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Archive for the ‘Museum News’ Category

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Museum Archivists Offer Restoration Resources for Louisiana Neighbors Dealing with Flood Damage

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Many friends of The National WWII Museum have reached out to ask if we have suffered any of the catastrophic flooding occurring elsewhere in Louisiana. We’re happy to report that we have not. The Museum is safe and open to visitors.

Unfortunately, many of our fellow Louisiana residents have been less fortunate. If, like us, you are looking for ways to help, this NOLA.com post lists donation and contact information for many relief agencies doing vital work in the state right now.

As the disaster has unfolded, the Museum’s curators and archivists have been fielding queries about how to save precious photos, books, and documents damaged by floodwater. Museum staffers—who deal with fragile WWII-era artifacts every day, working to preserve every piece for future generations—have been able to offer some valuable insights on salvaging these fragile treasures.

Below, assembled by our archivists, are links to several sites with tips and advice used by professional archivists, records managers, and librarians that can offer helpful guidance for personal collections as well.

Much of the advice can be summed up this way: Separate the damaged items, place them on a flat surface on top of something absorbent, and circulate the air.

Acting quickly is key to preventing mold growth.

Links:

Northeast Document Conservation Center: Emergency Salvage of Wet Photographs

Tips on saving water-damaged photographs by air-drying or freezing. Also tips on saving flood-damaged slides.

Northeast Document Conservation Center: Emergency Salvage of Wet Books and Records

Tips on air-drying wet documents and books.

From The National WWII Museum blog See & Hear: Slow Your Mold: Preservation Tips

Mold-remediation procedures for documents, books, and objects.

Association of Moving Image Archivists: Disaster Recovery for Films in Flooded Areas

Practical and useful information about recovering film after a flood.

 

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Congress Seeks to Recognize the Wereth 11

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The US Wereth Memorial in Wereth, Belgium. Belgian civilian Hermann Langer was only 11 years old when he met and helped shelter the 11 men of the 33rd Field Artillery Battalion before their capture and murder. In 2004, Langer established a nonprofit and erected this monument remembering them.  In May 2015, Museum staff and volunteers traveled to the memorial to pay their respects to the Wereth 11.

The US Wereth Memorial in Wereth, Belgium. Belgian civilian Hermann Langer was only 11 years old when he met and helped shelter the 11 men of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion before their capture and murder. In 2004, Langer established a nonprofit and erected this monument remembering them. In May 2015, Museum staff and volunteers traveled to the memorial to pay their respects to the Wereth 11.

In 1949, the US Senate investigated judicial proceedings resulting from atrocities during the Battle of the Bulge, listing 12 locations where American prisoners of war and Belgian civilians were allegedly murdered by German troops. The location where 11 African American soldiers of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion were killed by the German SS after their surrender in Wereth, Belgium was omitted from the report of a Senate subcommittee.

Over the past 70 years, the event known as the Wereth Massacre has been a largely forgotten tragedy from the final phase of World War II. Today, momentum is growing in Congress to give proper recognition to the 11 men who died serving their country. The National WWII Museum, led by President and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, urges citizens, museums, and other institutions to back the current effort – reflected in House Resolution 141 – to revise the 1949 Senate report and officially recognize the service and ultimate sacrifice of these 11 men.

The 1949 Senate report surveyed a range of atrocities committed in several locations in Belgium beginning on Dec. 16, 1944, and ending nearly a month later.

The atrocities, which included the killing of approximately 350 American prisoners of war ( after their surrender)  and 100 Belgian civilians, were “committed by the organization known as Combat Group Peiper, which was essentially the first SS Panzer Regiment commanded by Col. Joachim Peiper,” the report concluded. “On the eastern front, one of the battalions of the Combat Group Peiper … earned the nickname of Blow Torch Battalion after burning two villages and killing all the inhabitants thereof.”

In a letter to West Virginia Congressman David B. McKinley, sponsor of H.R. 141, Mueller said, “Until recent years, many relatives of these murdered soldiers were left to believe that their loved ones simply died in combat. Records show there was evidence of torture and disfigurement among the deceased soldiers, and some observers believe the radial ideology of Nazi SS soldiers could have influenced their brutal treatment of these artillery unit members.”

