On our journey through the Road to Berlin, we highlighted the German Messerschmitt Bf-109, the most produced fighter aircraft in history. In celebration of Veterans Day this week, the Museum is proud to announce that the Messerschmitt has now been generously sponsored by WWII Veteran Paul Hilliard and his wife, Madlyn. Their name will be proudly displayed by the warbird in honor of their continual generosity. The Museum would not be where we are today without the Hilliard’s dedication.
Madlyn and Paul Hilliard
The National WWII Museum is fortunate that Madlyn and Paul Hilliard have shared their intense interest and love of what the Museum is doing through their generous commitment to The Road to Victory Capital Campaign. Paul is a World War II veteran who flew his missions overseas in a SBD Dauntless aircraft, and he has made it his mission that “as part of the Museum’s evolution we would acquire all of the weapons of war.” He believes that the ME-109 is a vital part of the air war story in the European Theater.
Paul and Madlyn have played a large role in assisting the Museum acquire and restore several of our iconic warbirds and macro artifacts. They both feel passionately that seeing these artifacts up close is “different than seeing them on TV or in simulation.” Madlyn is always impressed by the faces of the children “so focused and interested in what they are seeing. They do not get this in a classroom, and it is so meaningful for all visitors to learn the price of freedom for our country.”
Paul believes that the acquisition of enemy weapons and artifacts, like the Messerschmitt, is important in explaining the various sides of war. By exhibiting weapons used by the Axis enemies, it better clarifies the weaponry the Allied forces built and employed in response, in order to defeat the enemy.
They Hilliards have felt encouraged to see how we have grown to where we are now in 2014. We feel privileged that they have played a major role in telling the story of “what this country can do when you threaten the liberty of Americans.” They feel that being part of the Museum family has been a wonderful experience that they “wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
As we finish our tour through the first floor of the Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters, we exit out of the Road to Berlin exhibit space and come to one of the most impressive elements of the pavilion, the Atrium. The Campaigns of Courage Atrium is a dramatic entryway to the heart of the Museum’s World War II battlefield experience. The Atrium showcases the Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter plane and three war stations that will orient visitors as they prepare to explore pavilion’s exhibit spaces. Sounds of the Messerschmitt flying will encompass the visitor as they enter the Atrium, highlighting the importance of this warbird.
The five-story Atrium is architecturally striking – it is intentionally compressed horizontally and accentuated vertically, with a magnificent wide staircase balancing the space. Two exterior walls are covered by glass for maximum transparency, ensuring a superb view of the campus from the second level, and a spectacular view of the Atrium from the outside. The remaining walls are fashioned from precast concrete with a gorgeous acrylic burgundy finish. Strategic lighting makes the Atrium shine at night, creating a lovely sight from Andrew Higgins Drive and adding to the beauty of the entire campus. This principal hub connects Road to Berlin with Road to Tokyo on the second floor, and serves as the pavilion’s main entry point from the Battle Barksdale Parade Ground and the second-level sky bridge leading to the Solomon Victory Theater.
Into The German Homeland – Final Assault Rendering
As we continue our adventure through theRoad to Berlin, we stop next at the riveting Breaking the Siegfried Line exhibit, which tells the gripping history of the offensive strategy conducted by the Allies in February 1945 and the counteroffensive at Alsace in attempts to break through Germany’s line of defense.
The Siegfried Line fortified Germany’s western border with France. It consisted of interlocking bunkers systems and hedge-hog teeth tank defenses that stretched for over 300 miles. In August of 1944 Hitler reinforced the Siegfried Line to halt the American forces advancing upon Germany from the Normandy landings. The defensive line proved to be a formidable obstacle, but the Allied forces attacking along the line in the Hurtgen Forest campaign and Battle of the Bulge ultimately broke through Siegfried defenses at great cost in lives. Breaching the line left the Allies positioned for the final drive deep into the German homeland.
