he was a part of evolved into the 997th Field Artillery Battalion of the US Army. On the evening of June 26, 1944, Phil’s father landed on Omaha beach and participated in the Normandy Invasion. He also fought later in the Battle of the Bulge. After the victory in Europe, his unit was moved to Czechoslovakia to retrain for deployment to Japan. However, with the end of the war in the Pacific, he returned home in 1945 to California and enrolled at Stanford on the GI Bill. Phil was born while his father was in school.
Although Phil’s father did not speak of his wartime experiences, this began to change when his father attended a reunion of his army unit nearly 30 years later. Prior to that gathering, Phil had never known that his father landed at Normandy.
Jennifer shared that “Phil’s mother could write a book about what it was like to be a WWII bride with a child back home.” Phil’s mother followed his father around to all of his assignments until his unit went to England, and then stayed home and took care of Phil’s sister. Phil’s mother still has all the letters Sam wrote to her while he was away. Phil has never read their letters, but Jennifer has. “All they say is how much they love each other. Phil’s father couldn’t say much more than that, so there is not a lot of information. Just ‘I miss you.’” Phil’s mother turns 92 this July.
Shortly after his father passed away, Phil began to learn more about World War II through movies such as Saving Private Ryan and from reading Stephen Ambrose’s books, in particular D-Day and Citizen Soldier. A couple of years after the Museum opened, Trustee Boysie Bollinger led an effort to create a national board, expanding the scope of leadership with people who lived outside of Louisiana. It was at this time that Phil was approached, and after meeting with Museum President and CEO Nick Mueller in 2002, Phil joined the Board of Trustees. Phil reflected on his commitment to the Museum, “It has been twelve years since I joined the board and it has been a great experience. It has also been a lot of hard work, but I think we are all very proud of how the Museum has evolved and how it has become such an important part of the telling of the story of World War II.”
Phil’s father also took part in the liberation of the death camps in Europe. Phil still has photos that his father took during that time, which he describes as quite gruesome. He feels these photos “reiterate how awful that experience was and what liberation meant to the people that survived.” For those reasons, Jennifer and Phil felt it was a privilege and an honor to sponsor the Northern Europe: Breakout and Liberation gallery in Phil’s father’s name.
Jennifer and Phil have also generously sponsored the Okinawa exhibit within the Road to Tokyo, the second floor Pacific Theater Galleries within Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters. This floor is scheduled to open in 2015. They have named the exhibit in memory of two of Phil’s uncles, Gail Donald Sterling and Vern Patterson Sterling. Gail and Vern enlisted together and both participated in the First Marine Division invasion of Okinawa. They both survived WWII and Phil knows that both of his uncles were very proud of their service in the Marines. When Phil and Jennifer saw that the Museum was building the Road to Tokyo, he wanted to acknowledge their role as Citizen Soldiers.
In terms of their own philosophy for philanthropy, Phil and Jennifer explained:
There are two things that are crucial. One is that we believe that the mission of the organization is an important one. We have strong feelings about our parents and our families’ participation in the war effort, whether on the Home Front or in uniform. The need to have a Museum that tells the American Experience in WWII, the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today – is something that resonated with us. Almost as important is a confidence in the leadership of an organization. The leadership means not only the Board of Trustees but also Nick Mueller and his staff and all of the people, including volunteers, involved on a day-to-day basis in operating the organization. We always had confidence that they could execute the mission successfully because they had the work ethic and qualities of leadership to make The National WWII Museum a reality.
I think that when you make a donation to an organization, you want to feel as good or better about that donation as the recipient organization. You should be happier than they are to be able to support them. We feel that way about the support that we give to The National WWII Museum.
Phil's uncle Gail D. Sterling
Gail D. Sterling and a friend
Phil's uncle Vern Sterling
Phil's uncle Vern Sterling
Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.
