• The National WWII Museum Blog
dividing bar

Archive for the ‘National History Day’ Category

dividing bar

From New Orleans to the Shores of Normandy: Introducing the Normandy Academy

dividing bar

Don’t miss the opportunity to send your high school student on the trip of a lifetime and a way to highlight the service and sacrifice of a soldier from your home state. In July 2013, The National WWII Museum will debut its latest educational travel program, Normandy Academy: Stories of Service and Sacrifice in collaboration with National History Day. Aimed at instilling in high school students an understanding of the service and sacrifices made by American soldiers during the invasion of Normandy, the Academy will involve students in deep research and an exceptional touring experience in New Orleans, Normandy and Paris.


Students will visit Le Grand Bunker Musee, a German bunker now turned into a museum overlooking the invasion beaches

Beginning this March, students who purchase the program will build friendships with peers from across the country in a reading and discussion forum guided by research mentors from The National WWII Museum. Books include Antony Beevor’s D-Day, Alex Kershaw’s The Bedford Boys and Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. Every student will be placed in a discussion group with four peers from across the country. At two week intervals, a Museum research mentor will contact each student to discuss the readings and offer support while the students discuss the reading themes and their research with each other. As the trip nears, students will shift focus to finding primary sources in their hometowns that will illuminate the experience of growing up in the Great Depression and the outbreak of WWII.

During the readings and discussions, students will select a soldier from their home state who is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. This fallen soldier will represent a personal connection for the student to the invasion of Normandy. All research and reading from the time each student selects a soldier will focus on the life and military service of that soldier.

On July 8, all students arrive in New Orleans where they will be greeted by renowned author Alex Kershaw at a special reception. For the next two days, the students will have access to the Museum’s collection of documents, images and artifacts. Guided tours of the exhibits and holdings will give the students a clearer view of their soldiers’ military service.

On July 11, the students and their research mentors will board a plane for Normandy where they will walk in the footsteps of the Normandy invasion. Highlights include the invasion beaches, Ste Mere Eglise, Pointe du Hoc and the Normandy American Cemetery. A welcome from the University of Caen will underscore the academic value of the experience.

The eulogy in the Normandy American Cemetery is the capstone of the project and a connection between generations

Once in the Normandy American Cemetery, the students will each be guided to the gravesites of their fallen soldiers where each student will deliver an original eulogy to the soldiers they have spent months researching. This eulogy will focus on the life, service and ultimate sacrifice of each soldier while connecting the two generations.

The trip concludes in Paris with a more relaxing tone that allows the students to experience the City of Light for two days and three nights. With its unsurpassed culture, art and history, Paris is a must-see destination for this program. Paris is saved for the end to provide a lasting reference point as to what was preserved on the Normandy battlefields. With tours of the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower, the students will gain a deep appreciation for the treasures of European culture that were saved from Nazi destruction.

Normandy Academy offers a preview of the type of research required at colleges and universities through an exhilarating foreign travel program. Participation in the Normandy Academy will make an excellent contribution to college applications and resumes. A full detailed itinerary and booking information can be found online. Booking information is also available by calling 504-528-1944 x 343.

dividing bar
dividing bar

Student Scholars Honor Local Contributions to WWII

dividing bar

As part of the Grand Opening of the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, 51 middle and high school students, representing every state and the District of Columbia will attend the Dedication Ceremony as official representatives of their home states. The students were chosen from among each state’s qualifiers to the 2012 National History Day Contest. As part of their honor, each student chose a local topic to research that tells the story of one aspect of World War II in his/her state.

The result is A Salute to Freedom, a collection of 51 illustrated stories of home front service, individual effort and overcoming the odds. To build this site, the students began last summer by selecting an aspect of WWII in their state that appealed to them. While in consultation with Museum staff, the students refined their topics and contacted organizations in their states that could assist.

Alyssa Kozma of Minot, North Dakota did not have to look far. In her hometown, she contacted Minot State University, formerly known as Minot State Teachers College which served as a US Navy training ground from 1942-1945. Specializing in the Navy’s V-5 Pilot Training Program and the V-12 Training Program, Minot State Teacher’s College made a substantial contribution to a highly skilled military. Alyssa spoke with representatives from Minot State University and gained access to rarely-seen images from the university collection. The photos help illuminate a proud part of North Dakota history.

From the New Jersey submission--Baseball, America's favorite pastime during the height of the War, offered soldiers an opportunity to relax, participate in friendly competition, and enhance comradery. Here, a naval FASRON (Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron) team poses for a photo while stationed in Guam. Richard C. Burns pictured second row; far left.