Donor Spotlight: Lt. Col. Robert Kelso and Mrs. Betty Kelso
The Breaking the Siegfried Line exhibit inside the Into the German Homeland gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from Lt. Col. Robert Kelso and his wife, Betty. Lieutenant Colonel Kelso is a veteran of two wars and currently lives in San Antonio.
Infantrymen of the 255th Infantry Regiment move down a street in Waldenburg to hunt out the Hun after a recent raid by 63rd Division. Image courtesy of National Archives.
Kelso served in the Army during World War II and is believed to be the youngest known soldier injured during the conflict. With his recruiter unaware of his real age, Kelso entered service at age 13 and was wounded by a German bayonet at 14. He received the Purple Heart as a result of the war injury.
During World War II, Kelso was assigned to the 342nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion and fought throughout Europe as a private. After World War II, Kelso served in the US Army Reserve, but in 1963, after the onset of the Vietnam War, he returned to active duty at the rank of captain. He completed two tours in Vietnam, first as an advisor with the 22nd ARVN Division, then with the famed 25th Infantry Division “Tropic Lightning.” His awards include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and French Legion of Honor.
Robert and Betty Kelso first became involved with the Museum when a civic leader of San Antonio sponsored a traveling event to San Antonio for veterans and supporters. After his initial visit to the Museum, Kelso felt compelled to make a gift. He felt that naming the Breaking the Siegfried Line was the most appropriate fit. Kelso states that he vividly remembers “crossing the line in Germany” and it is something he will never forget.
The Kelsos are proud supporters of other institutions that serve the military community. They have supported the National Army Museum since 2008, and graciously offered their home and ranch to 21 service members recuperating at Brooke Army Medical Center, so that they could take a day trip and escape the rigors of hospital rehabilitation life.
The Museum is grateful for the generosity of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kelso and his wife, Betty, as they help to advance the capital expansion.
As we continue our journey through the Road to Berlin, we make our way into the final gallery, Into the German Homeland.
This gallery will tell the story of the major events following the Battle of the Bulge as the Allies pushed into Germany. The Allies captured the last remaining bridge over the Rhine River at Remagen in March 1945 and invaded the German heartland. Political controversy erupted as the three Allied powers closed in on the German Capital of Berlin, with the Soviet Army occupying the city in horrible street to street fighting.
As the city was razed around him, Hitler committed suicide and Germany finally surrendered on May 8, 1945 amidst total ruin. V-E Day finally arrived and Americans celebrated – even as they braced for continued bloodshed in the Pacific. Into the German Homeland and each of its components – Breaking the Siegfried Line, Desperate Resistance, and Final Assault – will reveal the devastation of German cities through exhibits built to mimic blown-out buildings, with projections of fires and photographs scattered throughout the space.
Donor Spotlight- The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation In Honor of D. Paul Spencer
Into the German Homeland gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation. The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation was established in 1958 with a mission of alleviating human suffering. The Foundation’s efforts primarily target south Louisiana, including the New Orleans area, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Joe W. Brown and Dorothy Dorsett Brown moved to New Orleans in the mid-1920s, and their successes in real estate and the oil industry allowed them to pursue philanthropic endeavors. Mrs. Brown led the Foundation until she passed away in 1989, and the Foundation is now led by the Board President, D. Paul Spencer, along with the Board of Trustees. A friend of Spencer’s from their service in the Army introduced him to the Browns after he completed college, and Spencer remained their dear friend and employee for decades afterwards, up until their deaths.
Spencer is a WWII veteran of the European Theater, where he served as a platoon commander in the 90th Infantry Division of the US Army. His platoon was part of a battle in Hof during the latter part of the war, where he recalls “all kinds of hell broke loose.” He remembers a German truck crashing into the side of the road and roughly a dozen German soldiers came toward him. Spencer realized after the crash that his carbine was jammed, and the German soldiers begged him not to shoot. “Thank goodness they were not firing at me. My guys were just behind me a little bit and I was all alone. I put my hand over the cover that was exposed so they wouldn’t see that I couldn’t fire at them.”