After learning about the Air War within Road to Berlin: European Theater Galleries within the future Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters, visitors will come upon the critical moment of the War in Europe – the invasion of Normandy. After a massive buildup of forces, equipment and supplies in England, the Allies launched their long-awaited invasion.
Rendering of the D-Day Theater and Film
D-Day Theater made possible through a gift from the Patrick Family Foundation
In order to tell this fascinating story but not replicate a major D-Day exhibit in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the Museum has created a bold new D-Day Film that will capture the courage and sacrifice of many thousands of men on D-Day, allowing the Allies to secure the beachheads and start their drive across France. This looping video will prepare visitors to enter Normandy and race across France with the Allies in the next major gallery. But before visitors pass the beaches, they will have a glimpse of the aftermath of D-Day through a small exhibit dedicated to the soldiers who were killed on the beaches.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
D-DAY BEACH EXHIBIT
The D-Day Beach exhibit will serve as the emotional bridge between D-Day and the Allies experiences in France. The exhibit will include an iconic photo of the Omaha Beach after D-Day, artifacts that convey the great sacrifice of the soldiers, and Ernie Pyle’s dispatch from the aftermath of D-Day, “A Long Thin Line of Personal Anguish.” Ernie Pyle was an American journalist who followed US troops through battles and dangerous situations to be able to report on the war and the heroic efforts of the soldiers. His dispatch provides introspection and illustrates the loss of life on the beach following D-Day, expressing the true sacrifice that American soldiers made to liberate France and Western Europe from Nazi Germany.
War Correspondent Ernie Pyle discusses battlefront events in France in June 1944. U.S. Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, 2011.102.094.
Up next- Northern Europe: Breakout and Liberation gallery
Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.
During WWII, millions of “independent women” contributed to the war effort in many different ways. In 1940, about 12 million women were in the workforce. By 1945, over 19 million were employed. In addition to the new women entering the workforce, there was a shift in the type of work being performed by those women who had already been in the workforce prior to the war. Women left lower paying jobs such as waitressing or domestic work for higher paying factory jobs, which could mean an average increase of up to 40% in salary. In addition to all of the women working in defense jobs, over 350,000 American women served in uniform, paving the way on a totally different front.
J. Howard Miller’s Rosie the Riveter.
One of the most recognizable representations of a woman from WWII is J. Howard Miller’s poster girl, known popularly as Rosie the Riveter. During WWII, Rosie the Riveter was joined by her sisters, Wendy the Welder, Bertha the Burner, Jenny on the Job and Ronnie the Bren Gun Girl. But Rosie, conceived as a propaganda pin-up, has crossed generations to stand as a sometimes contested symbol for female empowerment. The concept and icon of “Rosie the Riveter,” continues to be adapted and used as a symbol for power and a testament to the spirit of the American woman.
The evolution of the Rosie icon is complex. There are several iterations of what is known popularly as “Rosie the Riveter.” Technically, the icon stems from the 1942 hit song by the same name written by Evans and Loeb. This inspired artist Norman Rockwell’s painting, Rosie the Riveter, debuted on the cover of the 1943 Memorial Day issue of the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell’s Rosie means business and is a true multi-tasker, balancing a rivet gun in her lap, eating a sandwich, and nonchalantly stepping on a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The “Rosie” cover was one of Rockwell’s most popular and the original painting sold at Sotheby’s in 2002 for nearly $5 million.
J. Howard Miller’s depiction of a female worker from February 1943 presents a more glamorized image than Rockwell’s. She wears a red bandana, denim work shirt, flexes a bicep and is quoted, “We Can Do It!” Her message emphasizes the collective (“We”) rather than the individual (“I”) necessary for achieving victory. The poster was commissioned by the Westinghouse Corporation for a campaign to spur production among women workers. Miller’s poster, and the campaign, was designed to run for two weeks throughout Westinghouse factories.
