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Archive for the ‘Museum News’ Category

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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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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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