National World War II Museum New Orleans

ww2 museum

In 1939, our world was thrust into the grips of war. A staggering 126 million people were caught up in the conflict worldwide, with estimated casualties ranging between 40 and 72 million. Even though the official end of World War II came in 1945, the repatriation records reveal that for many, the struggle persisted. The toll on both mental and physical well-being was immeasurable. The National WWII Museum in New Orleans honors the sacrifices made by those brave men and women. This is a place where we can come together to learn about the realities of war and why it’s something that should never be repeated.

On June 6, 2000, the 56th anniversary of D-Day, the National World War II Museum proudly opened its doors in New Orleans. I have visited the museum several times because there is so much to see and do here, and I learn something new each time.

The Origins of the World War II Museum

world war ii museum
Image Credit: National WWII Museum.

Born from the vision of historian Stephen E. Ambrose, best known for his riveting book Band of Brothers, the museum began as a tribute to the D-Day invasions. Ambrose, alongside his colleague, Dr. Nick Mueller of the University of New Orleans, dreamed of a place that would do more than display artifacts�they wanted to tell the whole story of America’s role in the war.

As you wander through the museum’s pavilions, you’ll find that each tells a different chapter of the war�from the harrowing European battlefields to the moving stories of the Home Front. The museum is evolving into a storytelling powerhouse as it continues to grow in size and exhibits. It’s no longer just a museum�it’s a time machine to an era of heroism and sacrifice. This is where history is seen and felt, a testament to the museum’s commitment to keeping the legacy of World War II alive for future generations.

Exhibits and Collections

National WWII Museum - Final Mission USS Tang Submarine Experience
Image Credit: National WWII Museum.

The museum has both permanent and special temporary exhibits. Permanent exhibits include the Campaigns of Courage, which vividly details both the European and Pacific theaters of war�the Arsenal of Democracy, focusing on the American home front and industrial efforts�and the awe-inspiring US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, showcasing wartime aircraft. The Road to Tokyo and Road to Berlin exhibits also offer in-depth looks at the challenging campaigns in the Pacific and Europe. The Louisiana Memorial Pavilion highlights local contributions to the war, including the vital Higgins boats. 

The museum’s interactive and multimedia displays engage visitors through touch screens, audio-visual presentations, and firsthand testimonies, making history accessible and immersive. Additionally, the museum hosts a variety of educational programs, including lectures, symposiums, and workshops, which further deepen visitors’ engagement with the complexities of World War II.

Tom Hanks and Beyond All Boundaries: A 4D Cinematic Experience

National WWII Museum - Beyond All Boundaries
Image Credit: National WWII Museum – Beyond All Boundaries.

In 2001, Stephen E. Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers was turned into a miniseries, and among the various producers on the show are two well-known names�Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. The Saving Private Ryan star developed an interest in World War II, and as a result, he has been a great advocate for fundraising and public involvement in the National WW II Museum.

In 2009, Beyond All Boundaries started playing in the museum’s Solomon Victory Theater. The 30-minute 4-D experience includes archival footage and stories commemorating battles from World War II. It’s narrated by Tom Hanks and brings the war’s history to life in a powerful, sensory-rich experience. This is also a reminder that if you’re sensitive to graphic imagery or special effects, perhaps skip this film.

Educational Programs and Research

Educator Resources The National WWII Museum New Orleans
Image Credit: The National WWII Museum.

The educational programs at the National WW II Museum cater to a diverse range of audiences, from students and teachers to historians and the general public. The museum provides comprehensive curriculum resources, lesson plans, classroom activities for students and educators, and field trips and professional development opportunities. Their creative approach extends to virtual field trips and distance learning programs, allowing students and learners worldwide to engage interactively with WWII history.

The museum hosts an impressive range of public programs, including lectures, book talks, and panel discussions with historians, authors, and veterans, offering in-depth viewpoints on various aspects of the war. For researchers, the museum’s archives and library present a treasure trove of personal letters, diaries, maps, photographs, and oral histories. The museum’s annual International Conference on WWII attracts scholars and enthusiasts worldwide. Moreover, engaging youth and family programs like workshops, summer camps, and scout activities ensure that younger generations are also drawn into understanding and appreciating the vast impact of World War II.

Visitor Experience: Food and Other Entertainment

Image Credit: National WWII Museum.

BB’s Stage Door Canteen honors popular war-time entertainment with various shows throughout the year. Lady Legends Matinee Luncheon pays tribute to the popular female singers of the time, including the Andrew Sisters and The Ronettes. Your ticket includes a buffet-style lunch featuring some classic New Orleans dishes and other delicious fare. There’s also Wartime Piano Happy Hour, the singing groups The Victory Belles and Black Angels Over Tuskegee, and several dinner dances throughout the year.

There are two on-site dining options. The American Sector Restaurant and Bar is a sit-down affair with tasty treats, including burgers and fries, gumbo, shrimp and grits, and braised short ribs. You also have a great bar selection. They’re open from 11 am until 4 pm. For a casual dining experience, Jeri Nim’s Soda Shop is open from 8 am until 3 pm. They offer coffee, breakfast, sandwiches, and sweet treats.

The museum store’s proceeds go to support the museum. You can find a range of books, souvenirs, and clothing. If you’re into retro 1940s fashion, you can enjoy perusing a large range of war-time-inspired outfits. 

Visitor Information

National WWII Museum - battle-of-the-bulge
Image Credit: National WWII Museum.

New Orleans’s National WW II Museum is not an experience that might take a couple of hours. The museum offers so much information that multiple visits may be in order. There are a range of admission experiences to choose from. General Admission is $25-$35 and includes access to all exhibits. Plan to arrive early to get the most out of the museum. Opening hours are 9 am to 5 pm. The “Best Value Experience” is $50-$60 and includes the Beyond All Boundaries and Freedom Theater Experience add-ons. You can also choose Expressions of America�an immersive outdoor sound and light show or an extra day at the museum. WWII veterans are free.

You can also opt for a Gallery Guided Tour for an extra $30. Expert guides lead you through the museum’s extensive exhibits, offering detailed insights and answering questions to enrich your understanding of the displays. The Into the Vault Experience is a must for a unique behind-the-scenes look. It costs $225 and includes 2-hour access to the museum’s artifact vault led by a curator. 

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