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Bataan Death March Survivor Lester Tenney Dies at Age 96

Lester Tenney during World War II.

Lester Tenney during World War II.

Lester Tenney, a survivor of the Bataan Death March whose harrowing oral-history account of his ordeal as a WWII prisoner of war is an unforgettable component of The National WWII Museum’s Digital Collections, died Friday, February 24, in Carlsbad, California. He was 96.

Tenney’s postwar life was dedicated to education—both as a university business professor and as a staunch advocate for his fellow POWs in the quest for official acknowledgment by Japan of the wartime atrocities they endured. He was a regular speaker at the Museum, most recently capping the 2016 International Conference on World War II with a stirring presentation titled “The Courage to Remember: PTSD—From Trauma to Triumph.”

“He gave the speech of his life,” said Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, the Museum’s president and CEO, in a message to his staff following news of Tenney’s death. “Lester’s DNA resides in this Museum.”

Tenney was tank commander with the 192nd Tank Battalion when he, along with 9,000 American and 60,000 Filipino troops, surrendered to the Japanese at the Battle of Bataan in April 1942. The ensuing Bataan Death March killed thousands during a 90-mile forced march to POW Camp O’Donnell.

“Number one, we had no food or water,” said Tenney in his Museum oral history. “Number two, you just kept walking the best way you could. It wasn’t a march. It was a trudge. . . . Most of the men were sick, they had dysentery, they had malaria, they had a gunshot wound.”

Their Japanese captors showed no mercy for the ill or wounded, Tenney said. “A man would fall down and they would holler at him to get up,” he added. “I saw a case where they didn’t even holler at him. The man fell down, the Japanese took a bayonet and put it in him. I mean, two seconds.”

Tenney’s march lasted 10 days. Conditions at Camp O’Donnell killed thousands more prisoners. Tenney survived that camp and others, passage to Japan in a “hell ship,” torture, and three years of forced labor in a coal mine before he was liberated at the end of the war. His WWII experiences, which he documented in a memoir titled My Hitch in Hell, haunted him all of his life.

“I feel guilty many times, even today,” Tenney said in his oral history. “I feel guilty that I’m back. I feel guilty that I’m living such a wonderful life. I feel guilty that a lot of my friends didn’t come back. Nothing I can do about it, but I can feel guilty because I feel that they were better than I was. I’m sure that my buddies who came back all feel the same.”

After the publication of his memoir in 1995, Tenney “shifted into a role as a prominent thorn-in-the-side of Japanese authorities unwilling or unable to acknowledge what had happened during the war,” said his obituary in The San Diego Union-Tribune. “Stories he shared with reporters, civic leaders, schoolchildren in the United States and Japan,” along with his published memoir, “eventually wrung apologies from government leaders and from one of the corporate giants that benefited from POW slavery.”

Tenney is survived by his wife of nearly 57 years, Betty, a son, two stepsons, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and fellow WWII veterans. Our gratitude for Lester Tenney’s service and sacrifice—and for his decades of dedication to ensuring that his wartime experiences and those of his fellow POWs would not be forgotten—lives on.

Lester Tenney's oral history is part of The National WWII Museum's Digital Collections.

Lester Tenney’s oral history is part of The National WWII Museum’s Digital Collections.

February Classroom of the Month— Get in the Scrap!

Each month the Museum will feature a standout classroom participating in Get in the Scrap! Get in the Scrap! is a national service learning project about recycling and energy conservation, inspired by the scrapping efforts of students during World War II.  Each featured class does stellar work to make a difference in their school, home, community and even the planet!

For February, we’re featuring students at American Corner Karaganda group who are using Get in the Scrap! to help learn English in Kazakhstan.  The students and their teacher, Taryn U’Halie, sat down to answer a few questions for us about their work with Get in the Scrap!

The American Corner Karaganda group with their 25 point prize — a Get in the Scrap! refrigerator magnet. Students also proudly display their Quote Promise Pix.