Miller’s image has outlived its two weeks by more than seventy years. It has endured and evolved with cultural shifts. Like other iconic propaganda works—the British “Keep Calm and Carry On,” and Uncle Sam’s “I Want You,” “Rosie” has been adapted and adopted by many disparate causes and campaigns. See the tremendous popularity of any of these posters by a simple search on the internet; anyone can make their own version of it, even on our own site! Rosie’s message serves as a blank canvas which is often employed to convey rallying cries of all stripes. Rosie’s red bandana has been sported by Marge Simpson, Sarah Palin, Princess Leia, Wonder Woman, Kelly Rowland, and most recently by Beyoncé during a visit to The National WWII Museum.
The photo-op captured by the famous “independent woman” at the Museum (which so far has received 1.15 million likes on Instagram) is an activity that any visitor to the Museum can engage in. “Become a Propaganda Poster” features not only the “We Can Do It!” poster, but also the rationing campaign poster “Do with Less so They’ll Have Enough” for which visitors can don a steel-pot helmet and raise a canteen cup. Beyond the dress-up, the Museum has extensive artifacts and oral histories from “real” Rosies and we are committed to telling their stories.
We collected one such story as an oral history last month. In 1942, Mildred Aupied was a twenty-year-old secretary for the phone company when she heard a call for women welders. She jumped at the chance to attend welding school and within two months, she and 24 other women immediately began welding Liberty Ships at Delta Shipbuilding Company in New Orleans. In her interview, she stressed her pride at having learned and mastered a new and challenging trade. The women at Delta Shipbuilding relished the opportunity, the pay, and the camaraderie. In addition, all of this hard work was to benefit their country during a time of tremendous labor shortage and need.
Antoinette “Toni” Miller (later Tamburo) worked as a clerk at the Higgins Aircraft facility in New Orleans. Gift of Theresa Tamburo,2013.072
Like many other women who worked during WWII, Toni Miller saved her pay stub as reminder of her wartime contributions. Toni worked over twenty hours of overtime and also put $11.25 of her total $88.11 toward war bonds. Gift of Theresa Tamburo, 2013.072.002
We Can Do It! Our Summer Science campers posing as Rosie.
The women welders of Delta Shipbuilding Company on January 7th, 1943. Mildred Aupied is in the top row, seventh from the left. The National WWII Museum, 2014.
The women welders of Delta Shipbuilding Company. Mildred Aupied is on the far right. The National WWII Museum 2014.
Museum employees posing as Rosie.
Post by Curator Kim Guise and Virtual Classroom Coordinator Chrissy Gregg
In last week’s blog post of the Road to Berlin countdown, you learned about the story of air power in WWII in the Air War gallery. This week, let’s plunge into the content of the gallery’s exhibits: First Strikes, Losses, and Aircrews Experiences.
A group of Army A-20 Havoc attack bombers roaring out over the sea enroute to bomb Nazi positions in Cisterno, Italy in March 28, 1944. Credit: U.S. Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, 2011.102.398
The First Strikes exhibit will explore the American and Allied air strategies and examine their first air attacks on European soil, discussing what was gained, lost, and learned. Bombers attempted to knock out key Axis industries – oil, aviation, military facilities, transportation, and ordnance factories – and faced fierce enemy defenses in the process. The story of the earliest missions of the Eighth Bomber Command, who earned an impressive record throughout the war and came to be known as “The Mighty Eighth,” will also be told in First Strikes. The exhibit will feature the oral histories and personal stories of United States Army Air Force (USAAF) veterans, plus various artifacts such as flight jackets decorated with signature squadron patches and elaborate artwork conveying the spirit, personalities, and experiences of American airmen. First Strikes will also examine the technology used in the air war, which made aircraft more precise and effective than ever before, as well as a replica Quonset hut – a semi-circular pre-fabricated structure that could be easily shipped and quickly constructed at bases overseas. Video footage of the air war will be projected overhead, adding another immersive element to the exhibit.
