By John Pope
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Since the National World War II Museum opened in 2000, it has accumulated plenty of weapons of war, including airplanes, Jeeps and tanks. The latest building, opening this weekend, will give the Warehouse District museum a chance to show off some of the biggest, including a 30,160-pound airplane and a Sherman tank.
Unlike other buildings in the museum complex, this pavilion, a glass-fronted structure formally known as the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, has no narrative line. Instead, it was designed to show off what Gordon “Nick” Mueller, the museum’s president and chief executive officer, calls “macro artifacts” from the museum’s holdings that, he said, “project American strength and values.”
The idea driving this part of the museum, Mueller said during a recent tour of the new building, came from a 1940 speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which the president declared the United States had to become “the great arsenal of democracy.” After the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States rose to that challenge, and Mueller said he wanted this building to show the results.
The proof was all around him. Six massive planes and bombers hung from the ceiling. Off in a corner was a mockup of a World War II submarine that will offer a high-tech, make-believe ride beneath the sea. Among the “macro artifacts” scheduled to be added to the vast main floor are a halftrack and the fuselage of a B-24 bomber.
“All the tools of war – land, sea and air,” museum spokeswoman Clem Goldberger said.
This panoply of military might will be dedicated in a 9 a.m. ceremony that will be closed to the public. Tom Brokaw, the NBC newsman and author of “The Greatest Generation,” will be the master of ceremonies. In addition to public and museum officials, speakers will include Irene Inouye, the widow of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who was a World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient; and Roscoe Brown Jr., one of the legendary African-American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
There will be a flyover of four World War II-vintage airplanes between 10:45 and 11 a.m., said Stephen Watson, the museum’s vice president and chief operating officer.
The public can start inspecting the 26,540-square-foot pavilion at 9 a.m. The museum entry fee will admit visitors to the building, Goldberger said, but a simulated ride on the submarine USS Tang will cost $5 extra.
The Freedom Pavilion is at the back of the tract across Andrew Higgins Drive from the museum’s original building. To reach it, visitors will have to walk past the site where the museum’s next project, Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters, is being built. That $33 million pavilion is expected to open in the spring of 2014.1 2 next >>