The American Corner Karaganda group with their 25 point prize — a Get in the Scrap! refrigerator magnet. Students also proudly display their Quote Promise Pix.

Team Name: KZ Junior Army

Number of Get in the Scrap! points thus far: 27

How has Get in the Scrap! been a good fit for your curriculum? Please explain: 

“The GITS service-learning project has been a strong edition to the free English courses that are provided at the Karaganda library that house the American Corner sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Astana. I’ve used the lessons to improve intermediate to advanced English language learners in the community, but it has also expanded their learning on U.S. American History during WWII. It has spread an awareness of recycling and energy conservation as it pertains to the U.S. and Kazakhstan.  Mainly, it has connected the class participants with a love for learning science and how ecology is a global concern for humans worldwide.”

The students’ general consensus is Get in the Scrap! helps develops their English language skills. The students feel, “Get in the Scrap helps to know interesting topics and to improve communicating skills by discussing it” and “The program has helped me practice my speaking english by interacting with the teacher and other students.”

What has been your favorite activity? Why?

Quote Promise Pix, where students each make an individual promise to conserve energy or recycle. Some remarks from students:

“My favorite activity is making a promise because it helps up to set up goals.”

“Most of all I liked giving a promise.  I felt like I was able to contribute to saving of energy.”

“Giving a promise is my favorite activity because with #getinthescrap (hashtag) we can share with people around the world and it gives us that we are not alone.”

“I have enjoyed “to pledge” activity because I’ve been able to enrich my vocabulary and shared my ideas with my classmates.”

This is just one of the many amazing classrooms participating in the Get in the Scrap! national service learning project. You can learn more and sign up your classroom today at getinthescrap.org!

Post by Savannah Bamburg, Education Intern @ The National WWII Museum

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SciTech Tuesday: Radar Research Led to Astronomical Discoveries

JS Hey died on 27 February of 2000, at the age of 81.

Born in Lancashire, England, he was the third son of a cotton manufacturer. He entered University of Manchester and got his degree in physics in 1930, and a masters in x-ray crystallography in 1931.

Hey taught physics at schools in Northern England until 1942, when he joined the Army Operational Research Group. We was assigned to work on radar jamming. At that point the Allies were using a form of radar with relatively long waves. Axis forces could not only detect this radar, but jam it. Using radar jamming two German warships had recently escaped through the English Channel. At the same time the Allies were losing an unsustainable tonnage of cargo to U-Boats in the Atlantic.

75 years ago this month Hey was monitoring radar jamming when he noticed a great deal of noise in the 4-8 m jamming Allied radar sets. Following the source, he noticed that it moved slowly, tracking the sun. Looking up meteorological data, he discovered that the Sun had a very active solar spot that day. Solar spots had been hypothesized to produce streams of ions and magnetic fields. Hey interpreted the phenomenon of the radar jamming as support of this hypothesis.

Development of radar using much shorter waves generated by the cavity magnetron allowed the Allies to avoid jamming by the Axis powers. Using this microwave radar Hey was tracking V2 rockets heading towards London in 1945 when he noticed transient radar echoes at about 60 miles of altitude. The echoes arrived at a rate of 5-10 per hour and persisted after the V2s were gone. It turned out the echoes were the vapor trails of meteors, and Hey showed that meteors could be tracked this way in the day when they were not visible to the eye.

JS Hey was not able to publish his results until after the war, for security reasons. Shortly after the war he was appointed to head the Army Operational Research Group, and he worked at the Royal Radar Establishment, where he continued his work in radio astronomy.

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

The National WWII Museum Social Media Guidelines

State of Deception

State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda

Dear Friends,

News of the opening of “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda,” a powerful exhibition created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, has already generated some passionate conversation on social media.