We will never forget the service of the Americans lost in this episode: Curtis Adams of South Carolina, Willliam Pritchett and George Davis Jr. of Alabama, Nathaniel Moss and George Motten of Texas, Due Turner of Arkansas, James Stewart of West Virginia, Robert Green of Georgia, and three Mississippians, Mager Bradley, Thomas Forte, and James Leatherwood.

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Andrew Higgins and the Atomic Bombs

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The Top-Secret Assignment that Brought New Orleans’s Most Famous Boat Builder Inside the Manhattan Project

The National WWII Museum has been researching Higgins Industries’ involvement in this top secret work and wants to hear from anyone who worked on this assembly line, or who may have information on the atomic bomb-related work at the Michoud plant in New Orleans. Please email research assistant Kali Martin at The National WWII Museum if you have any information on the atomic line at Higgins Industries.

Higgins Atomic Bomb Post 2

“Orleanians, from Youths to Grandmothers, Help Build Atom Bombs,” The Times-Picayune New Orleans States , August 12, 1945. Courtesy of Jerry Strahan.

The Atomic Age Quietly Comes to New Orleans

Catherine Dolles (pictured) served as the “lead woman in inspection” on a production line at Higgins Industries’ Michoud plant during the final year of World War II. Mrs. Dolles, along with thousands other employees, worked on parts that, unknown to them, were destined for the Manhattan Project—the top-secret drive to build an atomic bomb.

Catherine Dolles (pictured with her face and arms covered with dust from the production process) served as the “lead woman in inspection” on a production line at Higgins Industries’ Michoud plant during the final year of World War II. Mrs. Dolles, along with thousands of other employees, worked on parts that, unknown to them, were destined for the Manhattan Project—the top-secret drive to build an atomic bomb. “Orleanians, from Youths to Grandmothers, Help Build Atom Bombs,” The Times-Picayune New Orleans States, August 12, 1945. Courtesy of Jerry Strahan.

In August 1944 Higgins Industries, under the direction of Andrew Higgins, was dealt a costly blow when a contract for C-46 cargo planes was canceled. This represented a huge loss for Higgins Industries and the city, as the sprawling Michoud plant in eastern New Orleans had been completed specifically to build these cargo planes. The contract cancellation made headlines across the country and caught the attention of the Tennessee Eastman Corporation, which operated the electromagnetic separation plant “Y-12” at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The Y-12 plant was responsible for producing uranium to be used in atomic bombs. By the end of the month, Higgins Industries had a contract to make carbon components for Manhattan Project production work.

That fall, roughly 2,500 workers were selected from existing lines at Higgins Industries’ various plants to work on a new line. The workers had to swear an oath of secrecy about the work they would be doing—although as far as they knew, they were making radar and radio parts. Andrew Higgins’s son Frank was put in charge of the operation at the Michoud plant, with a mandate for absolute secrecy: “Our right hand couldn’t know what the left hand was doing,” according to Higgins. Despite the need for secrecy, few security measures were put into place. No armed guards roamed the premises, lest their presence tip off the workers that their work was more than they had been told.

The “vile, dirty and dangerous” work, as Andrew Higgins described it in a press conference, was complicated and changeable: Once the lines were up and running, workers produced parts that met the high standards required. But just after the carbon order was placed with Higgins Industries, another order came in for metal spare parts. Lines had to be added and adjusted to meet the shifting needs of the Tennessee Eastman Corporation.

Working on this these lines were mothers, grandmothers, fathers, and veterans. Nearly all of them had family members in uniform. Some drove 100 miles each day to take their place on the line. Some came on crutches due to physical disabilities. Ten hours a day, six days a week, they took their places on the line. On the carbon line, workers were mostly shielded by protective clothing, but their hands and faces would be blackened by dust by the time they left the plant.