During World War II, the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) was up against one of the strongest and most experienced air forces in the world: the German Luftwaffe. Their fierce fighting skills resulted in high casualties among American airmen. The exhibit Losses details the Luftwaffe’s response to Allied attacks and honors the brave American airmen who risked their lives in the fight against tyranny. Artifacts in the exhibit, such as the personal belongings and uniforms of airmen, as well as the oral histories of USAAF veterans, will humanize these tragic losses. The Germans’ impressive arsenal, including weaponry such as the Flak 88 anti-aircraft artillery gun, was a major threat. The Germans also improved their aircraft, and recalled many fighters from the eastern front to join the defense against the USAAF. Americans quickly learned that they could not send bombers into German territory without being escorted by fighter planes. Improvements in fighter technology resulted in longer-range escorts, which improved the chances for Allied bombers. Various maps and photographs in the exhibit will help visitors identify these deadly weapons and will show the limits of bomber range radar compared to those of fighter escorts. American airpower had many great achievements during World War II and this exhibit will show the immense obstacles and devastating defeats they overcame on their way to victory.
This exhibit will explain the treacherous flying conditions and the high risk of death in the air that the bomber crews and fighter pilots experienced during the war. Weather had a major strategic, operational, and tactical impact. Airmen were extremely exposed and vulnerable not only to hostile weather conditions but to enemy fire from both the ground and air, as the transparent nature of the air provided no natural cover in war. The fluctuating conditions of weather, environment, and enemy engagements brought great psychological uncertainties for the air crews tasked with winning the skies from the Luftwaffe. Air crews in WWII experienced hostile environments and conditions of warfare in the high altitudes which had never before been experienced in military history. The enormous industrial effort to turn out massive fleets of planes, the rigorous training and unprecedented combat experiences of pilots and crews, and the pivotal role of air power in military strategy all underline the importance of the air war for ultimate Allied victory. The deadly nature of the air war highlights the tremendous dedication, skills, determination and courage of our Air Forces, and validates why these men should never be forgotten.
General Eisenhower and a pilot in Italy on December 27, 1943. Credit: U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph, Gift of Regan Forrester, 2002.337.089
Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.
In our last blog post of the Road to Berlin countdown, we covered the last two exhibits within TheItalian Campaign gallery: Liberation of Rome and Fighting for The Gothic Line. On our next stop you will learn about the story of air power in the war, followed by a spotlight on our donors, Mr. and Mrs. James R. Fisher, Sr., who sponsored the Air War gallery.
Rendering of the Air War gallery
The Road to Berlin will take you north to the broad Allied effort, beginning with use of air power in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. As you leave Italy you will step into a recreated Nissen hut much like those mass produced in England and used for storage and operational needs. Above, you will look through a ceiling gap and see a projection of aircraft flying overhead. The Air War gallery will tell the story of air power in the war – from the famous Tuskegee Airmen, to the formidable German Luftwaffe, to America’s relentless air strikes in Europe. The space will also detail the experiences of the aircrews – treacherous conditions and a high death toll made these fighter pilots and bombardiers some of the true heroes of the American war effort. An interactive touch screen will allow you to explore the Air War timeline and other facts and statistics. The Air War gallery will capture visitors’ imaginations with the excitement and danger of the air war, while also teaching the significant role of American air power in World War II through the exhibits First Strikes, Losses, and Aircrews’ Experiences.
Donor Spotlight- Mr. and Mrs. James R. Fisher, Sr.
Mr. James R. Fisher, Sr.
The Museum is proud to highlight two of our greatest supporters, Mr. and Mrs. James R. Fisher, Sr. Together they have generously underwritten the Air War gallery in memory of Mr. Fisher’s parents, James J. Fisher, Jr. and Frances D. Fisher.
James “Jim” R. Fisher, Sr., a current Museum trustee, was born in Manhattan. His parents, James J. Fisher, Jr. and Frances D. Fisher, then moved the family to Paramus, New Jersey, where Jim attended Bergen Catholic High School and then went on to graduate from Lafayette College.