Payton Kelly-McNally of Pittstown New Jersey decided to look more deeply at his own family’s contribution to World War II. Payton’s great grandfather, Richard Burns served as a naval waist gunner in the Pacific. Flying combat patrols, Mr. Burns was able to experience China, Japan, Korea and Guam during his time in service. Payton was fortunate to spend quality time with his great grandfather and to hear details of the war. Payton credits his “great grampy Burns” for inspiring a deep interest in history.

Two students chose to look at what the war did for the future of their states. Yelim Youm of Columbus, Georgia and Roy McKenzie of Prairie Grove, Arkansas became keenly aware of how the war transformed their rural states and gave minorities a chance to prove their capabilities. Yelim made great use of the Georgia State Archives in crafting a photo essay that shows women and African Americans in the defense industries and training for combat. Roy’s contribution takes a long-term look at several aspect of life in Arkansas before, during and after the War. In particular, Roy found that Arkansas’s tradition of “womanless weddings” had a role to play in keeping morale up by entertaining the troops.

There are 47 more stories available on A Salute to Freedom. Stories of air fields, decorated war heroes, manufacturing centers and transportation hubs all help bring to life the contributions of all Americans to the war that changed the world.

This post by Louisiana History Day Coordinator Nathan Huegen

dividing bar
dividing bar

National History Day Announces 2013 Theme: Turning Points in History

dividing bar

Over the next few weeks, more than 500,000 students throughout the nation will be looking through their history texts and other sources uncovering turning points in history to prepare for National History Day. This intensive research program and contest promotes the study of history by asking students to research history as professionals. Students review the annual theme, select a topic for research, and delve into research using primary and secondary sources. By Spring, students will have created exhibits, documentaries, live performances, web sites, and research papers for competition.

As the sponsor for all Louisiana participants and a source for students nationwide working on World War II projects, the Museum puts out a list of sample topics that lend themselves to study by student researchers. Some of the topics are obvious. The Battle of Midway is referred to in the Museum as “the turning point of the War in the Pacific.” D-Day is an obvious turning point in the European Theater, while the Battle of Stalingrad is used to mark the turning point on the Eastern Front.

These battles have all been written about extensively, and reading the many scholarly works available are of great benefit to students. Over the years, many students have chosen to highlight lesser-known topics or narrow their focus to individual actions that played major roles in larger events. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.’s landing on the wrong sector of Utah Beach exclaiming, “We’ll start the war from here.” is one example of individual initiative in the context of a larger event.

Lesser-known World War II topics have the potential for students to discover material that is not in their textbook or well-known by the teacher. This allows the student to become the expert while discussing it with classmates, teachers, and judges. The development and mass production of synthetic rubber during the War is one example of a student being able to research a topic that would otherwise not be covered in class.

If you were a student today, what other topics in World War II history and history in general do you think lend themselves to the theme, Turning Points in History?

Find out more about National History Day and The National WWII Museum and sign up for our monthly Calling All Teachers eNewsletter

This post by Louisiana History Day Coordinator Nathan Huegen

dividing bar
dividing bar

Sixteen Fallen WWII Soldiers Honored by High School Students

dividing bar

Normandy Scholars raise the Flag at the Normandy American Cemetery

“We stand here among our fallen heroes: men who died in a strange land so we could continue to live how we want to live. They were young: students, farmers, electricians, neighbors, brothers, sons. They were soldiers, but they became something more. They became our heroes, our martyrs…martyrs of the greater good.”

These were the words of Ethan Webster, a high school student from Dallas, Texas, on the morning of June 26, 2012 as he honored Staff Sergeant John B. Guerrero of the 313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Division. Ethan’s original eulogy was read at the grave site of Sgt Guerrero in the Normandy American Cemetery as one of 16 eulogies delivered by the National History Day Normandy Scholars. Each of these scholars spent months researching World War II, and this experience in Normandy was their way of personally honoring one man who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Each scholar chose a soldier to be honored from his or her state. Some of the men were privates who stormed the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944. Others arrived in the days and weeks after and gave their lives fighting in the bocage or in towns like Cherbourg or Sainte Mere Eglise. One was a sailor who died when the USS Osprey hit a mine while clearing a path for the ships that were to bring the men ashore on June 6.