We’re honored to be hosting this thought-provoking exhibition, which was created in 2009 by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and has been displayed in other great institutions around the country, including the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and, most recently, the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas. State of Deception is a historical study of propaganda, and poses questions about the power of communication and the importance of mindful media consumption. Some have asked if the Museum timed the exhibit to coincide with the current political climate. We did not. In fact, the exhibition has been scheduled since January 2015, and was created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum before that—in 2009. However, we know that the tone of the recent election and other current events have heightened sensitivity to this subject matter.

Please note that the exhibit itself (which predates the recent election by seven years) does not have any political agenda. Nor does the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum or The National WWII Museum. Rather, the exhibition’s goal is to raise questions about the power of propaganda and to encourage people to think critically about the messages they receive. It’s exciting to see that the exhibit is already striking a chord with so many.

We encourage you to visit the exhibition while it’s in residence at the Museum (through June 18) or experience it virtually via the links presented below to form your own opinions. On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we’ll share the latest news about the exhibit and surrounding programs, and we hope you’ll Like and Follow us to hear the latest. These channels are also a wonderful forum for discussion and we welcome your engagement! However, in order to ensure that the conversation remains welcoming to all who view our posts—including people of every political stripe as well as school groups, veterans and their families, Museum visitors, and more—we ask that all commenters on these channels remain mindful of the educational intent of these posts, and respectful of the community receiving them.

To that end, please pause before posting to consider the following social media guidelines, modeled on the guidelines used by our friends at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to encourage an engaging, inclusive dialog.

Social media guidelines:

The goal of our social media platforms is to share news of The National WWII Museum and World War II, and secondarily offer a forum for conversation and feedback about our posts. We reserve the right to remove posts and comments that violate these guidelines:

— Comments should be relevant to the post’s topic.

— Courtesy is essential. Comments with vulgarity, threats, or abuse aimed at others are not acceptable.

— Comments are an appropriate place to question or disagree with ideas and opinions, but not make attacks against groups or individuals.

— Comments that share misleading or historically inaccurate information will be deleted.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of the above guidelines, and thank you for your continuing support of The National WWII Museum.

Our social media channels:

Facebook: Facebook.com/WWIIMuseum

Twitter: @WWIIMuseum

Instagram: wwiimuseum

State of Deception links:

Find a listing of all of the public programming scheduled for the exhibition here.

Find the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s main site for the exhibition here.

Find the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s accompanying educational site here.

Watch a live walk-through of State of Deception with United States Holocaust Memorial Museum educator Sonia Booth here.

Stream the January 26 opening reception for the exhibition here.

Watch a Lunchbox Lecture by Assistant Director of Education Gemma Birnbaum about propaganda specifically aimed at the youth of Nazi Germany here.




More than prepared: Girl Scouts during WWII

Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

The Girl Scout way and motto is described simply as “Be Prepared”. However, a more in depth description that was formed in 1947, according to the Girl Scout website, would be as follows:

“A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency”.

Perhaps that explanation and the year in which it was stated can be attributed to how the Girl Scouts along with the rest of America had just endured World War II and the attitude on the Home Front that was necessary. During the war years, every one’s help was needed and the Girl Scouts took their motto to heart by demonstrating the very Home Front spirit we like to highlight with this blog.

Girl Scouts were involved in helping the war effort in a variety of ways. They helped sell war bonds, tend victory gardens, and scrapped metals and fat to be reused. Girl Scouts also formed “Defense Institutes” for teaching women necessary skills and ways to comfort children during possible air raids. Troupes even made calendars instead of the Girl Scout cookies we all know and love today, so they could help with food rationing.

Girl Scout Calendar from 1945. Photo courtesy of the National WWII Museum collection.

Girl Scout Calendar from 1945. Photo courtesy of the National WWII Museum collection.


Inside of a Girl Scout Calendar. Photo courtesy of the National WWII Museum.

Inside of a Girl Scout Calendar. Photo courtesy of the National WWII Museum.