Fisher’s father enlisted in the Army Air Force right after Pearl Harbor and was stationed at Grafton Underwood, a former WWII airfield in England. He was legally blind in one eye, but Fisher’s father bribed someone to tell him the answers to the eye exam so he could enlist. Fisher’s father served when the survival rate was less than 15%, and approximately 80% of the crews were either shot down or captured and ended up in Prisoner of War camps. despite the odds against him, He flew 31 missions in B-17s primarily as a tail gunner and was awarded several medals for his service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Jim’s father, “didn’t talk much about the war until the 1980s, and then he became a lot more forthcoming.” Jim vividly remembers the day his father began to open up. In 1980, Jim was living in Manhattan and had returned home to visit his folks. His mother handed him a letter. The letter was from a man Jim’s father had befriended during the war. Jim began to read the letter, the words written from an adult man who remembered Jim’s dad from when he was 12 years old. The man had found Jim’s dad through the war department, and in his letter said “how absolutely amazing my father was to his family during the war, bringing them food and other supplies from the base.” He wrote, “I always thought I would see you on the telly running for President.” As soon as my father read the letter, he instantly began to cry and left the room. “After that, he became a lot more forthcoming with his WWII stories and experiences.”
After the war, Jim’s father met Jim’s mother, “a conservative Irish girl” and soon thereafter he told her “I’m going to marry you.” Six months later they were married.
As a young boy, Jim’s father gave all of his WWII medals to him, including the Distinguished Flying Cross. Jim and his friends would play Army as kids after watching the popular 1960s show Combat. Jim thought that while playing this game he had lost all of his father’s medals, and his father then had to write to have them all reissued to him. Years later, after Jim’s mother passed away and Jim was moving his dad to a new home, they went through his childhood bedroom. It was then that together they found, “all the original medals in the back of my sock drawer. You would have thought he’d be mad after all that, but all he did was laugh.”
Don Miller, author and frequent lecturer at the Museum’s International Conference on WWII, met Jim through his role as a history teacher at Lafayette College, Jim’s alma mater. One night the two men were talking about the war, and Miller took notice of how much Jim knew about WWII. Jim told him why, and when Miller’s book Masters of the Air came out, the two spent a lot of time discussing the book and Jim’s father’s role in the Air War.
Unbeknownst to Jim, Miller tapped Governor Pete Wilson, Museum Trustee and Capital Campaign Committee chair, to call Jim’s office. Governor Wilson introduced himself and asked if Jim would consider joining the Museum’s Board of Trustees. Without hesitation, Jim immediately accepted. Upon Jim’s first visit to the Museum, he encountered a WWII Veteran walking around the campus with his children and his grandchildren. The Veteran had on a baseball cap with his unit number, and was wearing his medals proudly. He took his family around the exhibits, talking to them and sharing his stories. You could “just see the pride, even despite his age and his difficulty moving around. That was my favorite memory. It made me wish that my dad could have been here to see the Museum.”
Jim has a huge amount of respect for the WWII generation. He could not imagine doing what they did, especially at such a young age. When he was in his late teens and early 20s, “all I was interested in was having a good time. And here these fellas were saving the world. We just can’t thank them enough, which is why I got involved with the Museum. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what the world would have turned out to be. That is why they are called the Greatest Generation, and in my personal opinion, they are.”
Jim hopes to inspire others to support The National WWII Museum’s mission. “When I first got involved there were 6 million living WWII Veterans. Last statistic I saw said it is now less than 2 million. By the time we finish the capital campaign, it will be less than one million. That is very sad because the Museum is a monument to this generation. It would be nice to see us finish the expansion before they are all gone.”
