‘Pelican State goes to War’: New exhibit opens at WWII Museum

NEW ORLEANS - A new exhibit at the National WWII Museum shines a light on the "extraordinary contributions" Louisiana made to World War II.

The exhibit, "The Pelican State Goes to War: Louisiana in World War II," opened Friday.

Presented by The Alta and John Franks Foundation, the exhibit features artifacts, photographs, oral histories and associated educational programming, according to a news release from the downtown New Orleans museum.

On December 8, 1941, just one day after the Pearl Harbor attacks, the United States officially entered World War II – Louisiana, however, was already front and center in the country’s defense preparations. From 1940 to 1945, the state hosted the largest maneuvers in US military history, witnessed massive changes to its industrial base, and saw its citizens become enthusiastic contributors to what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt deemed “The Arsenal of Democracy.”

“World War II provided new, previously unimaginable opportunities to Louisiana’s residents,”  said the exhibit’s curator, James Linn. “This exhibit will highlight the heroic stories of people like Claire Chennault, who created an early warning system to help protect China’s air force against Japanese attacks; and Richard English, who served in the African American 761st Tank Battalion and later became an advocate for Civil Rights. These unique wartime experiences, which were born in Louisiana, also helped lay the groundwork for sweeping economic changes in the postwar world.”

Many Louisiana residents contributed to victory in World War II on the battlefield, with nearly 280,000 individuals from the state serving in the armed forces during the war.

The exhibit shares the courageous stories of Louisiana’s six Medal of Honor recipients and also explores tales of the Louisiana Home Front, from the great mobilization efforts of Higgins Industries, to first grader Billy Michal’s scrap collection for school.

The Pelican State Goes to War will be on display through April 29, 2018, in The Joe W. and Dorothy D. Brown Foundation Special Exhibit Gallery.

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