The difficult and dirty work continued over the next year, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The demand for parts was continuously increasing. If any of workers questioned the work, they kept their doubts quiet. In the year of production before an atomic bomb was dropped, there were no reported intelligence leaks at Higgins.

 

“The potentialities of it intrigue the mind of man.”

The nose of the Enola Gay, probably on a Tinian airfield in 1945. Gift of David Lawrence, from the collection of The National World War II Museum

The nose of the Enola Gay, probably on a Tinian airfield in 1945. Gift of David Lawrence, from the collection of The National World War II Museum

As the workday came to a close on August 5, 1945, across the world three B-29 planes made their way to the skies over mainland Japan. There it was early morning of August 6, and the world was on the brink of a new era. Americans awoke on August 6 to news of the destruction of Hiroshima, Japan, by a single bomb that was more destructive than anything seen before. With the release of the first atomic bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” dropped from the B-29 Enola Gay, the world had entered the atomic age.

That night Andrew Higgins spoke at a press conference in Chicago. He revealed that the manufacturing process his employees had believed to be routine was in fact work for the Manhattan Project. Although he couldn’t divulge any details about what they had been doing, Higgins was able to make it known that the work at Michoud had helped to build the most powerful weapons in the world. Higgins remarked about the atomic bomb, “The potentialities of it intrigue the mind of man.” He applauded the hard work of the men and women on this most secretive line, calling them “heroes and heroines.”

 

Unraveling the Mystery

The Alpha II track at the Y-12 facility. Image from Manhattan District History, Manhattan Project, US Army Corps of Engineers, Book V: Electromagnetic Project, Volume 6 – Operation.

The Alpha II track at the Y-12 facility. Image from Manhattan District History, Manhattan Project, US Army Corps of Engineers, Book V: Electromagnetic Project, Volume 6 – Operation.

Much of the documentation surrounding the uranium bomb Little Boy was destroyed after the war when it was determined to be less effective than the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. There is little documentation available on Higgins’s involvement with the Manhattan Project. What is known has come from documentation from the National Archives, Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats that Won World War II by Jerry Strahan, and newspaper articles published in 1945 by The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. From this, we know that workers on that dirty, carbon dust–coated line were making parts for the Alpha and Beta tracks at the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge.

The Alpha and Beta tracks were the large calutrons in which uranium 235 (U235), used in the Little Boy bomb, was separated from uranium 238. Through an electromagnetic process, U235 could be isolated and captured. The captured U235 was then carried by a single person to New Mexico via train. Although we know that the parts made at Higgins went into the process, we have not found confirmation of how they were used. The metal spares made also went to the Alpha and Beta tracks, but their exact nature remains a mystery.

The research to understand the exact contributions of Higgins Industries to the Manhattan Project is ongoing. As part of this research the Museum is looking for former Higgins workers who worked on the atomic line. Do you know someone who worked on the atomic line at Higgins? If you worked on the line, or know someone who did, please email research assistant Kali Martin at The National WWII Museum.

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Remembering Tuskegee Airman Roscoe C. Brown Jr.

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Roscoe Brown with the P-51 Mustang replica painted in the likeness of the plane he flew during the war. Today a restored P-51 Mustang hangs there as a tribute to his service.

Dr. Brown with the P-51 Mustang replica painted in the likeness of the plane he flew during the war at The National WWII Museum in 2013. Today a restored P-51 Mustang hangs there as a tribute to his service.

Roscoe C. Brown Jr., PhD, a decorated member of the pioneering African American Tuskegee Airmen in World War II and later an educator, died July 2, 2016, at age 94.

A restored P-51D Mustang painted in the likeness of the “Red Tail” fighter Dr. Brown flew in the war is part of The National WWII Museum’s fleet of warbirds in US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Dr. Brown is also featured in Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II, a Museum special exhibit now currently embarked on a two-year tour.

Dr. Brown was a “great friend of the Museum,” said Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, president and CEO, recalling him as a repeated “distinguished and honored speaker” who participated in the opening ceremonies for the pavilion that now houses the tribute P-51.