Their uniform even changed its look from a dress with a zipper to one with buttons because of metal shortages.

Intermediate Girl Scout Uniform style from 1938-1948. Photo courtesy of the National WWII Museum collection.

Intermediate Girl Scout Uniform style from 1938-1948. Photo courtesy of the National WWII Museum collection.

Girl Scout ads and catalog covers also had patriotic themes to them to support the war cause.

Equipment catalog cover from Spring 1942. Photo courtesy of Vintage Girl Scout website.

Equipment catalog cover from Spring 1942. Photo courtesy of Vintage Girl Scout website.


Equipment catalog cover from Fall 1943. Photo courtesy of Vintage Girl Scout website.













Newspaper ad. Image courtesy of Vintage Girl Scout website.

The Girl Scouts kept the Home Front positive attitude alive during the war with all of these deeds and patriotism. Just as they are still keeping the same creed and way of helping people to this day. The museum celebrated National Girl Scout Day at the museum last March, where they made rag dolls with the troupes of scouts who visited the museum.

Girl Scout Day at the NWWII Museum. Photo courtesy of Lauren Handley.

Girl Scout Day at the NWWII Museum. Photo courtesy of Lauren Handley.

Girl Scout Day at the NWWII Museum. Photo courtesy of Lauren Handley.

Girl Scout Day at the NWWII Museum. Photo courtesy of Lauren Handley.

The rag doll activity incorporates some of the same ideas Girl Scouts and Americans had on the Home Front during the war by taking commonly found materials like cotton balls and scraps of fabric along with string or ribbon you have lying around and reusing them to make a doll. If you’d like to join in the fun and make a doll of your own, just follow the steps below! You can even help someone much like those Girl Scouts during the war years did by giving the doll to someone of your choosing and brightening their day. The Girl Scout slogan after all is, “Do a good turn daily” .

Rag Doll Instructions


  • Various lengths of fabric (pillow ticking, camouflage, leaves, red, yellow, black, blue)
    • 9×9 inch square of material for head and body
    • 13×9 inch rectangle of material for arms
    • 9×5 inch square of material for dress/clothing
    • 6 inch length of ribbon to secure dress/clothing
  • Dowels (small)
  • Scissors (dull, safety)
  • Twine (or thread)
  • Ribbon (various colors)
  • Cotton balls or tissue

Step 1:  Place the 9×9 inch square of material facing pattern downwards.  Place the TWO cotton balls into the middle of the 9×9 inch piece of material.

Step 2: Wrap the material around the cotton balls to create the doll’s head and body.

Step 3: To create the effect of a neck, twist the material beneath the doll’s head and tie a knot to hold it in place with the twine or string.  Leave the ends of the string long and loose as they will be used to attach the arms.

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3

Step 3


Step 4: Place the 13×9 inch rectangle of material facing pattern downwards.

Step 5: Use the small dowel to roll up the material – long-ways – like a carpet.

Step 6: After your material is rolled, remove the dowel.  This will be your two arms.  Tie a knot near each end to create hands.

Step 4

Step 4

Step 5

Step 5

Step 6

Step 6

Step 7: Center and place the arms against the knot on the doll’s neck.  Use the two long, loose ends of twine to secure the arms in place by crossing them over the arms and across the doll’s chest like a bandolier before tying them into a knot behind the doll’s back.

Step 8: Fold the selected 9×5 piece of material in half and snip a small triangle-shape into the middle of the seam to create a hole for the doll’s head.

Step 9: Unfold the material and slip over the doll’s head.

Step 10: Secure the dress/clothing in place by tying a knot around the doll’s waist using one of the lengths of ribbon.

Step 7

Step 7

Step 8

Step 8

Step 9

Step 9

Step 10

Step 10

Now you’re all done with making your rag doll! Enjoy!

Posted by Savannah Bamburg, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum.