Two anti-tank Infantrymen of the 101st Infantry Regiment, dash past a blazing German gasoline trailer in square of Kronach, Germany. Courtesy of National Archives.
Paul Spencer and the men of the 90th Infantry Division engaged in several battles as they made their way through Germany near the end of the war. Spencer and his fellow soldiers liberated the Merkers Salt Mine, where Nazis were hiding gold hoard, silver, and stolen art.
The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation’s loyal support of The National WWII Museum predates the Museum’s opening in 2000. The Foundation has provided significant funding for the Museum’s capital expansion since its earliest phases. The expansion has provided exhibit spaces that have been crucial in the fulfillment of our mission. In addition to generously naming the Into the German Homeland gallery, the Foundation has also sponsored The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation Special Exhibits Gallery, the Saluting the Services: Service Branch Cases within the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, and a gallery in the future Liberation Pavilion.
We are privileged to be able to honor D. Paul Spencer’s service in Into the German Homeland. The Museum and the diverse audiences it serves benefit in many ways from The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation’s remarkable support.
As we continue our journey through The Road to Berlin, we stop next at the American Counterattack exhibit, which will highlight the extreme conditions faced by the Allies and the bold maneuvers they employed in order to defeat the German advances in the city of Bastogne. As US General George Patton mobilized three divisions to relieve the Allied troops, a sudden break in the harsh winter weather enabled essential air drops of supplies and offensive bomber missions to proceed. German forces were stunned and left vulnerable to Allied counterattacks.
After the Siege of Bastogne, although the Allies continued to face harrowing conditions and setbacks as they marched closer to Germany, the Germans were quickly losing strength as well. The Allies rallied to the offensive in January 1945, reaching the Siegfried Line and breaking the final German resistance at the Battle of the Bulge.
The American Counterattack exhibit will commemorate these events as the pivotal moment in overcoming German forces to advance to the final stages of the War in Europe.
2nd Infantry Division combat patrol members lie flat on the ground to escape enemy fire near Odenval, Belgium, 23rd Regiment. From the collection of The National WWII Museum.
The American Counterattack exhibit has been made possible through a generous gift by Mr. and Mrs. Terrence Hall.
As we move forward on our journey through the Road to Berlin, we stop next at the Siege of Bastogne exhibit within the Battle of the Bulge Gallery, which will focus on the significance of Bastogne as a vital crossroads town that would be crucial for either the Allies or Axis to advance, as it was a hub for several major roads in southeast Belgium.
Men of the 30th Infantry Division carry a wounded German soldier to Battalion Aid Station in Thirimont, Belgium. Company B, 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment. Image courtesy of National Archives.
With their eyes on Antwerp, the Germans were determined to gain control of Bastogne. They encircled the town and its resident Allied forces. The beleaguered American troops, including the 101st Airborne, were running critically low on food and supplies and were vastly unprepared for the harsh European winter.
Siege of Bastogne will feature defense tactics used by the Americans to fend off the Germans, and features the story of Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Archer Gammon, who died in the line of duty while singlehandedly defending against impending German attacks. Despite the adverse conditions, the Americans sustained their resistance until reinforcements arrived. Commander McAuliffe’s refusal to surrender to at Bastogne remains a symbol of American resolve and the determination that was necessary to break the German stronghold.
Donor Spotlight- Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth L. Blanchard Sr., in honor of Don Blanchard
The Siege of Bastogne exhibit in the new Road to Berlin galleries has been made possible through a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth L. Blanchard Sr., in honor of Don Blanchard.
Kenneth Blanchard has been a supporter of The National WWII Museum since 2000. He first became involved through his company, Superior Energy Services, where he worked for 26 years before retiring in 2010. Superior is a major supporter of the Museum’s Road to Victory Capital Campaign, sponsoring the Voices of Courage oral history exhibit in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.
Recognizing the importance of the partnership of Superior Energy Services and The National WWII Museum, Blanchard became inspired to contribute personally. He states that the Museum “provides an informative and inspiring experience for future generations,” and that without outside support “the stories of these brave men and women would be lost.”