In our last blog post of the Road to Berlin countdown, we covered the first three exhibits within TheItalian Campaign gallery: Invasion of The Italian Peninsula, Fighting Up The Peninsula, and Anzio. Now, we examine the final two chapters in the Italian Campaign, Liberation of Rome and Fighting for The Gothic Line exhibits. Read on to learn about how the Allies conquered the Axis in Italy, followed by a spotlight on one of our donors, the Strake Foundation, who sponsored the Liberation of Rome.
Waves of cheers greeting the appearance of Allied tanks rumbling through the crowd lined streets of Rome following the seizure of Rome on 4 June 1944. U.S. Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
LIBERATION OF ROME
The Allies finally broke through at Anzio in May 1944, which opening the way through the Liri Valley to the Liberation of Rome. The capture of Eternal City of Rome on June 4, 1944 is a significant turning point – it was the first Axis capital to be captured – but it by no means marked the end of the campaign.
FIGHTING FOR THE GOTHIC LINE
This exhibit will cover the often forgotten military campaign after the Liberation of Rome which became a war of attrition in northern Italy. As the Germans retreated up the peninsula, they constructed forts at key passes and mountain tops. Fighting halted in the winter due to inclement weather, troop fatigue, and lack of supplies. Horses and pack animals were used to assist with the advance. Fierce fighting resumed with the return of fair weather, and the Allies broke through the Gothic Line in April 1945. By the end of the war, the Allies had pushed their way up the Italian peninsula to just south of the Alps before the Germans surrendered.
Donor Spotlight- Strake Foundation
George W. Strake was born in 1894, and raised in St. Louis, MO. He was the youngest of nine children and both of his parents passed away when he was very young. His first job was as a Western Union runner making $10 a week and putting $2 of his weekly salary into the Sunday church collection basket. He did not attend high school but was admitted to St. Louis University after taking an entrance exam. Upon graduation, the United States was in World War I. He joined the Army in Florida, and became a wireless instructor in the Army Air Corps. He fell in love with a young lady from Florida but he would not marry her because “she had more money than I did.” She did suggest to him that he should go to Mexico as “that’s where the fortunes were going to be made.”
George W. Strake, Sr. and Pope Paul VI
He followed her advice and moved to Tampico, Mexico. He got a job with Gulf Oil Co. where he stayed for two years. After quitting that job, he began putting drilling deals together for fellow Americans. He eventually married Susan Kehoe, from Houston, Texas. They had their first child, Betty Sue, in Houston, and they lived for a total of seven years in Tampico, Mexico. They then moved to Havana, Cuba where he was going to explore for oil but to give himself some cash flow, he took on the Hutmobile dealership which turned out to be a totally unsuccessful venture. After residing in Havana for two years, they decided to move back to the United States “before they had to swim back.” His intent was to move to Oregon to go into the timber business, but his mother-in-law became ill and to give himself something to do while they stayed here in Houston he began putting drilling deals together in Texas. His signature accomplishment was drilling the discovery well in the Conroe Field, southwest of Conroe, Texas, in 1931. Prior to drilling the discovery well by himself he was turned down by eight major oil companies who he had asked to participate in the drilling of the initial well.
After the discovery of the Conroe Field he started the Strake Foundation. This allowed him and his wife to begin a policy of helping many needed institutions and individuals.
The Strake Foundation is still in existence and continues the many charitable works that were started by George and Susan Strake. One of their major charities was the Catholic Church and one of the major recipients of this generosity was the Vatican. A highly significant project that the Strake Foundation supported was to fund the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica where the tomb of St. Peter was eventually found. George Strake was bestowed the honor of Knight of St. Sylvester by the Pope, which required his actual presence from time to time in the Vatican. Mrs. Annette Strake’s grandparents on her father’s side, Frank & Gladys DeWalch, were also Italian and emigrated to the United States. It is therefore appropriate that Strake Foundation sponsor the Liberation of Rome exhibit in The National WWII Museum.