Help Judge National History Day

National History Day JudgingThe National WWII Museum is looking for teachers and professors, historians, undergraduates and graduate students, museum professionals or anyone with a love of history and community to help judge this year’s National History Day contests!

National History Day is a year-long historical research contest for middle and high school students. Each year, students from across Louisiana create documentaries, research papers, performances, websites or exhibits based upon the annual contest theme. A major benefit to students participating in National History Day besides the fun and excitement of creating an original work is the outside review of that work by volunteer judges, who donate their time to review students’ projects, make suggestions for improvement and determine the entries that will advance to the next round of competition.

Judging is an integral part of the National History Day process. The feedback that students receive is critical to their growth as young researchers. Most of the students will not pursue history as their college major or career choice, however, the skills that the students hone in creating their National History Day projects will apply to any college or career path that they choose. The National WWII Museum is always looking for volunteers who possess both foundational knowledge of history and great communication skills to serve as judges. No prior experience is necessary besides an enthusiasm and interest in encouraging middle and high school students in their research and work!

Judges are needed for Regional Contests in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Shreveport and Monroe as well as the State Contest in New Orleans which determines which students go on to represent Louisiana at the national competition in Washington D.C.. The dates for all Regional as well as the State Contest can be found below along with the sign-up form to serve as a National History Day judge.

2017 Louisiana History Day Contest Dates:

Baton Rouge: March 25, 2017

Lafayette: March 11, 2017

Monroe: March 11, 2017

New Orleans: March 25, 2017

Shreveport: March 11, 2017

Louisiana State History Day: April 8, 2017

The National History Day program is exciting and fun, however, the benefits for participation for students working with primary sources and performing original research are very real and can earn them rewards both inside and outside the classroom such as scholarship moneys, special prizes and even paid educational travel.  That said, none of this would be possible without the generous help and support of our volunteer contest judges.

Sign up now to judge National History Day!

Find out more about Louisiana’s National History Day program.


For other questions on how to get involved with National History Day, contact the Museum’s Student Program’ Coordinator, Collin Makamson @ 504-528-1944 ext. 304 or historyday@nationalww2museum.org.

SciTech Tuesday: The 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Los Angeles

The night of February 24, 1942, and the hours before dawn of the 25th, the sky over Los Angeles was lit by search lights, the city was under a blackout, and more than 1.400 shells were shot from .50 caliber guns into the air. When the all-clear was sounded at 7:21 AM on the 25th, the only casualties were buildings and cars hit by shell fragments, and 3 civilians killed in car accidents.

The immediate cause of the false alarm was a rogue weather balloon. When spotted from the ground by nervous watchers, lit from underneath by search lights, it was identified as an enemy aircraft.

The real cause was nervousness and a heightened watchfulness that resulted from events on the previous day, a short ways up the California coast.

On the evening of February 23, President Roosevelt delivered a fireside chat radio broadcast. Less than three months since the attack on Pearl Harbor, the nation was anxious, and in the midst of preparations for war. In the speech, Roosevelt said “…the broad oceans which have been heralded in the past as our protection from attack have become endless battlefields on which we are constantly being challenged by our enemies.’’ In the weeks since Pearl Harbor the United States had heard more bad news of advancing Japanese forces across the Pacific Ocean and Asia, and U-boat attacks from the German Navy in the Atlantic.

Perhaps as a means to undermine Roosevelt’s confident speech, a Japanese submarine patrolling the West Coast surfaced offshore north of Santa Barbara, and launched 13 shells towards oil wells and equipment in Ellwood, CA. It completely missed the gasoline plant there, caused minor damage to the piers and wells, and stayed 2,500 yards offshore, but the submarine’s impact on popular anxiety was great. The night of the shelling the Army Air Force sent a handful of pursuit planes and bombers to find the submarine, but was loath to commit more forces.

Intelligence supplied by loyal Japanese Americans had suggested that there might be some action to disturb the President’s speech. It also suggested that Los Angeles might be attacked the next night. The state of readiness itself led to the false alarm.

