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Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

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Carnival Time Around the Museum: Tips for Your Trip to the Museum this Mardi Gras

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As Carnival season builds up over the next week down here in New Orleans, the fun will be drumming down the streets right near the Museum, and it may affect your visit to the Museum.

During the war years of 1942-1945, official Mardi Gras parades and celebrations in New Orleans were canceled. For March 9th, 1943, the Retailers for Victory Committee, chaired by Leon Godchaux, Jr. , organized a special Carnival Day Bond Drive and celebration in the 800 block of Canal Street.  The block was roped off and admission was sold in the form of war bonds. More than 25,000 people were on hand to hear the headlining Higgins Industries’ Band perform along with nationally known singer, Lanny Ross. The event raised $1,192,000 in bonds. Image from the collection of The National WWII Museum.For March 9th, 1943, the Retailers for Victory Committee organized a special Carnival Day Bond Drive and celebration in the 800 block of Canal Street. Image from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

For March 9th, 1943, the Retailers for Victory Committee organized a special Carnival Day Bond Drive and celebration in the 800 block of Canal Street. Image from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Whether you’re a history buff or a parade-goer, we’ve got some tips for your Carnival Time trip to the Museum.

  1. Plan carefully for when and how you’re making your trip to the Museum.


  • On the weekend of February 6-7, parades will be rolling day and night near the Museum, as well as parades on the evenings of February 3-5 and 8. You may find it impossible to park or get caught in parade traffic if you’re not careful. Tip: Beat the traffic, and arrive at the Museum before the parades roll.
  • Be sure to read the signs carefully before you park! Especially if you’re parking on the street. Avoid parking under “Parade Route” signs. You may get towed if there’s a parade set for that day.
  1. Come see us while you’re at the parades!
The King Cake at The American Sector is definitely worth fighting for.

The King Cake at The American Sector is definitely worth fighting for.

  • Escape the beads, and learn some history. We’re just a block off Lee Circle, and our restaurant The American Sector will have Mardi Gras food and drink specials, a real bathroom, and some seats waiting for you. Looking for a quick snack? Pop into Jeri Nim’s Soda Shop for a bite!
  1. If it looks like a rainy day out on the parade route, consider staying dry in the Museum.
A restored P-40 Warhawk fighter plane is suspended in our newest exhibit  Road to Tokyo.

A restored P-40 Warhawk fighter plane is suspended in our newest exhibit Road to Tokyo.

  1. Have fun on Mardi Gras Day, and remember that we’re closed for it on Tuesday February 9, 2016.
King and Queen in full costume, presumably welcoming crowd. Probably image from Mardi Gras celebration in Italy in February 1945. Scanned to disk in donor file. 13 February 1945. Gift in Memory of Dr. Thomas Edward Weiss, from the collection of the National WWII Museum.

King and Queen in full costume, presumably welcoming crowd. Probably image from Mardi Gras celebration in Italy in February 1945. Scanned to disk in donor file. 13 February 1945. Gift in Memory of Dr. Thomas Edward Weiss, from the collection of the National WWII Museum.


For more information on Mardi Gras Parades Schedules and Routes, click here.


See what Carnival time was like around the world during World War II. Uncover stories from New Orleans and Italy here.

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Courage, Strength, and Sacrifice: War in the Land of the Rising Sun

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Road to Tokyo Infographic

The National WWII Museum Presents Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries

The National WWII Museum’s Richard C. Adkerson & Freeport-McMoRan Foundation Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries retraces US involvement in the World War II’s Pacific Theater from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay. Through artifacts, oral histories, short films, and recreated environments, the exhibit brings the war to life, telling the story of the Americans who forged a road to Tokyo through courage, ingenuity, and great sacrifice, ending the war at last.

Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries, now open at The National WWII Museum, is the latest addition to the Campaigns of Courage pavilion. This $6 million exhibit includes more than 400 artifacts from the battles of the Pacific campaign. Approximately 7.3 million American soldiers supported the fight for freedom. Ultimately, the war that changed the world wounded more than 25 million and cost 15 million lives.

Road to Tokyo

Facing the Rising Sun

On the heels of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Germany and Italy have declared war on the United States. America is headed to war. Facing the Rising Sun takes visitors into this daunting moment in history, introducing the key leaders whose loyalties and ambitions define the moment, and the logistical challenges of a two-front war that will shape the years to come. Made possible through a gift from The Starr Foundation.

Briefing Room: Japanese Onslaught

A recreated bridge of the USS Enterprise places visitors at the center of US strategy, aboard the carrier fleet that would be so critical to the success or failure of Allied efforts in the Pacific. Here, visitors take in an overview of US strategy and meet military leaders from both sides, while newsreels report Japanese victories and brutal treatment of American POWs. The Enterprise is steaming into hostile waters, and the odds for its survival—and the survival of the sailors, pilots, and mechanics on board—look grim indeed. Made possible through a gift from Madlyn and Paul Hilliard.

