World War II Museum, New Orleans

New Orleans, LA

After an all day rain in Foley, AL on Thursday and freezing temperatures during the night, we awoke on Friday to clear skies and sunshine.  We planned for an early departure but it took a while for us to prepare to leave as John had to get the ice off the slides and slide toppers. Ice! What’s up with that?

Once on the road we drove north about ten miles to I-10 and headed west.  After a few miles on the interstate we came to the Jubilee Parkway, a 7.5 mile bridge across Mobile Bay.  Traffic was light but a strong cross-wind made for an interesting ride.

Jubilee Parkway with the city of Mobile in the distance

At the west end of the bridge we quickly crossed Blakely Island and entered the George Wallace Tunnel going under the Mobile River.

At least there is no wind in the tunnel

Once clear of the Mobile area we continued on I-10, crossing into Mississippi 25 miles later.

Seventy-five miles further west we crossed into Louisiana.

About 15 miles into Louisiana we came to the I-10 Twin Span Bridge, a nearly 6 mile causeway officially known as the Frank Davis “Naturally N’Awlins” Memorial Bridge, which crosses the eastern end of Lake Pontchartrain.

The “Naturally N’Awlins” Bridge with New Orleans in the distance

We left I-10 as it passed the Superdome in New Orleans and took US-90 across the Mississippi River.  We continued on US-90 headed for our home during our stay here, Bayou Signette State Park.

We only scheduled two days for our visit to New Orleans with one day planned for a tour of the French Quarter and another for a visit to the National WWII Museum.  Since it was going to be cold and windy on our first day (Sunday), we decided to visit the museum (it’s indoors!).

Upon entering the museum and paying your admission fee you are given a swipe card called a dog tag.

As you proceed through the museum you can swipe the card at five stations along the way and follow the continuing story of one person who served during the war.

Pam’s “dog tag” identified a man named E. B. Sledge who served with the Marines in the Pacific Theater.

Near the admissions counter you enter a train car that simulates leaving a station in a city in 1942, just like so many young men of that era experienced as they headed off to war.

In the same large room as the admissions counter and train car is a re-creation of a Higgins Boat, a landing craft used extensively in beach assaults, most famously in the Normandy assaults on D-Day.

The Higgins Boat is one of the reasons this museum is located in New Orleans.  Higgins Industries is located here and built about 20,000 boats during the war.   Next to the Higgins is a German 88 mm anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery gun.  It was widely used by Germany throughout the war, and was one of the most recognized German weapons.

Higgins Boat and German 88-mm gun

Hanging above the Higgins Boat and the 88 is a Douglas C-47 Skytrain, a transport aircraft used to take paratroopers behind the lines in Normandy just before the D-Day landings.

We then entered the Solomon Victory Theater to watch a video, Beyond all Boundaries, narrated by Tom Hanks.  The video, about 30 minutes long, uses various modalities (the seats shake during explosions) as it reviews key events of the war.  The video is excellent and provides a great overview of the war, very helpful to someone who doesn’t know much about it (i.e. Pam).

Following the video we entered a two story building housing the “Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters” exhibitions.  We remained on the first floor and made our way through The Road to Berlin exhibition trail.

Using a combination of life-like displays and brief videos, the exhibition takes you from the invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch) through the fall of Berlin.

Operation Torch display

American defeat at the Battle of Kasserine Pass in North Africa

Short video about the fall of Berlin

One year John had a student named Andy Pergrin in one of his history classes.  During a discussion of the Almedy Massacre during the Battle of the Bulge, Andy raised his hand and said that his grandfather was in that battle and was near the massacre (German troops executed a group of American prisoners and left the bodies frozen in the snow).  Since he didn’t know much about his grandfather’s participation, the discussion just moved on.  That night John did some research on the grandfather and discovered that Lt. Col. David Pergrin found the only survivors of the killing just a short time after the massacre.  He later commanded an engineer battalion in the construction of a bridge across the Rhine River.  John was watching for mention of the bridge as we moved through the exhibition and, sure enough, he came to a plaque with a picture of Lt. Col. Pergrin and an explanation of his feats!

How cool ! !

After touring The Road to Berlin we moved upstairs and took a similar walk through exhibits and videos in The Road to Tokyo.

Next we visited the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center which houses a display of aircraft and a few military vehicles.

B-24D Liberator Fuselage “Over Exposed”

F4U Corsair

The National WWII Museum is a “can’t miss this” stop in a visit to New Orleans.  It is so good that even a non-history person will enjoy it.  Pam doesn’t really like war museums and thought about finding a Starbucks to sit in while John visited the museum.  But she decided to go with him and found she really enjoyed the experience!

Next up for us is a visit to the famous French Quarter.  More on that later . . .

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30 Responses to World War II Museum, New Orleans

  1. Sue says:

    The museum sounds wonderful. In most museums I get worn out reading and sort of rush through the rest but this one sounds like it would keep my interest all the way through. I love “going to” museums with Jodee because she pre-digests all the interesting facts and stories and them regurgitates them back up for us……will you do that John?

  2. Gay says:

    Awesome post. Joe would love this museum. That’s so cool that you found the plaque and information on John’s student’s grandfather.

  3. Jerry & Karen says:

    This is a museum that I would definitely visit. If you come through Kansas City we have an excellent WW1 Museum.

