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Archive for the ‘Museum News’ Category

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Remembering Melvin Rector

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Melvin Rector

One of the last images taken of Melvin Rector on tour with The National WWII Museum’s Masters of the Air 2016 tour.

The National WWII Museum recently hosted one of the most emotional tours in the history of the institution’s travel program. During Masters of the Air 2016, we lost Melvin Rector, Technical Sergeant, 339th Bomb Squadron, 96th Bomb Group, shortly after finishing a tour of RAF Uxbridge just outside of London. The loss of Melvin is surely on the hearts and minds of everyone who attended the tour, as well as Museum staff and Melvin’s family who were here back in the States.

The special care Melvin received in England, along with the abundant media attention, was a testament to Melvin’s service. Melvin was a radio operator/gunner on a B-17 and flew eight combat missions over Germany in the spring of 1945. Four of his missions encountered heavy flak, and on April 3, 1945, his plane returned with several holes in the wings.

Tour historian Donald L. Miller, PhD and tour manager Maddie Ogden represented the Museum with honor and the utmost professionalism while managing Melvin’s arrangements and continuing on with a memorable tour. We are grateful for their service to the Museum’s travel program.

Melvin Rector passed away at 94 years old. He joined the Masters of the Air tour so that he could see his air base one more time, but unfortunately he passed away only three days before the group was to arrive at RAF Snetterton Heath. The bravery, courage, and sacrifice that Melvin exhibited during the war years has become our nation’s heritage. His fearlessness and determination will live on for many years to come.

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SciTech Tuesday: Nylon

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What are you wearing?

In 1940 the answer was likely some combination of cotton and wool–maybe silk and linen.

Today there is a huge range of synthetic fibers used to make clothes. Spandex, lycra, dry-wick, polyester, acrylic–these fibers in today’s clothes all owe their existence to nylon.

Just at the beginning of the Great Depression, Charles Stine was head of DuPont’s chemistry division. He had convinced the executives at the company to give him money to build a new laboratory and fill it with scientists. At first he had trouble getting chemists to move from academia to industry, but eventually he found a young scientist named Wallace Carothers, who taught Organic Chemistry at Harvard. Carothers was intrigued by the research on polymers conducted by a German scientist, Hermann Staudinger. He wanted to see if he could make polymers, long chains of organic units, from smaller and simpler chemicals by stringing them together.

Carothers found success pretty shortly, when in 1930 a research assistant in his lab created a very long polymer they could pull into long threads. This was the first polyester. It was impossible to use in clothes because it’s melting point was too low, and it was soluble in water, but it was a start.

Eighty-two years ago today, May 24, 1934, another research associate of Carothers’, made thread from a polyamide that was strong and elastic. It was the first nylon. Unfortunately one of the precursors in its synthesis was very difficult to make. The research continued, and they found a way to use benzene as a starting product. By 1938 DuPont was building a nylon production facility in Delaware.

DuPont decided to focus on making fibers for textile companies to make stockings, replacing silk. Nylon stockings entered the retail market in 1940, and by 1942 DuPont fibers were in 30% of all stockings.

All that changed immediately in 1942. Nylon production was diverted to make ropes. tire cording, and parachutes for the military. When production of nylon returned to the retail market after the war, demand was incredible. In one case in Pittsburgh in July 1946, 40,000 women formed a line over a mile long to wait for the release of 13,000 pairs of nylon stockings. Struggling to meet demand throughout the rest of the 1940s, DuPont licensed the manufacture of nylon in 1951.

By the 1960s nylon, polyester and other synthetic fibers were at their peak, comprising more than 60% of all fibers produced worldwide. Shortly after that they lost some of their luster, and by the 1970s had decreased to about 45% of all production. In the last two decades new forms and uses of synthetics fibers have increased, and not just in clothing. Similar forms of the same fibers are used to make furniture and kitchen products.

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

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Featured Artifact: Terezin Currency

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Terezin note, Gift of Ela Stein Weissberger

Terezin note, Gift of Ela Stein Weissberger

In 1938, when Czech Jew Ela Stein Weissberger was eight years old, her family fled their home near the Czech-German border to Prague. Her father was in the porcelain business and her mother’s family owned a glass factory. They lost everything. Her father was arrested by the Gestapo and never seen again. Ela, her mother, sister, and grandmother were on one of the first transports to Terezin (Theresienstadt) Concentration Camp, arriving in February 1942.

Roughly 150,000 people were held in Theresienstadt, mostly Czech Jews like Ela Stein Weissberger. The camp became a propoganda tool for the Nazis most notably when the Nazis allowed entry to the camp by Danish Red Cross and International Red Cross delegates in June 1944. These visits occured after a long period of adjustments to and deportations from the camp to give the appearance of relatively comfortable living conditions. While there, the delegates  viewed a performance of the children’s opera Brundibár, composed by Czech Jewish composer Hans Krasa in 1938 and first performed in the camp on September 23, 1943 under the watchful eyes of Nazi guards. The role of the Cat in the Brundibar Opera was performed by Ela Stein Weissberger. She appeared in the 1944 performance for the International Red Cross delegation that visited Terezin and also in the German propaganda film, Der Führer schenkt die Juden eine Stadt (The Fuhrer gives the Jews a city). The opera would have 55 performances at Theresienstadt in total and became a symbol of hope for the Jews in the camp.

