Steve Good during his stop at the Museum posed with his grandfather’s picture and a thank you to his parents for their support.
As it honors the service and sacrifices of the Greatest Generation, The National WWII Museum strives to pass on the war generation’s values, celebrating young people whose actions and goals reflect our country’s highest ideals.
In that spirit, we were thrilled to have a young gentleman by the name of Steve Good put the Museum on his Iron Phi journey. Started by Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity the Iron Phi athletic program seeks to strengthen and support the organization’s brotherhood and to raise money to support The ALS Association’s research to find a cure against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease. What started as a young man’s solution to a mid-life crisis at 30 years old in 2012, Good developed an Iron Phi challenge for himself where he traveled to eight states in eight days riding a Megabus and running over 60 miles throughout his journey’s pit stops raising money for his fraternity and ALS. Now Good is 32 years old and has been doing these runs every year.
Can you see the family resemblance? Here, Good’s grandfather Tech. Sgt. Floyd Harmon stands with a newly received war dog donated to Dogs for Defense. Image courtesy of Linda (Lindy) Harmon Good, in memory of Floyd Eugene Harmon, K-9 Corps, Fort Robinson, Nebraska.
On this year’s run, Good has been running and busing throughout the South gathering his friends for a good run and stopping at meaningful landmarks along the way. What sparked his stop at the Museum during his run through New Orleans on October 22, 2014 was because his grandfather, Tech Sergeant Floyd Eugene Harmon, was previously featured in one of our special exhibits and books Loyal Forces: The American Animals of World War II.
During World War II, Good’s grandfather Harmon stayed on the Home Front training dogs for service in the Dogs for Defense program at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Throughout the war years over 10,000 dogs were trained for war and nearly 3,000 of them were sent overseas. Harmon’s duties included receiving dogs donated by civilians and training them to be used in the war effort. The dogs trained were used for various types of work, from sled and pack, to sentry and roving patrol, messenger, scout, and mine detection work.
When Good ran through the Museum to take his obligatory snap of a landmark and to present a thank you to that leg’s supporter, he described this stop as the highlight of his trip. We presented him with the book Loyal Forces opened to the images of his grandfather training dogs during WWII for his picture. He quickly got his shot and ran off to his next stop in town at Tulane University. Later on his blog, he wrote about his quick stop at the Museum being so meaningful to him that “luckily the sweat running down my face hid the tears.”
Into The German Homeland – Final Assault Rendering
As we continue our adventure through theRoad to Berlin, we stop next at the riveting Breaking the Siegfried Line exhibit, which tells the gripping history of the offensive strategy conducted by the Allies in February 1945 and the counteroffensive at Alsace in attempts to break through Germany’s line of defense.
The Siegfried Line fortified Germany’s western border with France. It consisted of interlocking bunkers systems and hedge-hog teeth tank defenses that stretched for over 300 miles. In August of 1944 Hitler reinforced the Siegfried Line to halt the American forces advancing upon Germany from the Normandy landings. The defensive line proved to be a formidable obstacle, but the Allied forces attacking along the line in the Hurtgen Forest campaign and Battle of the Bulge ultimately broke through Siegfried defenses at great cost in lives. Breaching the line left the Allies positioned for the final drive deep into the German homeland.
Donor Spotlight: Lt. Col. Robert Kelso and Mrs. Betty Kelso
The Breaking the Siegfried Line exhibit inside the Into the German Homeland gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from Lt. Col. Robert Kelso and his wife, Betty. Lieutenant Colonel Kelso is a veteran of two wars and currently lives in San Antonio.
Infantrymen of the 255th Infantry Regiment move down a street in Waldenburg to hunt out the Hun after a recent raid by 63rd Division. Image courtesy of National Archives.
Kelso served in the Army during World War II and is believed to be the youngest known soldier injured during the conflict. With his recruiter unaware of his real age, Kelso entered service at age 13 and was wounded by a German bayonet at 14. He received the Purple Heart as a result of the war injury.
During World War II, Kelso was assigned to the 342nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion and fought throughout Europe as a private. After World War II, Kelso served in the US Army Reserve, but in 1963, after the onset of the Vietnam War, he returned to active duty at the rank of captain. He completed two tours in Vietnam, first as an advisor with the 22nd ARVN Division, then with the famed 25th Infantry Division “Tropic Lightning.” His awards include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and French Legion of Honor.
Robert and Betty Kelso first became involved with the Museum when a civic leader of San Antonio sponsored a traveling event to San Antonio for veterans and supporters. After his initial visit to the Museum, Kelso felt compelled to make a gift. He felt that naming the Breaking the Siegfried Line was the most appropriate fit. Kelso states that he vividly remembers “crossing the line in Germany” and it is something he will never forget.
The Kelsos are proud supporters of other institutions that serve the military community. They have supported the National Army Museum since 2008, and graciously offered their home and ranch to 21 service members recuperating at Brooke Army Medical Center, so that they could take a day trip and escape the rigors of hospital rehabilitation life.
The Museum is grateful for the generosity of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kelso and his wife, Betty, as they help to advance the capital expansion.
This past the September, The National WWII Museum hosted a travel tour rediscovering the continent where the Allies saved the world. Hear from Museum’s Assistant Director of Collections & Exhibits Toni Kiser about her experience on the trip below.
I have recently returned from a great tour of London, Southern England, and Normandy as the museum representative on our recent Victory in Europe Normandy Tour! Part of what made this trip so special was that best-selling author Alex Kershaw (The Bedford Boys, The Longest Winter, The Liberator) came along as the tour historian.
Our trip started with us gathering in London and setting off for a full day of touring on September 9th. Our first stop was Grosvenor Square to visit the Roosevelt and Eisenhower statues. Ike’s headquarters during World War II on this square and it was then nicknamed “Eisenhower Platz.”
A WWII Flight Jacket on display at the Imperial War Museum in London.
The best part of the day though had to be our stop at the newly renovated and recently reopened Imperial War Museum. They were closed for several months to renovate their galleries in anticipation of the centenary of the World War I. The museum was an amazing experience; the new World War I gallery was packed with artifacts, digital interactives, and the personal stories of World War I soldiers. The World War II section featured some great items as well. I particularly like this flight jacket they had on exhibit.
We ended the day with a trip to the Churchill War Rooms where we were given a special behind the scenes look and presentation by Phil Reed who was instrumental in the opening of the War Rooms to the public. We continued our look into Sir Winston Churchill on September 10th with a trip to his home, Chartwell. Although, its three ponds made it too easy of a target for the Luftwaffe during the war Churchill still considered this his home. He said of his home, “A day away from Chartwell, is a day wasted.” I was struck with be the beauty of the English countryside and imagine that he must have felt very peaceful there. I loved this chair situated next to a pond of goldfish where Churchill was said to often sit.
Our last day in England then, became all about Dwight D. Eisenhower. We started our day with a drive to Southwick House where the original map coordinating the D-Day landings is still located today. This is where Ike gave his iconic, “Okay, let’s go” command. Then we popped over the Portsmouth D-Day Museum to view the Normandy Tapestry and learn about how the town of Portsmouth helped to prepare for the D-Day invasion.
View of the Solent Straight from Portsmouth, England.
Then our group boarded the Brittany Ferry to take us from Portsmouth, England to Caen, France. So just like those soldiers and sailors of D-Day, we too made a Channel crossing. However, in much calmer seas and more creature comforts along the way!
September 13th began our tour of Normandy with a stop at Pegasus Bridge. As luck would have it on this Saturday morning the bridge was raised while we were there to allow a few pleasure craft to pass through. It was so exciting to see it in action!
We continued that day with stops at the Ouistreham Bunker (of which the museum has a replica in our galleries) and Hillman Battlefield. Then we went to the seaside town of Arromanches to see the remnants of a Mulberry Harbor “B” and tour the Musee du Debarquement.
Tourgoer Ms. Valluzo in a German Bunker in Normandy.
Our day ended with a visit to the Ryes British War Cemetery. Here, tour historian, Alex Kershaw gave us the story of the Casson brothers buried next to one another. The museum laid flowers at their grave and took time for our group to pay respects to the soldiers and sailors buried there.
After a tour of the British exploits at Normandy it was time to turn to the Americans. Our first stop on September 14th was Chateau de Bernaville where we learned the story of the first German General killed in the Normandy invasion. General Wilhelm Falley was killed in the wee hours of the D-Day invasion by paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division. He had set up his headquarters at the Chateau in early 1944 and was in his staff car returning to the Chateau when the paratroopers encountered the car and were able to barrage the car with gunfire and ultimately kill Falley.
The battle for the bridge at La Fiere is just minutes away from the Chateau and we stopped there on our way to Ste-Mere-Eglise to visit Iron Mike and understand the importance of the bridge.
We then toured the Airborne Museum in Ste-Mere-Eglise as well as the church, learning the story of paratrooper John Steele of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Then we drove on the Brecourt Manor to hear the story of Dick Winters and the destruction of a German artillery battery located on the property. Then we were off to visit Utah Beach and the Utah Beach Museum. We ended the day with a quick stop at the church in the little village of Angoville-au-Plain, learning of the efforts of the story of the medics of the 101st Airborne and the soldiers they treated.
Tourgoers exploring the German fortifications at Point-du-Hoc.
September 15th brought clouds, but lucky for us, no rain. We trekked the cratered landscape of Point-du-Hoc, and explored one of the German fortifications still there.
We continued with a visit to Omaha Beach, where Alex walked us through the last steps of many of the young men from Bedford, Virginia who made up the 116th Infantry Division landing on bloody Omaha.
We then went to the Normandy American Cemetery where many of those 116th Infantry Division soldiers are buried. At this cemetery over 9,000 American service men and women are laid to rest for the sacrifices they made not just on D-Day, but as part of the many operations to liberate Europe from the Third Reich.
Our final day together started at the Memorial de Caen, and then took us on a drive through the French countryside to Montormel to see the valley where, with the help of Polish troops we were able to close the Falaise Gap. Although, not a completely successful venture (it’s estimated that 50,000 German were able to escape the pocket, leaving us to fight them again later) the closing of the gap meant the end of the battle for Normandy. And then, like many American soldiers we finished our Normandy journey with a night in Paris.
Tourgoers at Chateau de Bernaville
Author Alex Kershaw with tourgoers at Omaha Beach.
Flowers laid on the graves of the Casson brothers in the Ryes British War Cemetery.
A glimpse into Chartwell, Winston Churchill's beautiful English countryside home. Churchill often sat in this chair next to this pond of goldfish.
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.
Close-up view of the construction of a boat's hull in Louisiana in the 1940s. Collection of Higgins Industries photographs from unidentified donor, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
Demonstration of several LCPLs riding up the Lake Pontchartrain seawall during ceremony for completion of the U.S. Navy's 10,000th Higgins Boat at Lake Ponchartrain. Soldiers are exisiting the landing crafts as crowds behind look on. "File No. 631C-24. Subject: 10,000th boat. Photographer: Rutherford. Date: Jul 23, 1944." New Orleans, Louisiana. 23 July 1944. Gift in memory of Andres N. Horcasitas, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
Two U.S. Army soldiers at a crossroads in Ghana in the 1940s. Possibly Air Transport Command. Gift of Jason Sloan, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
A group of local children gather near a US Army jeep in Ghana in the 1940s. Gift of Jason Sloan, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
Eight women Red Cross workers; some holding jackets and other parts of uniforms, one holding a small dog or puppy, probably on Tinian in 1945. Gift of David Lawrence, from the collection of the National WWII Museum.
Nose art on a B-29 named Booze Hound at Isley Field on Saipan in 1945. Gift of Lisle Neher, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
Crew of the B-29, Z Square 7, Hell's Belle, 42-24680, taken in Hawaii in 1945. Left to right: SSgt. Jack N. Lebid, Sgt. George Andrews, SSgt. Angelo M. Campanini. Gift of Lisle Neher, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
An M4 Tank buried on the beach at Saipan in 1945. Gift of Lisle Neher, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
Crossing the Line ceremony participants including the court with King Neptune and his Queen Amphitrite aboard the US Navy destroyer USS Maury. An African American man is also participating in the court; he holds a milk bottle and appears to wear a diaper. A Caucasian man on the courtÂ’s left appears to be a priest figure. "U.S.S. Maury (DD401) 5/5/42. A Happy Day or is it?? Walter. PTO. 5 May 1942. Gift in Memory of Walter and James Williams, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.
As 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.
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.
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.
The Oestreichers' with their donation “American Troops Approaching Cherbourg, France” by Robert Capa and Museum President Gordon "Nick" Mueller.
The backside of "American Troops Approaching Cherbourg, France." The original caption states: Radiotelephoto. RW 728272. New York Bureau. On the double! Cherbourg, France -- Dodging enemy sniper bullets, an American doughboy advances on the double past a sign in the outskirts of embattled Cherbourg. Isolated German units are still fighting furiously in the vital French city, but Cherbourg belongs to the Allies today -- just three weeks since D-Day, and 27 years since the first U.S. troops landed at Cherbourg in World War I. NY #12 70 For Can 6/26/44 (RK). Credit Line (ACME phototransmitted via U.S. Signal Corps Radiotelephoto). Radiotelephoto. Ref. Dept. N.E.A. 7-7 44.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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)
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
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.
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.
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)
As 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
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.
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.
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.