Jenna Stone places American and French flags at the resting place of Horace Bennino

Of the fifteen Normandy Scholars who conducted this extensive research, nine of them made contact with a living relative of their soldier. Jenna Stone of Enfield, Connecticut honored brothers Horace and Frank Bennino, who were killed in Normandy six weeks apart. Jenna found that Frank was killed six weeks after Horace and died without knowing the fate of his younger brother. Jenna met with surviving members of the Bennino family and chose to honor both men on Tuesday morning. She delivered two powerful eulogies that noted not only the slight differences between the brothers, but their common sense of the greater good.

Samantha Fletcher of Toledo, Ohio honored a sailor, Motor Machinist’s Mate Joseph Vanasky, Jr. Vanasky was killed aboard the USS Osprey, and his body was never recovered. At Vanasky’s place on the Wall of the Missing, Samantha delivered a tearful eulogy. “In his high school yearbook,” Samantha began, “Joseph Vanasky was described as three things: quiet, supportive, and curious…His niece Liz described him as softspoken, a little shy even.” She concluded, “family members keep his name alive with them and in their hearts and remembrance not just of what a great sailor he was, what a great man, too. Not only with they remember him…but I will too.”

A wreath laid by the Normandy Scholars at the Normandy American Cemetery which reads, "In Remembrance National History Day"

Michael Shimek of Crawford, Nebraska honored not just the military sacrifice of his soldier, but an additional inspirational part of his soldier’s life as well. In his twenties, 2nd Lieutenant Dean A Woods fell in love with a woman of Japanese descent. Lt. Woods could not marry his love in Nebraska because of laws banning interracial marriage. Therefore, Lt. Woods and Thelma Kohiro were wed in Iowa during the spring of 1944 before he redeployed to Europe. The newlyweds were able to spend only two weeks together before Lt. Woods had to leave the country. While leading a small reconnaissance patrol, Lt. Woods was wounded and ultimately killed by a landmine. According to Michael, “Dean Woods was not willing to allow the law be the boundary of his love for Thelma. He is a fine example of rebellion that today we can look upon as heroic in the face of injustice.”

These are but a few of the stories that were delivered on Tuesday morning. Overall, sixteen eulogies were shared, countless tears were shed, and the meanings of sacrifice and freedom sunk in. Jason Lewis of Salem, Indiana summed it up for everyone in attendance while honoring Major Courtney B. Neilson. “Courtney and all the men and women buried around him are true American heroes. And for the sacrifices that these men and women made, I thank them.”

This post by Louisiana History Day Coordinator Nathan Huegen


dividing bar
dividing bar

Normandy Scholars Visit D-Day Sites

dividing bar

“I feel that medics are truly heroes,” said Joseph Landoni of Sequim, Washington as he delivered a briefing on medics at The Museum of the Atlantic Wall – The Grand Bunker on Saturday. As he spoke to the mixed group of his peers, teachers and National History Day staff, a German bunker overlooking Sword Beach loomed behind him. Joseph has chosen to honor Terrence D. Cosgriff of Washington, who served as a medic in the 119th Anti-Aircraft Battalion

Joseph’s briefing was one of the first given by the Normandy Scholars on their trip to France. On Friday, June 22, the fifteen Normandy Scholars and their teachers landed in Paris. After a three-hour bus ride, they were in Normandy to investigate the campaigns in which their chosen soldiers took part.

A former German bunker that overlooks Joseph’s briefing

Joseph Landoni delivers a briefing on medics from a landing craft

Their first stop was Pegasus Bridge, the sight of the first Allied victory on D-Day. The students took note of the precision displayed by the glider pilots of the British 6th Airborne Division as three gliders landed within 100 meters of the bridge, a critical objective. The group then toured the Memorial Pegasus and walked across the Pegasus Bridge that spanned the Caen Canal in 1944. This bridge is now behind the Memorial as it was replaced by a nearly identical bridge in 1994. (more…)

dividing bar
dividing bar

Normandy Scholars Study Wartime Yearbooks, Develop Closer Connection with WWII Generation

dividing bar

“Something that was very different was that they had typewriter classes” said Richard Otis of Bradford, Vermont after examining the 1944 yearbook from Carl Schurz High School in Chicago, Illlinois. The afternoon session for Wednesday, June 20 allowed the Normandy Scholars to study wartime high school yearbooks to help give the students a sense of the Home Front. Richard joked that the typewriter classes belonged in the Stone Age, but he also noted the overt patriotism throughout the book. The first page was dedicated to all the graduates of Schurz High School who served.

Patriotism was a hallmark of all the yearbooks. Lacy Myrman of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota observed that every page of the 1945 Kankakee High School (Illinois) yearbook had a quote from a military or political leader such as Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Chester Nimitz. Every yearbook had a section honoring alumni who had served or were serving. Timelines of World War II events appeared several of the yearbooks.