Confused reports from the night of the event, secrecy after it, and anxiety led to many conspiracy theories. This might even be counted as one of the first major events in the history of UFO conspiracies. Radar sightings of the objects triggering the artillery fire suggested they were moving far too slowly to have been planes. The use of radar for these purposes was new, and inexperienced operators may have been part of the problem. Visual sighting under night conditions is unreliable. Without context objects like weather balloons in the sky, especially with uncertain lighting, are difficult to scale.

The event led to better coordination of civilian and military defenses on the West Coast, and to more surveillance of activities and objects around plants and other installations near the shore. It might also have contributed to popular sentiment in support of Japanese Internment. Roosevelt had authorized Executive Order 9066 just days before.

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

A Farewell and Final Thank You to Edward Tipper, ‘Easy Company’ D-Day Survivor and Museum Friend

Edward Tipper, 'Easy Company' D-Day survivor, and Museum friend.

Edward Tipper, ‘Easy Company’ D-Day survivor and Museum friend.

Edward Tipper, an American hero and extraordinary friend to The National WWII Museum, has died at age 95.

Tipper jumped into Normandy with “Easy Company” on D-Day—a mission immortalized in Museum founder Stephen E. Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers and in the later HBO miniseries of the same title—and volunteered his time on numerous occasions to share his WWII experiences and advocate for the significance of the Museum’s mission.

We grieve his loss and for his family, but celebrate his long, full life and courageous service to the forces of freedom. We are proud to count an oral history recorded by Tipper among the Museum’s collection of more than 9,000 first-person accounts of World War II.

“He was one of the great ones of Easy Company—tough, humble, generous, honest, never exaggerated his role in training or in combat,” said Museum founding president & CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD.

Tipper and Dr. Mueller appeared together at Museum events in California, New Orleans, and North Carolina, at which they discussed Tipper’s training with Easy Company in Georgia and England, his D-Day experience, and the harrowing days that followed. Tipper’s interviews were always unique and hugely popular with audiences.

Born in 1921 and raised in a working-class area of Detroit, Tipper first tried to enlist in the Marine Corps following the attack at Pearl Harbor. When he was refused induction due to an improper overbite, “I felt like punching someone,” he once told a reporter.

Instead, Tipper volunteered for the paratroopers and joined Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, at Camp Toccoa in Georgia.

When Tipper was asked in interviews if there was one good thing he could say about Captain Herbert Sobel, the controversial early commanding officer of Easy Company, Tipper credited the tyrannical officer’s physical training demands, saying they ultimately helped to save his life.

“All (Sobel) could do better than anyone in the company was run, and we hated Sobel so much, we kept on running just to spite him,” Tipper said. “When I was blown up by a shell, I know I would have died before I got to the medics on a ship if it hadn’t been for my physical condition and training.”

Tipper was wounded on June 12, 1944, when he and Easy Company were engaged with the enemy at the town of Carentan. As he finished clearing out a house, a mortar shell exploded near Tipper, destroying his right eye. He also suffered breaks in both legs. Fellow Easy Company members Joseph Liebgott and Harry Welsh were the first to reach Tipper and carried him to a nearby aid station. Tipper was sent to a hospital in England, and later to the United States, where he spent a year in army hospitals before returning to civilian life.

Tipper earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for service, among other honors. In 2011, he received the French Legion of Honor Medal, the highest honor awarded by the French government.

Bart Ruspoli, who portrayed Tipper in Band of Brothers, spoke with Tipper on the phone several times during production, and met him at the 2001 world premiere of the miniseries, staged in Normandy.

“One of the greatest professional honors a person in my line of work can have, whether it be in front of the camera or behind, is to tell the story of someone who made a difference,” said Ruspoli, now a writer, director, and producer for London-based Next Level Films. “Not to just their friends and family, but to everyone, everywhere. Something few people can truly say they have done. Ed Tipper and the men of Easy Company did, and they will not be forgotten.”