“Roscoe Brown led a full and important life—a life of meaning,” Dr. Mueller said. “We all remember him as a leader, a man of courage, an educator, and an inspiration to all who knew him. He was a role model to African Americans throughout his life, and will continue to be.”

A Washington, DC, native, Dr. Brown attended Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, departing the day after his graduation for training at Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi. From there, he moved on to Tuskegee, Alabama, for further training at the Tuskegee Institute and Tuskegee Army Air Base.

In total, Dr. Brown flew 68 combat missions, a combination of strafing runs and escort missions for heavy bombers and P-38 reconnaissance flights. He downed a German jet near Berlin during an escort mission on March 24, 1945.

“As we got over the outskirts of Berlin, I first saw these streaks, which I knew were jets. . . . And they were coming up to attack the bombers,” Dr. Brown said in his Museum oral history, recorded in 2012. Brown executed a “reverse peel” to maneuver into engagement with one of the jets.

“He didn’t see me,” Dr. Brown said. “And then I turned into his blind spot, put on my electronic gun sight, and brrrrp—boom! There he was.

“The bomber-escort missions required a lot of discipline. They were longer missions in the main, and you knew you were doing good. . . . Escort missions gave us our reputation. We got the reputation of being so-called ‘Red Tailed Angels,’ because of the fact that we stayed close to the bombers.”

The success the Tuskegee Airmen achieved in battle became a symbol of bravery and skill, helping refute notions that African Americans were inferior performers in the military, especially in roles requiring advanced training. As the Airmen became well-known for their stellar flying record and distinctive aircraft, they were able to begin breaking racial barriers abroad and eventually at home.

“Many of the bomber pilots . . . remembered the Red Tails,” Dr. Brown said in his oral history. “[They said,] ‘We saw the Red Tail P-51s and they were our saviors.’ . . . Many of them did not know—most of them did not know—that we were African American.”

In April 2016, a restored P-51D Mustang painted in the likeness of the “Red Tail” fighter Dr. Brown flew in the war joined The National WWII Museum’s fleet of warbirds in US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.

Dr. Brown earned the Distinguished Flying Cross during World War II. In 2007, Brown and five other airmen accepted the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the Tuskegee Airmen. He earned a doctorate in education after the war and served as a professor at New York University, then served as president of Bronx Community College for 17 years. He later joined The City University of New York Graduate Center as director of the Center for Urban Education Policy.

The Museum’s P-51, restored by San Diego’s Flyboys Aeroworks and dedicated at a ceremony in April 2016, bears the unmistakable Tuskegee Airmen “Red Tail.” The Mustang also carries the nicknames “Bunnie” and “Miss Kentucky State” to mirror Dr. Brown’s wartime aircraft. “Bunnie” was Dr. Brown’s daughter’s name; “Miss Kentucky State” was a crew chief’s salute to an admired homecoming queen back home.

“I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing,” said Tommy Lofton, the Museum historian and curator who conducted Dr. Brown’s oral history. “I was honored to have the opportunity to conduct an interview with him in 2012 for the Museum and spent the better part of that day enamored by his wartime experiences. I will always remember him and I feel that he is one of my personal heroes of the war.”

 

Learn more the service of Tuskegee Airman Roscoe C. Brown Jr., PhD. Watch his oral history in The Digital Collections of The National WWII Museum.

 

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FLAGS, MEMORIES, AND IWO JIMA

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U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945. Strategically located only 660 miles from Tokyo, the Pacific island became the site of one of the bloodiest, most famous battles of World War II against Japan. (AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal)

US Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise the American flag atop Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on February  23, 1945. Strategically located only 660 miles from Tokyo, the Pacific island became the site of one of the bloodiest, most famous battles of World War II against Japan. (AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal)

The Marine Corps has officially spoken and affirmed the work of two history buffs that Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class John Bradley is not in Joe Rosenthal’s immortal photograph of the flag raising on Iwo Jima and that the sixth man in the image is Private First Class Harold Schultz. For many this raises an unanswered question: How could Bradley have abided his misidentification as one of the famous flag raisers while Schultz maintained silence about his actual participation? While a firm answer is beyond our reach, we can try to understand that context will steer us away from unwarranted judgments about either man.