The New Naval Warfare: First Blood

In this two-part gallery, a ship’s interior presents the quieter side of life aboard ship; “outside” on the ship’s deck, story panels introduce key naval actions, and the Midway theater dives deeper into the Pacific’s most pivotal battle. Actual footage of planes in action on the Enterprise flight deck completes the illusion of being onboard ship as visitors take in themes of the new naval warfare, including submarine fatalities, code-breaking work, and the dramatic speed with which the tides of war can shift. Made possible through a gift from Lt. Commander Alden J. “Doc” Laborde, USN. Additional funding provided by the Strake Foundation, Houston, TX and Grace and Tom Benson.

Guadalcanal: Green Hell

The setting shifts from sea to land at Guadalcanal, the site of World War II’s first major amphibious landing and the first ground assault by US forces. Vividly rendered and viscerally impactful, this experiential gallery features an immersive environmental narrative that draws the visitor into a towering palm jungle, following in the footsteps of American GIs as they battled heat, mosquitoes, disease, dense vegetation, and unfamiliar terrain along with a ferocious enemy in an all-consuming, round-the-clock battle. Made possible through a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tucker Hayes. Additional funding provided by Devon and Jackson Anderson and Gustaf W. McIlhenny Foundation.

Pacific Theater Challenges: Fighting in the Tropics

In addition to a merciless enemy, US troops in the Pacific Theater were faced with non-existent infrastructure and rampant disease. Under assault to body and mind, Americans needed superior engineering and ingenuity just to survive. This gallery tells the story of those who answered that call: Seabees who built roads and airfields, nurses and medics who treated new diseases with new vaccines, and chaplains who helped lift spirits wearied by the relentlessly brutal nature of the Pacific war. Made possible through a gift from the Estate of Patrick F. Taylor. Additional funding provided by Jones Walker, LLC.

Island Hopping: Footholds Across the Pacific

The “island hopping” strategy targeted key islands to capture and equip with airstrips, bringing B-29 bombers gradually within range of the enemy homeland. In this serpentine gallery, a realistic beachscape recreates a landing site on the island of Tarawa. Other exhibits describe the integrated effort between sea, land, and air, as well as successes in intelligence (Native American code talkers), technology (the long-range B-29 Bomber), and carrier warfare (the Marianas Turkey Shoot) in the fight for control of the skies.

China-Burma-India: The Pacific War’s Second Front

“CBI” held critical strategic importance for US forces: while 11 Japanese army divisions battled US forces on the islands and at sea, a staggering 40 more were tied up in the Sino-Japanese War in China—and the Allies were determined to keep them there. Doing so meant supplying the Chinese with essential materiel, overcoming a maze of logistical challenges. A contoured topographical map helps illustrate the geographical obstacles American troops faced as they defended supply lines, rescued downed pilots, and engaged in covert operations in support of this critical ally.

Philippines: Returning to the Philippines

As an American Commonwealth, the Philippines held special meaning for US forces: this was American territory in enemy hands—and a people to whom the United States had promised independence. Its liberation, which MacArthur saw as a moral imperative, was a strategic necessity: the Philippines were perfectly positioned to control shipments of oil and other supplies. The fight would be costly and vast: it included the war’s largest naval battle, McArthur’s return, kamikaze attacks, and a daring rescue operation by the US Rangers. Manila, a city once known as “the pearl of the Orient,” was decimated by the conflict, resulting in the urban ruins depicted in this immersive gallery.

Death at Japan’s Doorstep: First Assault onto Japanese Soil

Desperate fighting underscored the implacable fervor of the enemy—Japanese soldiers willing to resist to the last man. The enemy also had a logistical advantage: an underground defensive network of caves and tunnels, realistically depicted in this environmental gallery. Exhibits discuss the lifesaving impact of Navajo code talkers; the headline-grabbing losses of General Simon B. Buckner, journalist Ernie Pyle, and nearly 20,000 others; and the extraordinary valor that earned US Marines a total of 27 Medals of Honor in Iwo Jima—more than in any other battle in US history.

Downfall: Endgame Against Japan

This haunting gallery surrounds the visitor with scenes from the aftermath of the atomic bombs, presented on oversize screens and accompanied by a musical soundtrack that is both somber and contemplative—an invitation to reflect on a moment that has spurred debate ever since, and a moment when Japan at last saw the hopelessness of its cause. Visitors pass through to a final room in the gallery to witness the surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri, which marked, at last, an end to the war that changed the world.

Visitors can learn more by visiting this interactive exhibit at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans.