After the war, Tipper attended the University of Michigan and received a masters degree from the University of Northern Colorado. He was a high school teacher in Iowa and Colorado for nearly three decades, and received a John Hay Fellowship in 1960 to study English at the University of California, Berkeley. He also traveled widely with his family, which he started late in life. Tipper married for the first time at age 61, and is survived by his beloved wife, Rosie, and daughter, Kerry.

“We didn’t talk about the war,” wrote Kerry Tipper in a Facebook post about her last conversation with her father. “His greatest sense of pride and accomplishment came from being a loving son to his mother. It came from his near 30 years of teaching. From his years traveling the world. And finally from the 34 years he gave to his small but adoring family.

“My dad was generous in every sense of the word. He was open-minded and surprisingly progressive. Never took things at face value. Challenged every assumption, every foregone conclusion. This to me remains one of the most incredible things about him. He was defiant. He refused to accept limitations set by others. And that he did—he spent his life proving others wrong; defying all the odds.”

Edward Tipper and his wife, Rosie, attend the Road to Berlin grand opening in December 2014.

Edward Tipper and his wife, Rosie, attended the Road to Berlin grand opening in December 2014.


SciTech Tuesday: Radio and the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Today, TV screens are everywhere. There are several in most American homes, most restaurants and bars have them, they dominate the electronics sections of stores.

During WWII, radio filled that niche in electronics and mass communication. During national elections and other big events or disasters today, we gather around televisions to find out what is happening. During World War II, families gathered around radios. They had their days to hear their favorite programs, as I remember Sunday nights watching nature programs on TV with my family.

The technology underlying the radio and the television are basically the same. Manipulation of an electromagnetic field creates waves in a part of the electromagnetic spectrum at the transmitter. At some distance these waves are turned into an electrical current again by a receiver. In radios the receiver’s current makes a magnet attached to a paper or fabric cone move and generate sound waves. In the original televisions, the current was used in a cathode-ray tube (CRT) to make patterns on a phosphorescent screen. Today’s televisions put a current through a matrix of materials that responds to current by making different colors.

The original radio waves transmitted by Marconi in the 1890s could only travel a couple of miles. Since then, engineers have developed ways to make all sorts of different electromagnetic waves. These made radio better, but also made RADAR possible, and microwaves, and x-ray machines (the first x-rays were made with radioactive material but now they use electronically generated energy).

We are constantly in fields of anthropogenic electromagnetic waves. They come unintentionally from the electricity in the buildings we live in. The come intentionally from all sorts of devices. The many remote controls in a home, the cell phones, wireless phones, Wi-Fi routers, Bluetooth devices—all of these use electromagnetic waves to communicate at a distance. (As an aside, land-line phones and cable signals come into your home as electrical currents, but satellite services uses waves).

Much of the consumer technology of the last century has been about finding better and better ways to harness electromagnetic waves. Amplitude modulation (AM) of waves was replaced by Frequency Modulation (FM)—although AM is still used and has its uses. Broadcasters have recently been adding HD signals, which can contain more information in waves. That’s why multiple broadcast “stations” can be received at a single frequency of waves.

World War II was a huge time for the expansion of this engineering. Necessity then for portable radios drove miniaturization and vacuum-tube technology. RADAR development created shorter wavelength generation. Cleaning up radio reception led to the discovery of cosmic background radiation and also led to radio astronomy.

Compared to 75 years ago, the technology we use today to communicate and entertain may seem completely different. But in essence it is still the manipulation of electricity to make electromagnetic waves to be received at a distance.

You can find archived radio news broadcasts from WWII here.