Men of the 2nd Infantry Division march through the snow. (Courtesy National Archives)
Ken and Jane Blanchard have attended several Museum events. They usually have been accompanied by Ken’s father, Don Blanchard, who served in the 2nd Armored Division, known as “Hell on Wheels.” Blanchard states that when his father visits the Museum, he is often moved to tears by the “recognition of the sacrifices and service” given by so many from his generation. It was his father’s courage and bravery that inspired Ken Blanchard to name the Siege of Bastogne exhibit in the Battle of the Bulge gallery, an important feature in the new pavilion, Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters. Don Blanchard fought in the historic battle and was in the siege in the winter of 1944.
When Blanchard was growing up, his father never discussed the war. It wasn’t until his father visited the Museum for the first time that he began to open up about his involvement. Ken pitched the idea of recording his oral history for the Museum archives, and recalls, “It was not an easy sell.” Don was eventually persuaded, and ever since, he has been more comfortable sharing his stories, including comments for a feature article for a Lafayette newspaper.
Ken Blanchard asserts that the Museum is the “one of the best things to ever happen to the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana, and this area of the country” and that the Museum is “capturing and presenting in a very unique and very professional way” one of the most important events in modern world history. He is particularly moved by veteran volunteers at the institution. Their dedication to the Museum and desire to help visitors is inspiring. The volunteers also have made it easier for his father to feel comfortable discussing his role in the war effort.
Blanchard states that it is important to invest in the expansion of The National WWII Museum, whether that investment comes in the form of time or gifts. He said the Museum is particularly effective at telling the war story in an interactive way, immersing visitors in a decisive time in history.
The Museum is fortunate to have the encouragement of Ken and Jane Blanchard. We are grateful for their support of our programs and capital expansion
As we continue our journey through the Battle of the Bulge gallery inside the Road to Berlin, we stop next at the Surprise Attack exhibit. This exhibit focuses on the initial response of the Allied Forces from the surprise German attack during the winter of 1944-45 through oral history stations, artifacts, and content panels. From there, we then move on to the North Shoulder exhibit, which through an in-depth examination of military response, will honor the soldiers who fought and were ultimately victorious at Elsenborn Ridge.
This exhibit will explain the strategy behind Hitler’s counterattack during the winter of 1944-45 and the initial response of the Allied Forces. Hitler planned to break through a weak spot in the Allied lines, occupied by only three divisions, in a drive to Antwerp, Belgium, splitting the British army to the north and American forces to the south. The operation was Hitler’s last desperate attempt to turn the tide of the war. The Germans hoped the element of surprise, the dense forest terrain of the Ardennes, and the harsh weather conditions would all work to their advantage – and their efforts were initially successful. Many American units were surrounded and, in some cases, entire regiments surrendered. Though the Allied forces rallied in time to prevent disaster, and would eventually achieve victory, Surprise Attack will show that Germany remained still a capable and dangerous enemy.
This exhibit will cover American defenses against the German assault in key locations along the northern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge. The exhibit will provide an in-depth examination of the military action at Elsenborn Ridge, where the 1st, 2nd, and 99th Army Divisions played a pivotal role. Although the Germans possessed superior armor, they were held in check by innovative American tactics including coordinated time on target artillery strikes, new proximity fuses for artillery shells, and more advanced air power. Both sides suffered many casualties. Ultimately, the German troops were unable to break through American lines at Elsenborn Ridge. The exhibit will also focus on three towns: Stavelot, La Gleize and Stoumont. The North Shoulder exhibit will honor the soldiers who fought here and show that their valiant efforts were crucial to American victory.