George Strake died in 1969, and his work through the Foundation has been continued by the Strake Family under the guidance of their son, George W. Strake, Jr. and their third child, Georganna Parsley. Young George graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston, the University of Notre Dame and Harvard Business School. After George Jr. graduated from Notre Dame he was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy where he served for two years in the Pacific Fleet on an LST. (This inspired the Strake Foundation’s support for the Life Aboard Ship exhibit within the Road to Tokyo.)
George W. Strake, Jr.
George Jr.’s love of the Navy and the United States Military was started in his formative years when he was 6-10 years old during World War II. He can remember wanting to participate in the war effort with all other Americans. As a young boy he would collect newspapers, magazines and aluminum foil, taking them to the fire station “for the war effort.” He also planted vegetables for a “victory garden” in his mother’s azalea bed. His reaction was a reflection of the spirit that existed in WWII where everyone, regardless of their age, was a participant in the war effort. His uncle flew bombers in the European Theater and his two brothers-in-law, Bob Parsley and Bob Dilworth, flew for the United States Air Force and the United States Navy. George remembers his mother crocheting blankets for hours for the troops overseas. As George Jr. says, “the reason we won this terrible war, was because all Americans were involved.”
The Strake Foundation has been a generous supporter of The National WWII Museum since its opening in the year 2000. The National WWII Museum’s work helps fulfill the Strake Foundation’s mission. The foundation strives to teach that “this is the greatest country in the world. It will not always be that way unless we are always vigilant.” We are very appreciative of the generous support the Strake Foundation provides to The National WWII Museum. George’s leadership and the foundation’s participation allow us to expand – with a sense of urgency – so we can share the stories of our WWII veterans while as many as possible are around to see it.
George and Annette Strake with President George Bush & his wife Barbara.
Up next, the The Air War gallery.
Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.
In our last blog post of the Road to Berlin countdown, we covered TheItalian Campaign gallery. Now, let’s take a deep dive into the gallery’s exhibits!
INVASION OF THE ITALIAN PENINSULA
The Invasion of the Italian Peninsula will follow the Allies’ successful campaign in Sicily and will cover the Allies daring attack at the Gulf of Salerno, a costly amphibious invasion and our first toehold in mainland Italy. The exhibit will also examine the struggle to maintain a beachhead in the face of determined German counterattacks.
FIGHTING UP THE PENINSULA
This exhibit will examine how the advance of the Allied forces up the Italian boot became a long, bloody slog. While the Liberation of Naples in October 1943 gave the Allies a port to infuse troops and supplies into the campaign, the seasoned German troops used the geographic terrain to their advantage, defending against the Allied advance from ridge to ridge across the mountainous terrain until they made a stand along the Gustav line. Bogged down in mud and rain, the Axis and the Allies remained at a stalemate there until May 1944. The bloody fighting for Monte Cassino culminated in the aerial bombardment of the famous monastery and framed a debate over military necessity vs. cultural preservation.
The Anzio exhibit will provide an overview of the Allied landings at Anzio, a strategic attempt to end-run the mountainous terrain and military stand-off by landing Allied troops north of the Gustav line. From the beachhead, the Allies planned to breakout from their coastal positions and cut off the German escape route in their advance upon Rome and up the peninsula.
Up next, the Liberation of Rome and Fighting for The Gothic Line exhibits within The Italian Campaign gallery.
Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.
The Italian Campaign gallery tells the story of the Allies’ mainland assault on Europe’s “soft underbelly,” which turned into a hard, deadly slog consuming many months. American forces and their allies achieved the surrender of Italian leaders – who, amid political turmoil and confusion, switched sides and declared war on Germany. Progress was slow, mainly because of Italy’s mountainous terrain and rain that created an infamous amount of mud. The campaign’s strategic benefits were unclear, but it succeeded in tying up German war machine resources. The war of attrition in Italy was marked by courageous fighting by Japanese-American and African-American segregated units, and by controversy over orders to bomb the mountaintop monastery Monte Cassino, wrongly believed to be a German observation post.
