If a trip to Normandy, France isn’t in the budget this year, there are still ways to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings.
There will be numerous parades and many U.S. Army museums around the country are pulling out all the stops. However, to take in this significant military and WWII milestone there are two stateside museums that simply can’t be overlooked.
D-Day in the Heartland
For those in the heartland there is the National Museum of the United States Air Force, which today is housed in a specially built facility that encompasses more than 19 acres on the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB). It is the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world and has more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display.
The museum is home to such notable planes as the B-17 “Memphis Belle” and the B-29 “Bockscar” – the latter being the aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
Also in the collection are aircraft from the WWI to the modern day, but this summer is the time to visit the museum to really understand the importance and complexity of D-Day.
Here are some of the artifacts now on the display the National Museum of the USAF:
A “Virtual” D-Day at the National Museum of the United States Air Force
For those who can’t get to Normandy really do only need to go as far as Dayton to experience the D-Day invasion in another unique way. The National Museum of the USAF is working with the French company Histovery to create an augmented reality (AR) program. Histovery currently provides AR solutions for several French castles, palaces and museums including the Popes’ Palace in Avignon, the Pic Du Midi Observatory, and the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy.
Visitors are provided with a Samsung tablet dubbed a “HistoPad,” which utilizes an interactive and immersing software where users get a 360 degree view of the pre-drop training facilities, the experience of being on a C-47 and then dropping into combat on June 6. Users can collect relics and are then rewarded for what they find.
The “D-Day: Freedom from Above” Exhibit is running now until the end of the year.
D-Day in the Big Easy
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans is the other must visit attraction – and as its name suggests it is truly about all things World War II. However, when it opened on June 6, 2000, its focus was on D-Day – it was originally the National D-Day Museum.
The choice of New Orleans was notable in that the city’s other tourism sites and attractions are not usually associated with the 20th century or World War II. The Big Easy, known for its food, music and nightlife does have a connection to history, but yet most would probably think of it as the site of the Battle of New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812, and as the first major occupied southern city during the American Civil War.
However, New Orleans has strong link to the Second World War and notably the Normandy invasion. The Higgins Boats, which were vital to the D-Day operations, were designed, built and tested in New Orleans by Higgins Industries and this was the crucial piece in determining a home for the project. Moreover, New Orleans was the home of noted historian Stephen Ambrose, who had spearheaded efforts to see the building of the museum.
With such ties, and the fact that the United States had no official World War II Museum, New Orleans seemed an ideal spot. As a result there is no better place to get the full on D-Day experience without having to go to France.
Here are some of the artifacts now on the display theNational World War II Museum in New Orleans:
National Museum of the United States Air Force Info
Admission to the museum is free. There is a charge for the Air Force Museum Theatre and flight simulators.
Address: 1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45431 Hours: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Phone: (937) 253-4629 www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/
National World War II Museum in New Orleans
Museum admission is $28 for adults; $24 for seniors ages 65-80; $18 for students with ID and military with ID; World War II veterans are admitted free.
Address: 945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130 Hours: 9 a.m. –5 p.m. seven days a week. Closed Mardi Gras Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Phone: (504) 528-1944 www.nationalww2museum.org/