Chow is served to American Infantrymen (Courtesy National Archives)
As we continue our journey through The Road to Berlin, we stop next at what will be an extraordinary immersive gallery space, the month-long Battle of the Bulge – the US Army’s largest battle of World War II. Grappling with bitterly cold weather, more than 30 divisions and 600,000 men fought desperately to halt the Germans after the surprise assault in December 1944. Walking through the gallery, you will be surrounded by the dense, snow-covered Ardennes forest, with projections of soldiers and battle scenes partially visible through the trees, allowing you to sense the extreme environmental conditions that made this battle one of the most difficult of the war. Oral history stations, artifacts, and content panels will guide you from the surprise German attack to the Siege, to the ultimate hard-won Allied victory. Finally, you will join the Allies as they push through the German border and write the final chapter in the war in Europe – the fall of the Third Reich.
Donor Spotlight- The Starr Foundation
The Battle of the Bulge gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from The Starr Foundation. The Foundation was established in 1955 by Cornelius Vander Starr, who served in the US Army during WWI. He died in 1968 at the age of 76, leaving his estate to the Foundation, and he named his business partners – Ernest E. Stempel, John J. Roberts, Houghton Freeman, and Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg – to run the foundation under Greenberg’s leadership. The partners were all WWII veterans: Stempel, Roberts, and Freeman all served in the Navy in the Pacific and Greenberg served in the Army in Europe.
Chairman Maurice R. Greenberg
Greenberg served throughout the European Theater – from landing on the beaches of Normandy to fighting in the Battle of the Bulge to the liberating concentration camps in Germany. In recognition of his service and contributions to the Allied victory, Greenberg received the Legion of Honor from the French government on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day earlier this year. When being praised for his brave military service, Greenberg responds that he was “only one of millions of WWII veterans who fought for our country.”
Florence A. Davis, President of The Starr Foundation, remembers when Museum founder Stephen Ambrose first met Greenberg in 2001. Tom Brokaw arranged the meeting and shortly thereafter The Starr Foundation awarded the Museum a $1 million grant in support of the institution then known as The National D-Day Museum.
During this time the Museum was also building out its D-Days of the Pacific galleries within the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion. The Foundation chose to name the Introduction Gallery to honor the service of The Starr Foundation directors, particularly the three that served in the Pacific. Eager to dedicate a space that would preserve the story of the European Theater in Greenberg’s honor, The Starr Foundation generously provided an additional gift in 2010 in support of the Museum’s Road to Victory Capital Campaign to name the Battle of the Bulge gallery.
Davis first visited the Museum in late 2001, soon after the attacks on 9/11, and she recalled the Museum was “a good reminder of the ideals that Americans fought for in the past and what we continue to fight for today.” Her late father also served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946. He passed away when she was young and, as it has for so many others, the Museum provided her an indirect way to learn about his experiences and life during the war.
One of The Starr Foundation’s focuses is to “invest in education and international affairs,” Davis explained. “The Museum is place for families to learn about American and world history. Visitors gain a sense of how the American system of government worked under circumstances of global combat. The Museum educates visitors about the positive lessons of how the country pulled together on rationing, war bonds, and enlistment in huge numbers, as well as the negative lessons of the (racial) segregation of troops and internment of Japanese Americans. Understanding the entire history of WWII, warts and all, is very important.”
The Museum’s growth and impact can be attributed in part to The Starr Foundation’s tremendous support of the Museum’s capital expansion. We feel privileged to honor the service of The Starr Foundation’s directors, a group of heroes whose service and sacrifice preserved the freedoms we have today. The Museum is grateful for the Foundation’s support and for the leadership of Greenberg and Davis, who have played key roles in developing the Museum into a world-class institution.
Post by Katie DeBruhl, Donor Relations Coordinator at The National WWII Museum.
This week on the Countdown to Road to Berlin we are taking a quick break from walking you through the galleries to highlight the Messerschmitt Bf 109. This German airplane is suspended the Atrium of Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters, and can already be seen by Museum visitors passing by as they anxiously await the pavilion’s grand opening this December.
Atrium within Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters
The story of the European Theater of World War II cannot be told without discussing the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Also known as the Me-109, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the most produced fighter aircraft in history and was flown by the top German fighter aces of World War II. With a range of 621 miles and a maximum speed of 398 miles per hour, it was a formidable foe for allied air forces. The US Army Air Corps engaged in countless air battles with the Bf 109 while on bombing and reconnaissance missions over Europe. Undoubtedly the major threat that the 9th Air Force and its B-26 pilots faced daily was from such German fighter planes. Faster and more maneuverable, the Bf 109 offered fierce opposition to the B-26, which had a maximum speed of only 282 miles per hour.