The Italian Campaign gallery will include five major exhibits: Invasion of the Italian Peninsula, Fighting up the Peninsula, Anzio, Liberation of Rome, and Fight for the Gothic Line. These exhibits will employ an array of artifacts, interactive displays, and audio visual presentations to capture visitors’ imaginations and bring the history of the war in Italy to life. Visitors will hear about soldiers’ experiences in their own words through oral histories which recount battles and everyday life in the war. The exhibits will communicate both the broad strategic complexity of warfare and the individual bravery and leadership of the service members who took part in it. The Italian Campaign gallery will strengthen the visitors’ understanding of the efforts in Italy, and its significant contribution to Allied victory in World War II.
Donor Spotlight- Mr. and Mrs. David M. Knott
Mr. and Mrs. Knott
The Italian Campaign gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from Mr and Mrs. David M. Knott. Mrs. Virginia Commander Knott grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and Mr. David Knott was born in Manhattan, New York. At the age of three and a half, David moved to his grandfather’s house in Garden City, Long Island. The two met at the Bronx Zoo. David had a blind date that day, who wound up arriving with her boyfriend. “That was a sign,” David shared. Virginia, also known as Ginny, was also supposed to have a blind date that day, but didn’t care for him. Given their circumstances, David suggested that the two of them go to the zoo together. “It was called survival,” Ginny shared, “and it worked!” The two now live in a little town called Mill Neck, New York.
Both David and Ginny’s fathers served in WWII. Ginny’s father, R.C. “Charlie” Commander, was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Infantry in WWII. He served in the Pacific Theater of the War with the 32nd Infantry Division out of Wisconsin, which also became known as the Red Arrow Division.
David’s father, David Hurst Knott, Jr., was a Lieutenant in the Infantry and served in the Italian campaign of WWII. He was killed two weeks before war in Europe ended. David was only a couple of months old at the time.
Former Museum Board Chairman David Voelker, a good friend of David and his brother, George, solicited David to become involved with The National WWII Museum. David joined the Museum’s Board of Trustees in 2002 and he served on the board for 7 years. During his time on the board, he served as Chair of the Investment Committee and served on the Finance, Trusteeship and Capital Campaign committees. President & CEO Dr. Gordon H. “Nick Mueller” shared that David, “was a valued trustee who brought his passion and wisdom to our Board leadership. He helped us transition from The National D-Day Museum to The National WWII Museum.”
After David joined the board, he and Ginny knew that they wanted to make a financial commitment. They chose to support and name the Italian Campaign gallery because this important aspect of the WWII story “obviously affected my [David’s] family.”
David’s fondest memory of the Museum was when he met WWII veteran Harold Baumgarten and hearing his remarkably heroic story. Dr. Baumgarten was among the first wave of soldiers who landed with Higgins Boats on the beaches for the Normandy Invasion on D-Day. Once Harold landed on the shores of Normandy, a shell exploded and he was hit by a large piece of shrapnel. This removed the lower part of his jaw. He was then shot three more times as he was coming up the beach, only to then step on a land mine. He didn’t stop going up the beach until he collapsed from loss of blood and was taken into a hospital. Today, Dr. Baumgarten lives in Jacksonville, Florida and attended the recent 70th Anniversary of the Allied Invasion in Normandy.
Ginny ‘s favorite part of the Museum is the Oral History collection. “Stephen Ambrose and his son, Hugh Ambrose, took so much time to get those Oral Histories recorded before these veterans pass away. These first person accounts are very powerful.”
The National WWII Museum is grateful for David’s leadership on the board and for David and Ginny’s strong show of support for the Road to Victory capital campaign. We feel fortunate to be able to honor the service of their fathers and our other heroic WWII veterans here at The National WWII Museum.
Ginny's father, R.C. “Charlie” Commander
David's father, David Hurst Knott, Jr.
Harold Baumgarten’s Oral History is part of the Museum’s online Digital Archives. Click here to watch his moving story.
Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world - why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today - so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.