There are two critical factors here well outside the understanding of most Americans. The first is that Joe Rosenthal’s image captured the second flag raising on Mount  Suribachi. As the participants understood events, the first flag raising was the great event. They merely participated in a much lesser moment to raise a second and larger flag atop Mount Suribachi. None of them had the slightest inkling that they were in an immortal photograph.

The second critical factor is that both men, by the end of their service on Iwo Jima, were in a state of mental fog beyond comprehension to those who have not endured parallel experiences. The flag raisings came on the fifth day of the fighting; the battle would go on for another 31 days. During that time, extreme physical and emotional stress pummeled participants in an endless series of kill-or-be-killed moments while they witnessed countless comrades killed or maimed. They endured on mere shards of sleep. This combination shredded the brain’s ability to retain and to organize memories—not to mention the brain’s conscious or unconscious work to suppress terrifying or profoundly disturbing memories. Bradley had participated in the first flag raising. It is entirely plausible that even though he had no specific memory of being in the famous photograph, he was easily swayed by others to believe he was. And make no mistake: Bradley was a genuine hero as evidenced by the award of the Navy Cross, a decoration just below the Medal of Honor.

Aerial view of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima showing US landings taking place on February 24, 1945.  U.S. Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Aerial view of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima showing US landings taking place on February 24, 1945. US Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

For Harold Schultz, one quite plausible explanation for his silence is that he had no memory, or an uncertain memory, of participating in the second flag raising. And for Schultz there may have been yet another factor–he survived while a great many others perished. His innate sense of honor precluded him from advancing himself as a participant in an event he did not see as actually heroic and thus to elevate his recognition over that of many dead comrades.

Ultimately, as the Marine Corps Commandant correctly affirmed, “It’s not about the individuals and never has been.” It is impossible to distinguish the faces of any of the flag raisers in the image. The power of the image is and always will be the stunning symbolism of collective effort and valor.

 

 

 

frank-colorRichard Frank is an internationally renowned expert on the Pacific war. After graduating from the University of Missouri, he was commissioned in the US Army, in which he served for nearly four years, including a tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam as an aerorifle platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. His works include Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Campaign, which won the United States Marine Corps’ General Wallace M. Greene Award; Downfall: The end of the Imperial Japanese Empire, which won the 2000 Harry S. Truman Book Award; and MacArthur. He has appeared numerous times on or consulted for programs on television and radio, and was also a historical consultant and appeared as a key interviewee in the HBO miniseries The Pacific. He is working on a narrative history trilogy about the Asia–Pacific war. Frank also sits on the Museum’s Presidential Counselors advisory board.

Hear him speak at The 2016 International Conference on World War II, titled 1946: Year Zero—Triumph and Tragedy, November 17-19, 2016, in New Orleans.

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Remembering Bert Stolier

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Bet Stolier holding a photo of himself during his World War II service.

Bert Stolier holding a photo of himself during his WWII service.

The National WWII Museum offers a final salute to Bert Stolier, who died Monday, June 13, 2016. He was 97, and the longest-serving WWII-veteran volunteer at the Museum.

When The National D-Day Museum opened on June 6, 2000, Stolier joined a group of WWII veterans known as the “A-Team”—a band of seven WWII-veteran volunteers who enthusiastically helped staff our budding Speakers Bureau and volunteered daily at the Museum, sharing with visitors their firsthand experiences of World War II.

“Bert’s imprint on this museum will never be forgotten,” said Museum president and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD. “He displayed a great spirit and added meaning to the visits of our guests from around the world. He was a man with a big heart and great passion for our nation and this museum. We will all miss him terribly.”

A New Orleans native, Stolier enlisted in the US Marine Corps on February 7, 1940, reporting to boot camp in San Diego. During World War II, he served on the USS Northampton (CA-26) and survived its sinking off of Guadalcanal. He went on to serve aboard the USS Atlanta (CL-104), which was off of Honshu when Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945. Stolier returned to New Orleans after the war and worked as a clothing salesman, then as proprietor with his wife Marian of a string of Swensen’s ice-cream parlors.