  4. Jim and Barb says:

    What an interesting museum, we were in New Orleans our first year on the road but missed this highlight. Next time…..

  5. pmbweaver says:

    Love the header photo! Beautiful.
    When we stayed at Bayou Signette State Park in 2010, they gave us two free admission tickets into one of the LA State Historical Sights. I have no idea if they still do that now.

    We have been to NO twice and never visited this museum. Another reason to go back. I love the idea of the dog tags. What a personal touch. Got the Museum on my list for the next time we visit NO. Looks like an awesome place, full of so many opportunities to learn about history. What a fascinating story about Lt. Col. David Pergrin and his grandson. If Pam liked it, it is good enough for Paul…lol

    Y’all have to go back and do the tour of the historical homes and park. They are both beautiful.

  6. We visited the museum years ago right after it had just opened. If I recall it was called the D-Day Museum back then. Looks like they’ve added many more exhibits. I’m not big on history, but found it fascinating.

    • placestheygo says:

      You are correct, Gayle. The museum use to be called D-Day Museum. It has expanded and is still growing! It is very fascinating even for those of us who aren’t big history fans:)

  7. Looks like a really thorough museum and very well done! I’d probably enjoy it too! How cool to find mention of your student’s grandfather!

  8. The museum is definitely on our list. I was a history teacher too, so that is right up my alley. How do you like the park? That’s where we had planned to stay last spring. We are going back to South Caroline this spring, but haven’t decided to go farther north or retrace our steps.

  9. Laurel says:

    The WW II museum has been on our list but we’ve always bypassed it in favor of walking tours and just wandering around the city. Now we’ll be sure not to miss it! If Pam enjoyed it, I know I will, too. 🙂 Thanks so much for the great photos and narrative—it looks interesting and educational, but not overwhelming (as so many museums can be). Of course, it would be even better if we had you as our tour guide….

  10. Debbie told us we should go see this, but I thought it was awfully pricey. It does look like a wonderful experience and likely worth the high cost – next time for sure! Looks like a lot to regurgitate though :-))))) Great pic of the lake!

    • placestheygo says:

      Jodee, we talked about the fact that you didn’t get to this museum. You are such a museum person. It was a little pricey, but once you visit and see the place, you understand. It really is an experience, not your typical museum. I truly enjoyed every part of it and I don’t do museums often. It really deserves two days which you can get for an additional $6, but we didn’t have time. Put it on your list for next time:)

  11. Sherry says:

    I’m adding to my notes “ice in January” and thinking maybe in my dream trip west we won’t leave until February. A tunnel under the river is interesting. The only one I’ve ever been in is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel under the bay. So glad to see you in Bayou Sigrette. It’s a stop I had on my imaginary trip and now I can see just how you like it. Thanks SO much for the details on the WW II museum. We don’t do a lot of museums and are with Pam in seldom doing anything to do with war. We might have skipped this one were it not for you. This looks like an exceptionally well done museum. I especially like the “individual” aspect of it. Definitely on our itinerary now. Really great post on it. How wonderful to have such a personal connection from your past to what you were seeing. Wish my father hadn’t lost his eye sight to macular degeneration, he was one of the youngest men in the war in the Pacific. I’d love to bring him there.

  12. geogypsy2u says:

    I didn’t like history as a kid yet it’s fascinating now. I like how this museum focused on the “people”. Especially the connection of David Pergrin. That couldn’t be a very deep river where you drove under.

  13. I love your photos! We just left Foley, Alabama about a week ago. We travel fulltime in our RV and have a youtube channel to show what its like. The storms that we show in one of our videos were all in Foley when they had those tornados go through. Crazy weather! Anyways, we love your story! Safe Travels!

  14. Larry says:

    Thanks for the tour. As a WWII buff I’ve got to get down there.

  15. Debbie L says:

    We lived in Mobile for 3 years so we hope to visit it again. But probably just by car! Not looking forward to the bridges!
    Bill hopes to see some of Mississippi. But I want to run up to Red Bay and get a dishwasher! Our new diet means LOTS of dishes now. I never minded them since Bill is the chef-but he’s on a different level now. 😜
    Anyway, we thought we’ve seen everything we’d want to see in NOLA. We even took our parents there when we lived in Mobile-they visited us while there. Both of Bill’s parents are WWII vets as was my dad. They would have loved the museum-as would we! Thanks for that tour as I’m not sure we’ll make it….but who knows, if we get some rainy weather, I could see us going there.

    • Debbie L says:

      PS – how fascinating about Lt. Col. David Pergren (hope that’s spelled right)! We do love the personal aspect of any war museum we’ve visited. But never had a personal connection like John did! Wow, he was a hero. Hope his student is following your travels and sees his grandad (or great grand dad)! My two nephews are WWII history buffs because of my dad’s service – their grandad. He was a bombardier in a B 24 Liberator. Has John read “Unbroken?” A fabulous life story of an American hero and bombardier from WWII. It sure helped me understand my dad’s PTSD….

  16. atravelingb says:

    This was one of my favorite places I went in New Orleans! I’ve been twice – both times I visited NOLA. So glad you enjoyed it – such an important part of our history. It’s so nice they have put real time and resources into making it a great museum – with such authentic memorabilia too!

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