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

Home Front Friday: A Wartime Inauguration Sparks Inspiration

Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

On January 20, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in for a fourth term, which was cut short on April 12 of the same year due to his decline in health and passing. No president in the history of presidents had been sworn in for a fourth term, or even a third for that matter. It had always been two terms, but in the case of President Roosevelt, the American public did not want to defer from their familiar and trusted leader during a tense time of economic struggles and outbreak of war. Today, January 20, 2017, we are swearing in a new American who will begin their first term as President of the United States. Inauguration ceremonies began with George Washington, and since then have served as the day that an elected official is customarily sworn in and then addresses the American public with a speech laying out their goals and plans for the next four years. If you’re looking to learn more about the history of the induction on this January 20, 2017 inauguration of yet another President, follow this link.

In 1941, President Roosevelt was inaugurated for his third term as President. This was essentially about a whole year before Pearl Harbor was attacked and the formation of a direct U.S. relationship with the war. Floods of people gathered in front of the Capitol ready to listen to how Roosevelt will make his historic third term a four years of working to, “save the Nation and its institutions from disruption from without.” America was a nation of people made up of soon to be enlisted or drafted men and working civilians who banded together in the fight to preserve democracy and end the war on Nazi domination and Japanese expansion in the name of liberty.

FDR delivering his inaugural address on January 20, 1941. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

FDR delivering his inaugural address on January 20, 1941. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

January 20, 1941. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

January 20, 1941. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

The years that followed this 1941 Inauguration Ceremony changed the United States from a neutral nation determined to stay out of the conflict to a united front, apart of a group of Allies, fighting in battle, losing lives, and persevering both on the battlefront and Home Front. Therefore, the somber, very low key and laid-back atmosphere of President Roosevelt’s Inauguration on January 20, 1945 was not a surprise. His heal was declining, and WWII was reaching a close. The Allies were going to emerge victorious, but no attention could be deferred from the war until their boys were home and safe from the constant threat of danger in Europe and the Pacific.

At the Inauguration in 1945, there was a short parade and a cold brunch. President Roosevelt did not host a long parade that traveled through the whole of Washington, D.C. to the White House due to the rationing of gasoline and the Home Front’s dedication to the only purposeful use of the valuable gallons of gasoline. In his 1945 address, Roosevelt stated:

“We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.

We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that, ‘The only way to have a friend is to be one.'”

Photo courtesy of cnn.com.

FDR delivering his speech on January 20, 1945. Photo courtesy of cnn.com.

These are some pretty iconic words, and definitely a phrase that we can hold us accountable today. It  never hurts to receive a nice reminder or wake up call from either a person of the past, like Roosevelt, or from your own friends that you see every day. Sometimes we need a little reminder that we are in this life together and taking it day by day as one nation, under God. Everyday is different and never easy, but as Roosevelt said, we are members of a human community and its up to us to treat one another with the respect each person deserves. Roosevelt captured the embodiment of the Home Front spirit with that quote; the “we can do it” attitude and unification of so many people for a common cause during WWII. For his full speech, follow this link.

In honor of Roosevelt’s speech, here are 7 ways you can be an even better citizen of the world and be a kind friend to those around you:

1. Hold the door for those behind you. That extra five seconds in  your life you use to wait for someone behind you could make all the positive difference in someone else’s day.

2. Write down three good things that happened to you during the day.

3. Definitely say “please” and “thank you.” Manners go a long way.

4. SMILE! (at everyone, even throw a stranger a soft smile. It may just brighten their day.)

5. Call a friend or family member and tell them that you appreciate them.

6. Learn something new. Whether its a language, recipe, or craft. Go ahead and try it out and see how much you’re capable of. It’ll bring you some joy and could inspire someone else to try something they’ve been wanting to do.

7. Pay it forward. However you may like. Pay a visit to the Pay It Forward site and learn more.

There are so many more than 7 ways to practice gratitude and appreciation for one another, so if you’re looking for other ways, follow this link to a Huffington Post article that’ll have you feeing inspired. 

Posted by Camille Weber, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum.