A most usual title for my blog but I will try to explain.

We recently returned from New Orleans where we were fortunate to tour the relatively new World War II Museum. It is located just a short walk from Canal Street and the French Quarter. The Museum consists of several buildings, was financed by private funds and has quickly become one of the most visited museums in the U.S. As a history fan, I willingly signed up for our group’s tour but I was totally blown away by the experience. We walked through interactive, multi media rooms that traced the war in Europe and then the war in the Pacific. We ate lunch in their Canteen hall listening to three women singing both popular and patriotic songs from the forties. We ended our tour by watching a large screen movie narrated by Tom Hanks titled Beyond All Boundaries. Here are some of the takeaways.

Geography involved: Germany and Italy conquered most of Europe and Northern Africa. Japan conquered most of the Pacific Rim including the coastline of China and all the islands just north of Australia and New Zealand. This really was a world war versus the regional conflicts of more recent history.  The color maps at the Museum are amazing.

Casualties: 65 million people, military and civilian, died in this war. The most casualties were our allies, at the time, Russia and China with well over 10 million each. Germany and Japan, mostly from bombing by the U.S. and our allies, lost about 10 million in total. But beyond human deaths, entire towns and countries where destroyed.

Race: Both Germany and Japan believed that they were a superior race to those they fought. Japan’s Emperor was considered God. Germany not only executed Jews but also a number of other ethnic groups. The U.S. locked our own West Coast Japanese citizens in interment camps or allowed the young men to fight, often heroically in Europe. Our African-American troops were segregated and fought with honor when given the opportunity, such as the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Wars are fought for many reasons, such as economic gain,  but race or religion are often used to motivate people to this day.

Patriotism: In every exhibit you learn remarkable stories of the men and women who participated in the war. Women, like my mother who was a WAC, trained men and flew planes and supplies to our troops. In Europe, the Battle of the Bulge was Germany’s last major offensive campaign that almost worked. In the Pacific, critical island battles like Midway and Iwo Jima turned the tide for the U.S. and its allies. Heroes emerged everywhere.

But maybe the most fascinating thing happened at our lunch in the Museum Canteen. There three young ladies sang the Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful and each of the military services theme songs. EVERYONE stood up the whole time and applauded.

In conclusion, a couple thoughts. Go to New Orleans and see the WWII Museum. Take your kids and grandkids from high school age on. And, to quote several of my friends on the tour, if you know any NFL football players, encourage them to go as well!