NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The National WWII Museum celebrated the next milestone in its $325 million expansion with a Grand Opening ceremony for the new US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. An expansive, patriotic and emotional ceremony was matched only by the grandeur and glory of the new pavilion, which opened to the public today.
Called "A Salute to Freedom" and presented by CenturyLink, the event marked a weekend of celebration as an array of VIPs, veterans and young scholars from every state in the union and the District of Columbia gathered in New Orleans for the occasion. Attending were members of the national news media such as Tom Brokaw, politicians including US Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne; representatives from CenturyLink and The Boeing Company; Museum board members; student historians and military figures from all branches of service. The throng joined National WWII Museum President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Gordon H. "Nick" Mueller to dedicate the $35 million building. The thrusting glass and steel exhibit space holds a tribute to WWII Medal of Honor recipients and displays huge macro artifacts including a B-17E Flying Fortress – the massive bomber was part of America's "Arsenal of Democracy" that won the war. It now joins one of the world's finest collections of WWII artifacts.
"We are the nation's WWII museum," Mueller said. "And with Sunday's public opening of the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, we'll have even more compelling artifacts to display to our community, our visitors and the world. This is an exciting and emotional day."
Other artifacts inside the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center include the "big guns" of American military might, consisting of restored aircraft such as a B-25J Mitchell, SBD-3 Dauntless, TBM Avenger, P-51D Mustang, Corsair F4U-4 and an interactive submarine experience based on the final mission of the USS Tang. Visitors will man authentic positions and perform the battle actions of actual crewmembers as the Tang engages the Japanese forces in a recreation of the doomed sub's final war patrol battle. The USS Tang, launched in 1943, was America's most successful submarine during World War II. Roaming the Pacific she sank 33 Japanese ships. In 1944 she was sunk during her last engagement by a circular run of her final torpedo. Only nine men escaped. They were captured by the Japanese and sent to a prison camp. Seventy-eight others died. This educational and interactive exhibit, Final Mission: The USS Tang Submarine Experience, honors their memory. Exhibits in the new pavilion make full use of the newest digital technologies for a thrilling journey into the heart of the war experience.
Funds for the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center came from a $20 million Congressional grant through the United States Department of Defense and $15 million gift from The Boeing Company. The gift from Boeing, which built the B-17, represents the largest private contribution the Museum has received to date. Funding for individual exhibits and artifact restoration were provided by other generous donors including Madlyn and Paul Hilliard, the Goldring Family Foundation & The Woldenberg Foundation, Pratt & Whitney, Martin Granoff, the Ricketts family, the Ready family, Capital One and Whitney Bank.
"The swift progress that has been made on this project is emblematic of the unity of spirit, dedication and selfless hard work that won the war on the battlefronts and on the Home Front seven decades ago," said Dennis Muilenburg, Executive Vice President of The Boeing Company and President and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. "It is great to see the vision of the Museum's founders come to life as a place where visitors can gain a fuller appreciation of what so many Americans achieved in World War II and can reflect on what today's generation of war fighters continue to do for us every day."
Mueller gave more background to Boeing's wartime accomplishments.
"Activity on the Home Front was vital to the Allied victory in World War II, and Boeing was at the epicenter of that industrial movement, producing more than 19,000 B-17s, B-29s and other essential aircraft," he said. "The B-17 and other artifacts in our US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center represent the nation's tremendous industrial capacity and American wartime ingenuity. We thank Boeing for its contribution to preserving our freedoms then – and now."
The Museum opened the new pavilion even as another, the $33 million Campaigns of Courage: European & Pacific Theaters, rises nearby – scheduled to open in 2014. The last major building, The Liberation Pavilion (scheduled opening in 2016), will focus on the war's closing months and the immediate post-war years and contain an expansive special exhibits gallery. A proposed hotel and conference center as well as a parking structure, if built, will finish out the expansion. Upon completion, the Museum will directly sustain more than 400 jobs and generate $100 million each year in positive economic impact.
Education remains the Museum's primary focus. Exposing younger generations to the accomplishments of the WWII generation is the institution's foremost mission. Case in point – the Museums decision to assemble student scholars from across the nation on the Museum's campus this weekend.
As part of a unique partnership with The Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest, The National WWII Museum flew writers of winning essays to New Orleans to take part in the "Salute to Freedom" weekend. Each winner and an adult chaperone received an all-expense-paid trip to New Orleans to represent his or her state at the grand opening. The competition was open to all students in grades 6-12 who qualified for the National History Day Contest, with winners announced on June 14 in College Park, Maryland.
"It's been an amazing weekend for these young historians," Mueller said. "I've talked to many of them, and they have been overwhelmed by the opportunity to speak directly to the WWII veterans who volunteer at our museum. These men and women made history come alive for them. They won't forget this experience, nor will we. Our hat's off to these talented students."
The firm Voorsanger Mathes, LLC is the architect for the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. General contractor is Woodward Design + Build, LLC. Exhibit design is provided by Gallagher & Associates.
The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-day Museum and now designated by Congress as America's National World War II Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-527-6012 or visit www.nationalww2museum.org. Follow us on Twitter at WWIImuseum or visit our Facebook fan page.
SOURCE The National WWII Museum