Nestled in the middle of New Orleans, the National WWII Museum is an incredible monument to our bloodiest war. Through a number of exhibits and experiences, the National WWII Museum takes you through the individual lives of those who fought and died for our country and immerses you in the rich history of the theaters and campaigns we fought in. We’ve visited many museums across the country and this is one of the most personal and educational experiences we’ve been able to take part in.
So why is the National WWII Museum in the heart of New Orleans? Well, it has to do with the Higgins boat. The country needed the ability to conduct amphibious landings and Andrew Higgins stepped up to the plate with his Higgins Boat, designed and built in New Orleans. This boat was such a critical vehicle for our military that General Eisenhower said “He [Higgins] won the war for us.” Hence the museum resides in New Orleans as a result of the incredible contribution that the city made to winning the war.
Original and replica vehicles, tanks and various planes in operation during the conflict are on display throughout the museum. Some of the vehicles were parked outside during our visit because they were having an event inside the U.S. Freedom Pavilion. This pavilion tells the story of America at war with digital interviews of veterans who fought in the war. One could easily spend a few hours listening to the oral histories. Final Mission: The USS Tang Submarine Experiences takes place inside the U.S. Freedom Pavilion where 27 visitors takes part in operating the submarine as it fights its final battle. We each received a card with the name and position of a crew member on board the USS Tang. Kait and I were assigned to load the torpedoes during battle. The experience offered a in-depth and personal look at what it was like to be on the submarine during the battle against the Japanese ships.
The Campaigns of Courage pavilion has 19 galleries that takes you through the history and life of the European and Pacific theaters. As you progress, there are videos, displays and experiences that offer an immersive look at what was going on. Unlike many museums that simply have artifacts on display, it feels like you’re walking through the snow during the Battle of the Bulge and get a chance to look through the German gun ports along Normandy beach. There is also an interactive experience where you can follow along in a soldier’s footsteps through the war.
The most impressive experience was Beyond All Boundaries, a 4D experience produced and narrated by Tom Hanks. The showing takes viewers on a journey through the war with special effects and personal accounts. Imagine watching a squadron of B17’s on a bombing run over Germany and a full size replica appears over the audience, fighting its way through the flak and fighters over Germany. Your seat is shaking and it feels like you’re right in the thick of it all.
The museum also invites WWII veterans to come and talk about their experiences and answer questions. It’s quite an experience to stand and listen to a personal account of the war and what they went through during that time. We heard many antidotes about what day to day life was like and it made us really appreciate their service and better understand what each individual went through to serve our country.
Need a place to stay in your RV? Check out Bayou Segnette State Park, a 30-40 minute drive from the museum.