Other students noticed societal differences in the nearly 70-year-old yearbooks. Tiffany Shumack of San Diego noticed the segregation within a school in Topeka, Kansas. Both white and black students attended the school, but many of the clubs and the school’s prom were segregated. Schools in urban areas such as Milwaukee, Chicago, and Oklahoma City showed almost no diversity among the student body, a very different setting from the schools that the Normandy Scholars attend today.

Taylor Bromlow of Canton, Oklahoma studies a WWII-era yearbook

Richard Otis of Bradford, Vermont takes notes on his group's yearbook

During the morning sessions, the students continued to experience lectures from renowned scholars. Up first was Dr. Sarandis “Randy” Papadopoulos, Secretariat Historian at the Department of the Navy. His lecture, Planning and Preparing for Operations Neptune and Overlord detailed the immense planning that went into these operations. The students were in awe at the sheer numbers of men, vehicles, and supplies that had to be put ashore in 24 hours.

Next up was Dr. Ray Batvinis of George Washington University with a very popular lecture called The Secret War: Intelligence and Deception in the Normandy Campaign. Dr. Batvinis served as an FBI agent and teaches classes on the history of the FBI. His knowledge of intelligence operations gave his lecture an extra layer of credibility. The students listened intently to the story of Juan Pujol Garcia, codenamed GARBO by the British. Garcia created a false identity and gained the trust of Hitler while convincing the Germans that the Allied invasion would come at Calais, where the English Channel was narrowest. Garcia was so trusted by the Germans that he received an Iron Cross for his work along with honors he received from Great Britain

 On Thursday, the fifteen Normandy Scholars and their teachers will board a plane for Paris, France where a bus to the town of Bayeux will be waiting. On Saturday morning, the group will visit Pegasus Bridge and the Museum of the Atlantic Wall.

This post by Louisiana History Day Coordinator Nathan Huegen

Related Posts – WWII Yearbooks

dividing bar
dividing bar

Normandy Scholars at the National Archives

dividing bar

Tuesday was the most intensive day so far for the 2012 National History Day Normandy Scholars. The National Archives held a research day for the group of fifteen students and their teachers. The students viewed documents related to the individual soldiers they have chosen to honor in the Normandy American Cemetery.

The National Archives pulled documents related to the initial waves of the invasion, the efforts to build supply networks throughout Normandy, the push to secure Cherbourg, and the break out. Students viewed military maps, textual documents, and photographs to gain insight into the training, planning, and conduct of the Battle of Normandy.

Two students found their soldiers’ names listed in the records of a temporary cemetery in Ste Mere Eglise. Ruben Tellez, being honored by Tiffany Shumack of San Diego, and John P. Ray, being honored by Kalie Indest of New Orleans, were temporarily interned at this cemetery before being transferred to the Normandy American Cemetery. The discovery of these names helped bring a closer bond between the soldier and the student.

Samantha Fletcher from Toledo, Ohio chose to honor a sailor. She will eulogize Joseph Vanasky, Jr. a motor machinist’s mate on the USS Osprey who was killed in action on June 5, 1944. At the Archives, Samantha found the deck logs from the ship and noticed the value of studying an original document.


Samantha discusses her experience in the video below:

The Normandy Scholars will return to George Washington University on Wednesday morning for presentations by scholars and a session on high school yearbooks during World War II.

This post by Louisiana History Day Coordinator Nathan Huegen.


dividing bar
dividing bar

Normandy Institute Day 2

dividing bar

Day two of Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom began with a lecture called Problems in Expansion: The US Army in WWII by Major John “Casey” Doss of the United States Army. Major Doss traced the career arcs of three of the most storied army generals of World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton, and Douglas MacArthur. He also made the distinction between the viewpoints of Army leadership and the men on the ground. In particular, he focused on the differing views of the American soldier held by Patton and Bill Mauldin, creator of the comic characters Willie and Joe who appeared in Stars and Stripes. Patton believed that men were eager to fight and to feel the thrill of victory, while Mauldin once stated that the “quickest way to become a pacifist is to join the infantry.

Major Doss explains a Bill Mauldin cartoon

Professor Klemek discusses popular culture during WWII

Following Major Doss’ lecture, Professor Christopher Klemek of George Washington University traced the developments of the Home Front from the onset of the Great Depression to the end of World War II. He finished his presentation with a discussion of the issues surrounding integration in the workforce at the end of the war, and the Philadelphia Transit Strike of 1944, when white workers staged a sick-out to protest the hiring of black workers as conductors.

