NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - On Saturday, June 6, The National WWII Museum will simultaneously commemorate the 71st anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy and the 15th anniversary of its opening as The National D-Day Museum in 2000.
After receiving Congressional designation to become America's WWII Museum in 2004, the institution launched a major campaign in order to expand into a world-class educational institution that preserves the stories of the Greatest Generation, while benefiting and inspiring future generations.
In a prepared statement, Museum President and CEO Gordon H. "Nick" Mueller recalls the "daunting challenge" of creating a national institution based on the dream of Stephen E. Ambrose, Mueller's longtime colleague at the University of New Orleans. "He had a deep understanding of the need to tell the stories of the many men and women who put their lives on the line in that war," Mueller said of his friend and fellow historian. "Steve founded The National D-Day Museum not only to bring these stories to life, but to make clear that we, as a country, owe our freedom to these servicemembers of the WWII generation."
On June 6, 2000, Ambrose's original vision came to life. The National D-Day Museum opened its doors in the city of New Orleans, the very place Andrew Higgins designed, built and tested the landing craft that were vital to the war's many D-Day invasions.
Ambrose passed away before Congress designated the institution the official National WWII Museum, but the Museum's programs and exhibits attracted a wide audience-and the future looked bright.
Unfortunately, disaster struck in the form of Hurricane Katina the following year. While the Museum was spared flooding, the city of New Orleans faced devastation, with dim prospects for attracting tourists who sustain cultural institutions. The Museum's future suddenly seemed in doubt.
The board directed its chief executive to reopen the Museum as soon as possible, tapping the strength and resilience of the same American spirit that made victory possible during the war.
Today the Museum receives nearly 600,000 visitors annually-quite a leap from 67,603 recorded in the year following Hurricane Katrina. The institution is rated among the world's top museums by TripAdvisor users and maintains a national membership of more than 130,000, the largest of any U.S. museum.
Anniversary events on Saturday, June 6, will include an extremely rare opportunity for visitors to board the Museum LCVP, or Higgins Boat, as Museum staff members explain the craft's role in the D-Day invasion.
Curators will also exhibit uniforms and equipment used by American and German soldiers during World War II. Visitors will be able to hold and try on original and replica helmets, uniforms, boots, packs and other personal equipment.