Freedom is not free. I will always be an avid traveler who loves to experience the world and its wonderful people & cultures. These travels constantly remind me how proud & privileged I am to be American, a melting pot society of some of the best parts of these cultures where individuals have the freedom to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We have so many heroes to thank in our American History who fought for the freedom we enjoy today in USA. Today, I had the honor to learn more about the generation who fought for our freedom in World War II by visiting The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The National WWII Museum started as the vision of Stephen E. Ambrose who wrote many acclaimed World War II novels including Band of Brothers, D-Day, and Citizen Soldiers. He dreamt of a museum that reflected his deep regard for our nation’s citizen soldiers, the workers on the Home Front and the sacrifices and hardships they endured to achieve victory. The National D-Day Museum opened on June 6, 2000 as the first stage of the truly comprehensive institution he envisioned. On September 25, 2003, the United States Congress awarded the Museum the designation of “America’s National World War II Museum.”
The museum is situated in downtown New Orleans on a huge six-acre campus. New Orleans was selected as the site of the museum as this is where Ambrose worked and also because Andrew Higgins designed, built and tested the landing craft, the “Higgins Boat” used in many D-Day invasions.
This is a world class museum and one of the best at incorporating immersive exhibits, state-of-the-art multimedia experiences, and an expansive collection of artifacts to provide layers of detail to this complex time in history. The museum has five pavilions to house the different exhibits, on-site restoration work and a dinner theatre, restaurants and shops. Two more pavilions are in the works to provide further educational exhibits for travelers including the Road to Tokyo (2014) and the Liberation Pavilion (2017) focusing on the closing of the war. This museum focuses on the American experience in World War II as part of the Allied Forces, but international visitors will learn greatly from the experience.
Experiencing the National WWII Museum
Perhaps it was your father, uncle, grandfather or another relative who lined up outside a local military recruitment office to enlist after the “day of infamy” when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Maybe your mother or grandmother rolled up her sleeves and went to work with legions of “Rosie the Riveters”. Whatever your personal connection is to the “greatest generation”, the reason to learn about this time is to keep your family’s place in history. My grandfather served in World War II, so the experience is personal for me. He was on the USS Catoctin which served in the Pacific Theater later in the war. The USS Catoctin was also positioned off the Normandy coastline along with 6,000 ships during the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944 to taking the first footsteps to reclaim freedom in Europe.
This is a huge museum, so here is my suggested itinerary. I spent the entire day and easily could have spent another day here.
This is your first stop to purchase your tickets. See Tips at the bottom of the page so you do not have to wait in line.
Next up, obtain your dog tag from one of the kiosks. Then take a ride on the Train Car to register your Dog Tag and select your story and World War II service member to follow. There are machines at each pavilion where you can swipe your Dog Tag and see what part your soldier played in this part of the war efforts. You can also collect artifacts on the card and then register it online so they will be accessible to you online to read more about after you return home.
Next up, head across the street. Make sure to check out the German Bomb Shelters, a piece of the World Trade Center and hundreds of bricks inscribed for men and women that served our country during this time.
I scheduled my viewing of “Beyond All Boundaries” at the beginning of my visit. This 45 minute film, produced by Tom Hanks, provides an overview of World War II to get you up to speed for the exhibits. The film was developed after 6,000 hours of research of archival and stills to interweave 517 film clips of archival footage, 305 archival photos, and words & stories of actual WWII participants. The state of the art theater has lots of special effects to help you understand the events.
- Tickets: WW II Museum Tickets Currently it is $5 extra for this movie and worth it!
- Helpful Tip: Your show time is scheduled. Don’t waste your time getting in line for the “Beyond All Boundaries” show more than 10 minutes early! There will be a big line, but everyone is escorted into a waiting area for a 7 minute pre-show, so the line order gets completely mixed up anyway. The auditorium is new and state of the art, so try to get near the center, but there is really no bad seats
Head back across the street to the same building where you purchased your tickets for this exhibit. This is the original part of the museum focused on D-Day. From the beaches of Normandy to the sands of Iwo Jima, the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion exhibits tell the stories of dozens of amphibious landings—including the Normandy Invasion—and the thousands of men and women who made Allied victory in World War II possible.
Time for a lunch break. Drop in at the American Sector for lunch. If you have time to plan in advance, try to purchase tickets for the Stage Door Canteen for lunch and a show. I was able to see a performance of the Andrews Sisters which did not disappoint.
The Road to Berlin is one of the newer exhibits. It explores the larger context of the European front, helping visitors understand what preceded and what followed the landing at Normandy. Along with the history and artifacts, this exhibit will immerse you in the different environments that our soldiers faced.
This is another add-on and an interactive experience recreating the last war patrol of America’s most decorated submarine in World War II. You will be assigned a sailor and role on the submarine and be immersed in a simulated environment recreating a torpedo run. After the exhibit, you can see the rest of your sailor’s story.
The World War II years were a time when the freedom of the world hung in the balance. Americans answered the call to protect that freedom with 16 million men and women serving in uniform and an untold number of citizens of all ages doing their part on the Home Front. It is their contributions that are honored in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. This pavilion is full of restored vehicles and aircraft from World War II.
The “jewel” of the exhibit is a Boeing B-17 Bomber “My Gal Sal” and the size is breath-taking. The ramps and elevators allow you to view the plane from several levels. Check out the short 5 minute movie about the recovery and restoration which plays on one of the two large screens in the main hall
First Hand History
Throughout the museum, you will encounter kiosks to listen to first-person oral histories. This was probably the most impactful part of the museum for me as you will be taken inside the story of the war: why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. The Museum has collected over 7,200 oral histories… history preserved for future generations. The survivors words tell the story of each individual experience and the amount of sacrifice in the ‘War effort” from the whole nation dedicated to a single purpose. I’ve never seen it more powerfully demonstrated than here. On my visit, there were also a few World War II veterans who gladly talked with any visitor – greet everyone proudly.
The National World War II Museum is a can’t miss to understanding this key time in American History. It is also a museum that continues to evolve and grow. Ask the volunteers at the entry as there were several special presentations occurring throughout the day. As few World War II veterans survive today, I urge you to meet one and thank them for their service and the freedom you enjoy today.
Tom Hanks says it best:
“Visiting the Museum is an intimate, emotional experience where you learn with your head and your heart. You are inspired by what this Grand Republic can achieve when we work together; You are astonished by the personal stories of people who were there, told in their own words. This is a place that celebrated the American spirit – the teamwork and the courage of the men and women who won World War II.” Tom Hanks
- Official Website: The National World War II Museum in New Orleans
- Hours: The Museum is open seven days a week, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. They recommend that you allow a minimum of 3 hours to view exhibits, but it took me the entire day.
- Tickets: The The National WWII Museum Tickets Buy your tickets online and pick them up at will call – the lines can be very long. You will also want to buy in advance so you can get early times for the Beyond All Boundaries show. Try to visit on a weekday to avoid crowds.
- Parking: The Museum has one paid parking lot on Magazine Street, across from the theater, with entrances from Andrew Higgins and Magazine. Try to take the public transportation from your hotel (Bus or Trolley)
- Time: The Museum recommends at least 2-3 hours, but you can easily spend all day at the museum, especially if you go to all parts of the museum, the 2 shows, lunch, listen to the testimonials and visit with a veteran. Take the entire day – it’s a world class museum and a crucial time in history.