Roughly 34,000 people died in Theresienstadt and another 87,000 were transported to death camps before the camp was liberated by the Soviets on May 8, 1945. Ela Stein Weissberger survived and after liberation, moved to Israel and joined the Israeli Army and then the Israeli Navy.  She then moved to America with her husband in 1958. Ela has dedicated much of her life to traveling around the world educating the public about the Holocaust.

Ela Stein Weissberger saved this Fünf Kronen (five crowns) note from her time in Theresienstadt. She gave the note to Museum Historian Hannah Dailey when Dailey recorded an oral history interview of Weissberger’s wartime experiences. The currency, designed in 1942 and distributed first in May 1943 was used mainly for sham purposes, but also to create a semblance of normalcy within the camp. Inmates could purchase supplies from stores, stocked from the plundered belongings of other inmates. Inmates were also required to pay postal taxes and receipt taxes on mail and parcels sent and received. These notes were saved by survivors and by collectors and they stand today as evidence of the extent of the bureaucratic landscape of the Nazi camp system.

Three performances of Brundibár will take place in May 2016 at The National WWII Museum’s US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Ela Weissberger, the sole surviving member of the Brundibár cast at Theresienstadt, will be the Guest of Honor at each performance. To purchase tickets for the Brundibár performances at the Museum on May 14-15, 2016, click here.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

 

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Louisiana History Day National Finalists Selected

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Louisiana State National History Day ContestThis past Saturday, April 9, over 200 middle and high school students from across Louisiana visited The National WWII Museum to compete and take part in the annual Louisiana National History Day State Contest.  National History Day is a national student research contest in which students, working as either individuals or in groups, create projects relating to an annual theme which are evaluated and critiqued at school and regional level contests.

Having already advanced from one of five regional contests in Monroe, Baton Rouge, Shreveport or New Orleans, these students and their projects represented the best student work Louisiana had to offer.  Competition was fierce and exciting throughout the day with over 120 projects in 18 different categories seeking an opportunity to advance to the National History Day National Contest in Washington D.C..  The judges deliberated throughout the day and ultimately selected 61 middle and high school students to represent Louisiana at the National Contest the week of June 12 – 16, 2016.

The National WWII Museum is proud to serve as the state sponsor for National History Day in Louisiana and we are expecting great things from this year’s student delegation.  Congratulations to all the winners and to all the students and teachers who participated!   

 

This post by Collin Makamson, Student Programs Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

 

 

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Launch PT-305! | This Is Only the Beginning!

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Thanks to all our supporters, we’ve just wrapped up a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to help launch PT-305! Now we can get to work on making the dream you contributed to a reality.

The first order of business will be getting PT-305 out of her current home, the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion, which will be an achievement in its own right. A wall of the building will have to be temporarily removed so the boat can be transferred to the proper transportation.

From there, she will undergo Coast Guard testing before venturing to her permanent home, the new, custom-built boathouse for permanent, interactive display that your support will also help make a reality.

We’ll send out surveys shortly to make sure fulfillment of rewards moves swiftly, as promised. We will also be posting updates on PT-305’s journey here as we get them, so stay tuned! And thank you again for all your support. We couldn’t have done it without you!

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Launch PT-305! | Today’s the Day!

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The day has finally come! We started this journey with a goal of $100,000, and you—our loyal Crew—blazed through that mark in just three days. Now with just 19 hours to go, we have met our second stretch goal and raised $200,631 to launch PT-305 and return the only restored and operational WWII combat-vet patrol-torpedo boat to her home waters. We are tremendously grateful.

That being said, we still need your help in the waning hours of this fundraiser—every dollar helps! Spread the word, and help us make the most in these final hours of our Kickstarter Campaign!

 

Let’s launch PT-305! 

 

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Volunteers Needed! Welcome WWII Veterans to New Orleans April 13-14

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ABC_3673Help us welcome a very special group of WWII veterans from Los Angeles, CA and Phoenix, AZ flying down with Soaring Valor to New Orleans this April 13-14. The veterans visiting will represent all service branches, and  for many of these men and women it will be their first time in New Orleans and their first time seeing our nation’s tribute to their sacrifices.

 

Come out to any of these three opportunities to welcome our nation’s WWII veterans:

  • Welcoming the Veterans at the Hyatt Regency on  Wednesday, April 13 at 4:30 pm
    Join us inside the lobby at the Hyatt Regency at 601 Loyola Avenue in Downtown New Orleans to welcome the veterans as they arrive to their hotel.
  • Welcoming the Veterans to The National WWII Museum in front of the The American Sector Restaurant + Bar on Wednesday, April 13 at 6:30 pm
    Help us give these veterans a grand welcome as they step foot on the Museum grounds for the first time for a special dinner in their honor.
  • Welcome the Veterans for their day exploring the Museum on Thursday, April 14 at 8:20 am
    Meet us outside of The American Sector Restaurant + Bar to get the veterans’ day started with excitement as they begin their day of touring the Museum’s tributes to their sacrifices during World War II.