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Little Christmas at Ourtown

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The Higgins Industries newsletter, The Higgins Worker, profiled in the Worker Wednesday series, begs for a Tuesday post in honor of this newsletter item about the religious holiday referred to as, among others, “Little Christmas,” “Epiphany,” “King’s Day,” and “Twelfth Night.” In New Orleans, January 6th signals the start of the Carnival season, culminating on Mardi Gras Day or “Fat Tuesday.” King’s Day is marked by the eating of King Cake, a tradition that was honored on January 6, 1945, in the Higgins Little Red School House in Ourtown, the settlement established for workers at Higgins Industries.  To read more about Ourtown, see the previous post.

Little Christmas

Gift in Memory of Arnold Schaefer, 2012.359.002

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

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Worker Wednesday

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Gift in Memory of Arnold Schaefer, 2013.359.001

Gift in Memory of Arnold Schaefer, 2013.359.001

The Prima brothers from New Orleans, Leon and Louis, were featured in the 8 September 1944 issue of The Higgins Worker, when Louis traveled through New Orleans on tour. Louis Prima had gained success in the 1930s as jazz vocalist, trumpeter and bandleader. During the war, Louis continued to enjoy popularity, despite the overt Italian themes in his music (his hit “Angelina (Waitress at the Pizzeria)” was released in 1944). His older brother, Leon Prima, also a musician of some note, was employed at Higgins Industries as a mill worker.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

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Postcards from New Orleans: The Roosevelt Hotel

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The National WWII Museum, 2008.026.013

The Roosevelt Hotel was a popular New Orleans spot during WWII. Opened in 1893 as The Grunewald, the grand hotel was renamed in 1923 in honor of the late President Theodore Roosevelt. The Roosevelt was home to some of the liveliest wartime venues New Orleans had to offer: the Blue Room, the Fountain Lounge and the Sazerac Bar. Renamed The Fairmont in 1965, the hotel closed in 2005 only to be reopened as The Roosevelt in 2009.

Seventy years ago today, Sgt. E.A. Murphy wrote his sister in Maryland this very succinct note on the lovely Roosevelt postcard: “Having a very fine time and enjoying myself. Brother.”

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.


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Worker Wednesday: Todd-Johnson

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Gift of James Junot, Jr., 2012.582.006

On this first day of the World Series, our installment of the Worker Wednesday series adds another New Orleans production facility (and a baseball connection) into the mix. We recently received the donation of newsletters from Todd-Johnson Dry Docks Inc., an affiliate of the Todd Shipyards Corporation. Todd-Johnson’s publication was called the Todd-Johnson Keel. Todd-Johnson was a smaller operation than others in New Orleans, including Delta Shipyards and Higgins Industries. What’s the baseball connection? In this issue of the Todd-Johnson Keel, employees learn about their famous coworker, baseball great and future hall of fame right fielder Mel Ott.  The native of Gretna, Louisiana, was 34 when he began work in the personnel department at Todd-Johnson for a “winter war job,” while off-season as manager of the New York Giants. Ott, a World Series champion with the Giants in 1933, was the first National League Player ever to hit over 500 home runs.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.


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Executive Order #9346: Remembering Our Nation’s Commitment to Equality During World War II

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May 27, 2013, marks the 70th anniversary of Executive Order #9346.  If you don’t know this EO, you are not alone.  While it is often overlooked by World War II historians, the Order is very important in civil rights history and reflects President Franklin Roosevelt’s concern over the morale of African Americans and their role in defense mobilization.

President Roosevelt issued EO #9346 to reconstitute and expand the power of the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC).  This wartime agency was initially established in June 1941 after civil rights and labor leaders threatened to march on the White House to protest lack of training and employment opportunities for African Americans in U.S. defense industries. Executive Order #8802 issued June 25, 1941 established the FEPC as a commission to encourage defense industries to train and hire African Americans, but it really had no legal enforcement.  Facing a backlash from conservatives and industry leaders in 1942, Roosevelt placed the FEPC under control of the War Manpower Commission, effectively taking away its independence and any strong agenda. The dire labor shortage of 1943, however, presented Roosevelt with a rationale for giving the FEPC more power.

EO #9346 issued in May 1943 gave the FEPC a renewed independence, and greatly enlarged its ability to promote fair hiring practices.  The order created twelve new regional offices that were to implement operating agreements with all twelve War Manpower Commission offices.  Field staff in each of these regions worked with local labor and civil rights leaders to document and resolve cases of discrimination in local war industries. Although the fair hiring campaign was technically voluntary, the FEPC staff used negotiations, pressure and appealed to the patriotism of business leaders to enforce fair employment from the summer of 1943 through the fall of 1945.

