We began with the overview film, Beyond All Boundaries, produced and narrated by Tom Hanks. It was incredibly done. It's probably the most comprehensive overview of the history leading up to WWII and then the war itself that I've ever seen. I also was impressed that it wasn't completely overwhelming for the little boys. There were some parts where they did cover their ears from the noise, but the content was still appropriate for all ages.
Next, we went to the USS Tang Experience. Last summer, we visited the (new-then-retired) USS Albacore submarine, and recalled seeing the Tang as a submarine on "eternal patrol." This allowed us a small way to experience what it was like for the men on that boat. This interactive exhibit allows pairs of people to "man" the stations and be part of the crew.
Pictured here is the entire crew of the Tang. Only nine men (the pictures surrounded by light) survived what became her final mission.
In the same building as the Tang experience is a presentation sponsored by Boeing. It includes several vehicles and planes, along with several flight jackets.
Carrier pigeon transport.
One of them said, "I see GOOFY!" Yep, there he was!
On the second floor of the hangar, there was an exhibit about the different military branches, and interactive exhibits on the Medal of Honor recipients. We found the uniforms that each of the boys' namesake great-grandfathers would have worn.
Benjamin Luke with Benajmin Broselow, MD, US Army.
Matthew James with Vincent James Falciani, Sr., US Army
Jude William and William W. Shade, US Army Air Force
Both of these exhibits were "timed ticket" entry, so we decided to do them back-to-back and first, so we didn't lose track of time once we got into the museum itself. I'm glad we did it this way, because once we got in, we didn't realize what time it was until someone announced the museum would be closing shortly!
On our way back to the main hall, we saw a Victory Garden. Celia recognized these plants right away! (Can you guess what they are?)
We re-entered the main building and began our trip through World War II. I was very happy to see they include the "build up" and don't just begin at Pearl Harbor.
This visual shocked Luke. This was the comparative size of the Japanese, American, and German armies in the mid-1930s. One figurine equals 20,000 men enlisted. Good call for FDR to start to ramp up the military but not dive right in.
Want to know what was in the ration boxes send to the troops? Chocolate. (Jude was proud he could read not just the print lettering but also the cursive!)
Matthew came running over, saying "Mom, George Washington is on a $25 bill!" Um...no. He got a quick explanation of what a War Bond was.
Four tries and they got this word sounded out right. When I added "And you're allergic to that too," Celia jumped back about four feet! (It's not real, kid.)
Of course, an image of "Rosie the Riveter" was hanging.
Wartime or peace time, work on a farm.
While the museum makes an effort to show many of the battles, Operation Overlord in the European Theater is what takes center stage. This "one chance, no turning back once we start" was the official code name of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.
What the Germans would have seen coming at them as day broke.
We were especially interested in the involvement of the 101st Airborne unit. One of the soldiers that jumped into the area outlined by that solid oval was Neal's grandmother's second husband. He was a "lucky" man - for the rest of his life, he had a bullet remaining in his knee, but many of the men he jumped with didn't make it home.
101st Airborne logo
On the opposite side of the building is an exhibit in the Pacific theater. It was almost like two different wars being fought. We learned about Guadalcanal, both battles in the Phillipines, and how Navy codebreakers led to a victory at Midway.
One battle we had never heard of was the invasion at Saipan. Two weeks after the invasions of Rome and Normandy, this battle began the final push to win the Pacific.
Flag from a Pacific fleet boat.
I wish we had realized there was so much at the museum to see. Unfortunately, going back tomorrow just isn't an option because of the three-plus hour drive to Vicksburg we have planned. I guess we'll just have to come back!
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