This plane will “dive” toward you both virtually and acoustically, creating the sensation that one is under attack by the Axis enemy, and sounds of the Messerschmitt flying will encompass you as you enter the Atrium. A “Fly Boys” interactive feature will also allow you to explore the plane’s cockpit.
Rendering of what the Breaching the German Frontier gallery will look like within the Road to Berlin.
The next stop within the Road to Berlin will bring to life another vital aspect of the WWII story – the German Siegfried Line, a network of bunkers, minefields, and barbed wire built into hilly terrain. After the failure of Market Garden, the Allied advance ground to a halt as it encountered the Siegfried Line. This gallery mimics the interior of a blown-out German bunker, allowing you to see the infrastructure employed by the Germans in defense of their homeland. The gallery’s content focuses on the stories of the Allied advance into Germany, including the capture of Aachen, the first German city to surrender, while also foreshadowing the many battles that still lay ahead for the American forces. Once the Allies managed to penetrate sections of the Siegfried Line, their spirits were high and many hoped to be home by Christmas. These hopes were shattered by Hitler’s final counter-offensive in the West, which became the Battle of the Bulge, the costliest land battle of the war for the Americans.
Susan and Michael Ashner
DONOR SPOTLIGHT- THE ASHNER FAMILY EVERGREEN FOUNDATION
The Breaching the German Frontier Bunker gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from The Ashner Family Evergreen Foundation. The Foundation was started 12 years ago by Museum Trustee Michael Ashner and his wife Susan to better coordinate their philanthropic efforts. Michael and Susan are both from South New Jersey. Michael grew up in Margate and Susan in Pleasantville.
The Ashners have been involved with the Museum since 2011, when Ginny and former board member David Knott mentioned to them that there was The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. David shared stories of his involvement, and asked Michael if he too wanted to become involved with the Museum. Shortly after their discussion Michael took on a leadership role, joining David on the Board of Trustees.
Michael and Susan’s decision to demonstrate personal support for the Museum was also influenced by their family connections to the war effort. Michael’s two uncles, Morton Hassman and Jules Rainess, both served during WWII. Morton was a glider pilot and was killed in Operation Varsity, a massive airborne assault near the end of the war that landed Allied forces across the Rhine. Jules was in the US Army and served in the difficult New Guinea campaigns. Fortunately, he survived his combat tour.
Jules was reserved in discussing his wartime experiences. “He was a big man at six feet two inches tall,” Michael said. “When he enlisted he weighed 180 pounds. When he came back from New Guinea, he was down to 120 pounds.” Michael and Susan have named the Breaching the German Frontier Bunker gallery within the Road to Berlin in honor of the service and sacrifices of Michael’s uncles.
Michael said he and Susan support the Museum because they “believe the cost and sacrifice of protecting our freedom and liberties needs to be shared with both current and future generations. We also believe the world should understand how strong a free citizen military can respond when provoked.” They feel that all who visit the Museum “cannot help but come away with some level of appreciation for the contributions that American soldiers and civilians made during WWII. I encourage everyone to visit the Museum and bring their friends and family. Each time I go there I enjoy it more and the people I bring enjoy it also.”
Museum President Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller said the institution “has always turned to its national board for leadership and support, and we are inspired by the generosity of Susan and Michael Ashner. The Breaching the German Frontier gallery that they are sponsoring in our new pavilion will bring to life the story of the daunting challenges faced by our citizen soldiers even during the final phases of the war in Europe.”
Michael also recently began his second three-year term on the Museum’s Board of Trustees. The National WWII Museum is extremely grateful for Michael’s leadership on the board and for Michael and Susan’s strong show of support for the Road to Victory capital campaign.
Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Coordinator, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world - why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today - so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.