Ms. Melanie Boulet and Kalie Indest of New Orleans enter the WWII gallery at NMAH

Joseph Landoni of Sequim, WA tries his hand at the riveting gun at NMAH

After lunch, the students and teachers boarded a bus for the National Museum of American History. Here they viewed the exhibit “The Price of Freedom,” which details the major military conflicts in American history. In the World War II gallery, the students took turns testing their skill with a riveting gun and viewed a comprehensive overview of World War II.

In the evening, the Normandy scholars visited the residence of the French Ambassador, François Delattre and were treated to a tour of the home and grounds. The Ambassador’s wife, Sophie L’Hélias-Delattre accepted gifts from each of the fifteen student/teacher teams and spoke about the historical connections between the United States and France.

Normandy Scholars enter the residence of the French ambassador

Tuesday is an important day for all fifteen of the students. They have each selected one soldier from their state to honor in Normandy, and the National Archives has arranged for the students to research its holdings. Students will be immersed in the documents related the the units involved in the Battle of Normandy and will be hoping to gain more insight into their soldiers’ missions during the invasion.

This post by Louisiana History Day Coordinator Nathan Huegen


dividing bar
dividing bar

National History Day Normandy Institute Underway

dividing bar

Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom, The Albert H. Small Student/Teacher Institute is now underway. Fifteen teachers and fifteen students from across the country were selected in January to participate in this rigorous institute. After months of in-depth reading, all thirty participants have arrived on the campus of George Washington University to hear detailed lectures, tour monuments honoring the military, and research at the National Archives. On Thursday, June 21 they will all board a plane to Normandy to walk the beaches and visit the sites of some of the most famous battles.

 Each student has selected a fallen soldier who lived in his or her state and is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery. The students are preparing eulogies to be read at the grave site of each soldier. In addition, the students will create a web site honoring their chosen soldier at the conclusion of the institute.

On the first night, all thirty participants were treated to a reception at the City View Room on the 7th floor of the Elliot School of International Affairs on the campus of George Washington University. The students showed their appreciation to Albert H. Small for his support of the Institute, and hear from Mortimer Caplin, who served as a beachmaster on D-Day +1. Mr. Caplin told of landing on Omaha Beach on the morning of June 7 and being tasked with directing the removal of debris, wrecked vehicles, and bodies from the area. He received a standing ovation after he finished, and was thanked many times for his service.

Sunday marked the beginning of the lectures and activities. Up first was US Marine Corps Major Richard Wilkerson with a presentation called World War II: The Big Picture. Following his lecture, all participants boarded a bus to tour the National Mall including the Lincoln Memorial, the DC War Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial.

The National WWII Museum is proud to work as a partner with National History Day. Nathan Huegen, the Museum’s History Day Coordinator has mentored five of the student/teacher groups over the past few months and will be assisting with their research during the next two weeks. More updates on this unique program will appear over the next two weeks.

dividing bar

dividing bar

National History Day Showcase at the National Museum of American History

dividing bar

On June 13, 2012, students from 47 states and affiliates brought their National History Day exhibits to the National Museum of American History for the National History Day Showcase. Visitors to the Museum were treated to a range of projects that went from the Roman Republic to the Space Race. Students were present to answer questions about their projects and emphasize the guidance they received from the National History Day program.

For Arizona student Jenna Gilbertson, the day was made even more special when she got to talk with Kim Guise, a curator at The National WWII Museum. Jenna’s exhibit focused on the women of the French Resistance, and she was able to receive advice from someone who regularly curates exhibits on women in war.


Museum curator Kim Guise talks with Jenna Gilbertson


Louisiana’s Mollye Shacklette received a visit from Kenneth E. Behring, a philanthropist who has provided the largest single donation to the National Museum of American History. Mr. Behring had some kind words of encouragement for Mollye, and paused for several photos. Mollye was also visited by a reporter gathering information for a story for the Shreveport Times.


Mr. Kenneth Behring offers encouragement to Molly Shacklette

Mr. Kenneth Behring poses with Mollye Shacklette


Some of the top World War II projects were on display, and visitors learned of the long term implications of the female workforce during WWII. Two outstanding Tuskegee Airmen projects shed light on these groundbreaking pilots. Another exhibit highlighted the intricacies of the German blitzkrieg.


At the end of the day, National History Day students and families arrived at the Museum for a special reception and extended hours. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Quartet entertained the crowd on the first floor while living history characters told their stories while posing for pictures.

dividing bar
dividing bar