In 2000, Stolier began his volunteer service at The National D-Day Museum, and for the last 16 years of his life served the institution that became known as The National WWII Museum. He was a recipient of the Museum’s Silver Service Medallion in 2015 in recognition of his patriotic service during the war years and in retirement. He has also been honored with a dedicated seat in the Solomon Victory Theater and a commemorative brick in the Campaigns of Courage pavilion. And of course, he lives on in the hearts and memories of the many staff members and visitors whose lives he touched.

Semper fidelis, Bert.

 

Visitation will be held at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, June 16, at Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp Funeral Home, 1600 N. Causeway Boulevard in Metairie, Louisiana. A chapel service follows at 2:45 p.m., during which the Museum’s Victory Belles vocal trio will sing Stolier’s favorite song, “Smile.” A private 4:00 p.m. graveside service will follow at Gates of Prayer Cemetery, 1411 Joseph Street in New Orleans.

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American Spirit Awards 2016 | American Spirit Medallion Recipients

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The American Spirit Awards is an awards gala celebrating individuals and organizations whose work reflects the values and spirit of those who served our country during the World War II years. On Friday, June 10, 2016, The National WWII Museum and Whitney Bank will honor those who inspire others through their own acts of courage, sacrifice, initiative and generosity—particularly in the areas of leadership, service to country or community and education.

This prestigious honor of the American Spirit Medallion is bestowed upon individuals who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to the principles that strengthen America’s freedom and democracy. Through their work and philanthropy, American Spirit Medallion recipients exemplify the highest standards of integrity, discipline, and initiative while making unselfish contributions to their community, state, or the nation. Past recipients of this honor include WWII Medal of Honor recipients like Vernon Baker, Van T. Barfoot, Walter D. Ehlers, and Hershel “Woody” Williams, and notable public figures like Tom Brokaw, Gary Sinise, Tom Hanks, and Collin Powell.

This year, the Museum is humbled to present this honor to Dr. Norman C. Francis and Governor William Winter.

 

NORMAN C. FRANCIS

asa-francisAs president of the nation’s only historically black and Catholic university from 1968 to 2015, Dr. Francis guided Xavier University’s growth both in size and dimension. Through his leadership, the university instituted a core curriculum and was nationally recognized as a leader in minority education. Xavier has been especially successful in educating health professionals. In premedical education, Xavier has been ranked first in the nation in placing African American students into medical schools since 1993. Named by his peers as one of the 100 most effective college and university leaders, Dr. Francis, who retired as president at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 academic year, is often cited for his involvement in the community and for his work on the national, state and local levels to improve education. He has served in an advisory role to eight US presidential administrations on education and civil rights issues, and has served on 54 boards and commissions. In 2006, President George W. Bush presented him with the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 

GOVERNOR WILLIAM WINTER

asa-winterLong before leading Mississippi as governor from 1980 to 1984, William Winter served as an infantry officer in America and in the Pacific during World War II. After returning home, he began a career in elected public service. Throughout his career, Winter’s mission has been to strengthen public education while championing racial reconciliation as well as historic preservation and economic development. He has served as chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board, the Commission on the Future of the South, the National Civic League, the Kettering Foundation, the Foundation for the Mid South, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Ole Miss Alumni Association. He was a member of President Clinton’s National Advisory Board on Race and was instrumental in the founding of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi. He was awarded the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. An attorney in the Jones Walker law firm in Jackson, Mississippi, he is a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law.


During the ceremony the Museum will also honor veterans and those with a direct connection to World War II who have served our country with distinction and, upon retirement, continue to lead by example with the Silver Service Medallion. Learn more about this year’s Silver Service Medallion recipients.

 

Proceeds from the American Spirit Awards support educational programming at The National WWII Museum—including the ongoing development of classroom materials and professional development opportunities for teachers in schools across the country as well as online experiences that bring the Museum and its research resources to students around the world. Learn how you can support these efforts too.

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American Spirit Awards 2016 | The Silver Service Medallion Recipients

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asa-whitney-logo whiteThe American Spirit Awards is an awards gala celebrating individuals and organizations whose work reflects the values and spirit of those who served our country during the World War II years. On Friday, June 10, 2016, The National WWII Museum and Whitney Bank will honor those who inspire others through their own acts of courage, sacrifice, initiative and generosity—particularly in the areas of leadership, service to country or community and education.

The National WWII Museum President and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller will present The Silver Service Medallion to veterans and those with a direct connection to World War II who have served our country with distinction and, upon retirement, continue to lead by example. Each recipient, Jerry Yellin, Richard E. Cole, and Betty Reid Soskin, exemplifies core values that were critical to the Allied war effort – teamwork, optimism, loyalty and bravery.

 

JERRY YELLIN

asa-yellinIn 1942, two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Jerry Yellin volunteered for the US Army Air Forces on his 18th birthday. Jerry completed fighter pilot training at Luke Air Field in August of 1943. He spent the remainder of the war flying P-40, P-47 and P-51 combat missions in the Pacific with the 78th Fighter Squadron. Captain Yellin participated in the first land-based fighter mission over Japan on April 7, 1945. He also has the unique distinction of having flown the final combat mission of World War II on August 14, 1945 — the day the war ended. On that mission, his wingman, Phillip Schlamberg, became the last man killed in combat during World War II. After the war, Jerry went on to write about his experiences during World War II and is the author of numerous books including “Of War and Weddings,” “The Blackened Canteen,” “The Resilient Warrior” and “The Letter.” Jerry is currently working on a feature film about his life titled “The Last Man Standing.” This documentary will explore Jerry’s experiences coming to terms with the war and his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Jerry and his late wife Helene celebrated 65 years of marriage and had four children.

 

RICHARD E. COLE

asa-coleRichard “Dick” Cole is one of the remaining two Doolittle Raiders, the 80 servicemen who struck an early, inspirational blow against Japan in World War II. Cole had completed pilot training with the US Army Air Forces in July 1941, and as a newly commissioned second lieutenant, was eager to serve after the Pearl Harbor attacks. In early 1942, Cole volunteered for a dangerous mission he knew nothing about. Three months later, on April 18, 1942, he was in the co-pilot’s seat of General Jimmy Doolittle’s B-25, bound on a one-way trip over Tokyo on the first American counterstrike of the war. After reaching mainland Asia in the B-25, Cole remained in the China-Burma-India theater for more than a year after the Doolittle Raid, only to return to service there from October 1943 to June 1944. He was relieved from active duty in January 1947 after the war’s end. Cole was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, and Chinese Army, Navy, Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st grade for his service during the war. Cole retired from the US Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

 

BETTY REID SOSKIN

asa-soskinBetty Soskin (née Charbonnet) grew up in a Cajun/Creole African-American family that settled in the San Francisco area after massive river flooding devastated Louisiana in 1927. Her parents joined her maternal grandfather, George Allen, who had resettled in Oakland at the end of World War I. Betty worked as a file clerk in a segregated union hall, Boilermakers A-36, during World War II. In 1945 she and her young husband, Mel Reid, founded a small Berkeley music store – Reid’s Records – that remains in operation. Betty has since held positions as staff to a Berkeley City Council member and as a field representative serving West Contra Costa County for two members of the California State Assembly. She was named a Woman of the Year by the California State Legislature in 1995, and in 2005 was named one of the nation’s 10 outstanding women by the National Women’s History Project. At 94, Soskin still works as a park ranger for the Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.


During the ceremony the Museum will also bestow the prestigious honor of the American Spirit Medallion to individuals who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to the principles that strengthen America’s freedom and democracy. Learn who this year’s American Spirit Medallion recipients are here.

 
Proceeds from the American Spirit Awards support educational programming at The National WWII Museum—including the ongoing development of classroom materials and professional development opportunities for teachers in schools across the country as well as online experiences that bring the Museum and its research resources to students around the world. Learn how you can support these efforts too.

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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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