While I was checking out Amnesty International’s Art For Rights event in Nola this weekend, I decided to stroll on over to the National World War II Museum on the opening day of its new exhibit called Road to Tokyo, I’m not a history buff and I hate the idea of ware, but since I was in the city and had time, I figured I might as well. I only had 2 hours to devote to the museum because I was being cheap and didn’t want to pay $12 to park in a lot, so I parked on the street for 2 hours for $3. The museum itself was $24, which is a decent price point for a museum with such rich history.
FYI, if you ever decide to visit the museum, you need wayyy more time than 2 hours. There are thousands of artifacts and a large collection of memoirs and oral histories. This was my first visit, and I didn’t realize the amount of information this museum holds. The Road to Tokyo was just one of several exhibits located in three buildings, and I JUST realized I missed one of the buildings. I basically did a fast forward stroll through the museum while only viewing a small percentage of the information available, and I missed A LOT of necessities, There are guides at the ticket counter, and I’d recommend getting one. I didn’t pick up a guide, so I ended up more or less wandering around.
With a ticket into the museum, I got this card that represents a dog tag, and was instructed to start my journey at the train car a few steps away from the ticket counter. Inside the train car, I took a seat and used my dog tag to activate the interactive screen. I was introduced to my special “tour guide,” who was an actual soldier during the war. Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr. was my guide for the day, and I learned that he was the pilot who dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima. The museum holds his official flight log of the day he dropped the bomb as if it was just another day. There were about six different areas to use the dog tag to get more information about Col. Tibbets, but there were too many people in the museum for me to get a chance to use them all.
My two favorite things about the museum were the display of restored (sometimes only particially) American flags and the quotes from people during the war. Some quotes were inspirational and full of hope. Others carried a tone of darkness due at the reality of war.
The Road to Tokyo exhibit was interesting. It was cool to learn about the US strategies for the war, and how they went from island to island until they reached Japan. At the same time, it hurt to stroll through and hear numbers like 7,000, 10,000, 30,000, and 70,000 being thrown around with regard to deaths. Forget about the financial cost of war. What about the human cost?
The museum tried successfully to evoke emotion at the end of the exhibit with the video showing the preparations for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the actual bombing, and the aftermath. There was the melancholy music playing in the background as the footage rolled, and I may or may not have walked away before I shed a tear.
To lift my spirits, I headed to the museum gift shop. I don’t know what it is about museum gift shops, but I always buy something from one! I purchased a long-sleeved white sweat shirt with the “We Can Do It!” poster printed on it. It cost me $25, and I’m looking forward to the day when Louisiana weather will allow me to wear it comfortably.
On another note, I spent most of my time there looking for recognition of people of color during the war. The coverage on black people was pretty much non-existent in the museum, and I just knew that wasn’t accurate. No coverage at all? Not even of the Tuskegee Airmen? Nothing? Apparently, I managed to miss (what a shocker!) an entire exhibit called Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in WWII. Again, I have no idea where this was even located. Let me reiterate the necessity of those guides that are at the ticket counter. I doubt I’ll ever visit this museum again, so I’ll just accept that I missed a great deal.
After the Art for Rights event and my visit to the National WWII Museum, I left New Orleans feeling doomed. We fought for human rights, freedom, and justice in WWII, and we’re still fighting for it today through the works of Amnesty International. I actually cried in the car just thinking about the fact that we’re closer than we’ve ever been to WWIII. When it does happen, there won’t be a surrender ceremony. The humans walking this earth value life less and less, and rely on their egos more and more.