A segregated work gang at the Pennsylvania Shipyards in Beaumont, Texas. The FEPC documented cases of discrimination in US defense industries and appealed to defense companies to offer employment and training for African American workers. Photo by John Vachon. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

An Expanded FEPC

The expanded FEPC had a significant impact nationally in getting business to train, upgrade and hire African Americans. The FEPC’s efforts at the Consolidated-Vultee aircraft plant in New Orleans are one of its greatest achievements nationally.  In this case, the FEPC pushed for greater employment opportunities at the plant on the New Orleans lakefront that manufactured PBY Catalina airplanes, used in multiple-roles and the most numerous of its kind during the war.  The FEPC staff, local labor leaders and the New Orleans Urban League negotiated with War Manpower Commission and Consolidated-Vultee industrial relations personnel to successfully implement a training and hiring plan.  

Throughout the last two years of the war, the Consolidated-Vultee plant in New Orleans worked with the FEPC in training and integrating black workers. In 1944 alone, the proportion of African American workers at the plant jumped from 2 to 18 percent, and job titles increased by 27 percent.  Although entry wages were only fifty to sixty cents per hour, the opening of semi-skilled and skilled positions represented a gain for black New Orleanians, most of whom were women virtually shut out of most skilled trades in defense industries.

The hiring legacy of Higgins Industries is more well-known and celebrated than Consolidated-Vultee.  Andrew Jackson Higgins was a man well-ahead of his time in his hiring philosophy.  In 1942, Eleanor Roosevelt cited Higgins’ commitment to training and hiring black and white workers in New Orleans on a 50-50 basis.  In recent years, Higgins has been praised for employing skilled black and Asian workers. However, the very conservative AFL trade union insured that Higgins Industries would only hire skilled black carpenters, and not in any metal trades, which the union reserved for white workers.  So whereas Higgins had great vision for the potential for modern hiring practices, AFL leaders insured that segregation on the shop floor would be maintained with the exception of wood-working.

The record of American defense industries’ hiring practices during World War II is a story that presents both of examples of civil rights success and resistance from the status quo.  As such, the history is like many other aspects of the war that are complex and sometimes not pretty.  The United States was still a largely segregated society during the war, and today we praise the field staff of the FEPC and business leaders like Andrew Jackson Higgins that had the vision to promote equality and fairness in the workplace

Women riveting at the Consolidated-Vultee Plant in Nashville, August 1942. The Consolidated-Vultee Plant on the New Orleans lakefront increased its African American workforce during the war after careful negotiations with the Fair Employment Practice Committee during the summer of 1943. Photo by Jack Delano. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Legacy of EO #9346

The legacy of Executive Order #9346 is great, and its impact should not be overlooked. The expansion of the FEPC helped to build a strong network of civil rights leaders who were committed to insuring a more equal society well into the post-war period.  Even though the FEPC was dismantled in 1945, these networks of FEPC staff, civil rights and labor activists, church leaders and military veterans served as a the foundation for modern civil rights leadership.  The FEPC also set a precedent for the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission established under President John F. Kennedy to insure that non-whites and women had legal basis for fighting wage and hiring discrimination at a time when both were still prevalent.

Ultimately, EO #9346 represented a commitment to equality that makes the United States a great nation.  Roosevelt upheld the Four Freedoms as an example of what was at stake in fighting this international conflict.  When the all-out war mobilization effort guaranteed everyone a job from 1943-1945, EO #9346  attempted to insure that non-whites had a stake in building the arsenal of democracy. As we celebrate the accomplishments of America during World War II, let us not forget EO #9346 and the nation’s dedication to an equal society.

Negro Training Defense Center, Southern University, 1941. The FEPC helped initiate training programs in defense industries like this one here at Southern University. Courtesy of the National Archives

Charles Chamberlain, Ph D is president of Historia LLC, and the author of Victory At Home: Manpower and Race in the American South during World War II (University of Georgia Press, 2003). Dr. Chamberlain is a regular lecturer at The National WWII Museum.

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Hopping at the Roosevelt Hotel

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Bunk Johnson, 1939

The Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans was certainly hopping during the war. Seventy years ago today on 2 October 1942, New Orleans jazz legends trumpeter Bunk Johnson and clarinetist George Lewis recorded Big Chief Battle Axe for WSMB broadcasting station (New Orleans’ first professional radio station founded in 1925).

Listen to the recording here.

For more on the Roosevelt, see what was happening there  a week prior to this recording.

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Worker Wednesday: Delta Shipbuilding Co.

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liberty ship

Image Courtesy of Earl and Elaine Buras, 1999.060.007

Seventy years ago today, on March 28, 1942, Delta Shipbuilding Co. in New Orleans launched its first Liberty ship, the SS William C.C. Claiborne, named after the first governor of Louisiana. Delta was one of the nine emergency shipyards established in 1941 by the United States Maritime Commission. Delta would launch a total of 187 Liberty ships (out of 2,710 produced overall) during the war.  The average time it took to build one of these massive ships was two months.

This post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

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