 

Please feel free to show your support in welcoming these veterans with patriotic posters, signs, and your New Orleans spirit! We hope to see you there for these very special moments!

Learn more about The National WWII Museum’s partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation, Soaring Valor, that brings WWII veterans to the Museum and records their stories for the Museum’s Oral History collection.

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Greater New Orleans National History Day Regional Contest 2016 Results

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Winning Students and Supporters from Helen Cox High School Spelling Out the School's H.C. Initials

Winning Students and Supporters from Helen Cox High School Spelling Out the School’s H.C. Initials

This past Saturday, March 19, The National WWII Museum hosted its Greater New Orleans National History Day regional contest.  National History Day is a student research competition in which students, either as individuals or in groups, conduct research and construct a project on a historical topic of their choice.  Projects in this year’s contest focused on the theme of “Exploration, Encounter & Exchange in History” with student-selected topics ranging from the disappearance of the Roanoke colony to the origins of cheerleading!

At this year’s regional contest, over 240 middle and high school students with over 130 projects in 18 different categories competed throughout the day for a chance to advance their work to the Louisiana State History Day contest which will be held at the Museum on Saturday, April 9 and will feature winning students across the state from the Lafayette, Monroe, Shreveport and Baton Rouge regional contests as well.  The winners from the Louisiana State History Day competition will then travel on to represent the state of Louisiana at the National Contest in Washington D.C..

For these students, the regional contest was the result of many months of researching, writing and perfecting their work. Judging panels evaluated student projects in five different formats—exhibit, research paper, performance, documentary and website – with students placing in the top four of each category advancing to the State Contest.

Congratulations to all the winners and to all the students who participated!

This post by Collin Makamson, Student Programs Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

 

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PT-305 Turns 73 on March 30, 2016

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twitter-cover-pt305-1500x500-2.29In shipbuilding traditions, a ship’s life begins on the date its keel, the vessel’s foundation, is laid. On March 30, 1943, our vessel PT-305 came into existence and began her life at the City Park Plant of Higgins Industries in New Orleans with the laying of her keel.

View of a Higgins boat assembly line, sign above factory reads "The guy who relaxes helps the axis." Louisiana in the 1940s. From the collection of The National WWII Museum.

View of a Higgins boat assembly line, sign above factory reads “The guy who relaxes helps the axis.” Louisiana in the 1940s. From the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Launched just two months later on May 27, 1943 and completed at the Industrial Canal Plant on December 8, 1943, PT-305 was assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 22 (Ron 22) to defend in the Mediterranean. Operating in the Mediterranean along the coast of Southern France and Northern Italy, with Ron 22, PT-305 participated in the Invasion of Elba on June 18, 1944 and Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France on August 15, 1944.

During the 14 months that PT-305 was deployed in the Mediterranean, she conducted more than 77 offensive patrols and operations, fought in 11 separate actions and sank three German ships. More importantly, she was the home to 44 officers and enlisted men where she served as the backdrop for moving personal stories of war, including the trials of cramped quarters, the terrifying thrill of combat, and humorous tales of shore-leave escapades.

Following her wartime service, PT-305 served as a New York tour boat, a fishing charter, and an oyster boat, undergoing modifications along the way: new, less-costly engines; several new paint jobs; and a dramatic reduction in length by 13 feet.

Throughout the past decade, a dedicated crew of volunteers has been restoring PT-305 back to her wartime glory adding back the 13 feet to her keel and original Packard Engines. In October 2010, the volunteer crew laid the missing piece of PT-305’s keel, marking the start of her renewed life as the world’s only fully restored and operational combat veteran Patrol Torpedo boat.

Now at 73 years old, PT-305 is ready to hit the water once again. Help us return her to her home waters of Lake Pontchartrain, where she was originally tested for combat readiness by Higgins Industries more than 70 years ago.

Back This Project on Kickstarter now!

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Launch PT-305 | We’re Halfway There!

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twitter-cover-pt305-1500x500-2.29PT-305 was in bad repair and un-seaworthy when Tom Czekanski, the Museum’s senior curator and restoration manager, traveled to Galveston Island retrieve her in April 2007.

Media Webpage Restoration_1Tom personally led the effort to have her towed from Back Bay Boat Yard in Galveston, Texas, to The National WWII Museum. That 500-mile trip was only the beginning of the project to return PT-305 to her original glory.

At the beginning of the journey, Tom’s team painted eyes on the front of the boat, which according to nautical legend would help her find her way home. Once back at the Museum, Tom mused, “We didn’t need the eyes anymore, because we had her home at last.”

PT-305 is ready to get back in the water, and today our Kickstarter campaign to help launch her hits its half-way mark. So far we’ve already reached our first stretch goal of $150,000, and we need your help to make our second goal of $200,000.

Help us get there. There are only 14 days to back Launch PT-305 on Kickstarter. Back this project now to put the world’s only restored, fully operational, WWII-veteran PT boat back in the water.


Let’s Launch PT-305.

 

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