ALL POSTS IN [Museums and Memorials]

Why is the National WWII Museum in The Big Easy? (All photos: National WWII Museum)

Between Pearl Harbor and the end of the Second World War, railroads provided more than 40 million rides to Americans on active military service.

With that statistic in mind, the National World War II Museum will mark Veterans Day Nov. 11 with the opening of a stationary railroad car of 1940s vintage.

According to Clem Goldberger, a vice president at the museum, visitors on the Pullman car will feel like they’re actually moving — thanks to modern computer wizardry.

National WWII Museum railway

WWII train depot, recreated at WWII Museum.

“Everyone went off to war by train,” says Clem Goldberger, “and those who came back returned home the same way. Our train car will feature a video scrapbook and have vintage music. It’s going to really feel like it did during the war. Our guests will see 1940s America going by.” About the only thing missing will be the soot from the steam engine, she adds.

Now that you’re intrigued, you’re probably wondering: Just why is the National World War II Museum located in New Orleans in the first place?

The massive National World War II Museum, officially recognized by Congress, is located in New Orleans because founding historian Stephen Ambrose of Band of Brothers fame wanted to pay tribute to Andrew Jackson Higgins, the New Orleans-based designer of the amphibious landing craft that proved so decisive on D-Day, the day the Allies invaded Nazi-occupied Europe.

Pullman car at WWII Museum in New Orleans

Inside the Pullman car at the WWII Museum.

The boats were manufactured in The Big Easy.

Called the D-Day Museum before its enormous expansion, the National World War II Museum features several films, USO shows, 40s-style restaurants, and hundreds of exhibits and artifacts as well as a gift shop. A special Veterans Day program is planned for today.

A newly created website, www.myveteransday.org, is hoping to collect a million thank-yous for veterans who served in the American armed forces.

Learn more about the National WWII Museum at www.nationalww2museum.org.

 

About the Author: Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ, is travel editor of Sirius XM’s Maggie Linton Show and New Jersey Lifestyle Magazine. He is also the author of 36 baseball books.


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Actual lifeboat from Maersk Alabama, on display at the Navy Seal Museum in Fort Pierce, FL.

Friday sees the release of Captain Phillips, the biopic starring Tom Hanks that tells the story of a merchant mariner and his crew who are taken captive by Somali pirates.

You may recall it was in April 2009 that the crew of the cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, was traveling on the high seas, 240 nautical miles southeast of a Somali port city, when terror struck: The ship was seized by 4 Somali pirates, and a harrowing ordeal soon followed.

In addition to the 2.5-hour-long film, you can learn the story first-hand at the Navy Seal Museum in Fort Pierce, FL, where the actual lifeboat from the Maersk Alabama now has a permanent home. Plus, for a deeper look into the actual story of what happened that day off Somalia’s shores, check out our own Don Wildman’s recent take on Mysteries at the Museum:

Were you planning on pitching a tent in a national park, taking in the beauty of the national seashore, or examining the art and artifacts housed in any of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and galleries this week?

If so, you’d better make other plans.

In addition to the 800,000 government employees who face unpaid days off now that the federal government has ceased operation, a shutdown spells a number of consequences for travelers, too. In his speech yesterday afternoon, President Obama put it bluntly, “Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, immediately closed.”

While air travel and Amtrak service is not expected to be impacted by the shutdown, a number of popular tourist attractions have begun closing their gates, locking their doors and barricading their entrances. Here’s a rundown of just some the locations that are currently affected by the government shutdown.

National Parks

All of the National Park Service’s more than 400 parks, national monuments and historic sites are currently closed as a result of the government shutdown. On the National Mall in Washington, DC, monuments have begun to be barricaded and fountains turned off — a huge disappointment not only to expectant travelers but also to the 24 couples who were scheduled to get married on the National Mall during the month of October. The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Alcatraz Island, Independence Hall, the Cape Cod National Seashore, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park are all be among the temporarily closed sites, which collectively average about 715,000 visitors per day in October.

As a result of the shutdown, all the parks have been closed today to visitors effective immediately, but travelers already camping in the parks have 2 days to pack up and leave.

Smithsonian Museums and Galleries

Visitors to Washington, DC, hoping to take advantage of the capital’s incredible array of free museums are out of luck today. Don’t count on seeing the Hope Diamond or Dorothy’s ruby slippers — all 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries have shut their doors, including the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American History and the Museum of Natural History. This also includes the National Zoo, leaving many upset at the new reality that the “panda cam” has gone dark.

So what should visitors to Washington, DC, do today? There are a number of museums not affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution – visit the International Spy Museum, the Newseum, the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Building Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Geographic Museum or the Phillips Collection.

American Military Cemeteries Abroad

Twenty-four American military cemeteries spread throughout the world have also been forced to close as a result of the shutdown. Anyone looking to pay their respects at any cemetery operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission will have to reschedule their visit.

What Else?

Be sure to check with your local passport agency before showing up today – while agencies will remain open, those located in federal buildings have been forced to close their doors.

While you wait for some of America’s most popular tourist attractions to re-open, explore (virtually, of course, since you can’t actually visit) the incredible natural landscapes and historic monuments that make up our country’s National Park sites. Then, test your knowledge with our National Parks Quiz – you’ll be an expert by the time congress gets their act together.

 

History buffs rejoice: Don Wildman is back with an all-new season of bizarre, confounding, creepy and downright shocking museum mysteries. Thursday at 9|8c, travel the country with Don as he examines the relics at the heart of the country’s most interesting tales. On tonight’s episode, Don examines a failed invention that helped create a multi-billion dollar industry, the bell of a ship whose crew vanished at sea, and a footprint of a lizard-like creature that roam the swamps of South Carolina.

Need to catch up before the new season begins? Flip through Don’s picks for the Most Shocking Museum Mysteries from the past 4 seasons. Then, head over to Museumist.com to read all about Don’s experience hosting one of Travel Channel’s most thought-provoking shows.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Travelers visiting Washington, DC, will notice something different about the city’s skyline. Although it’s closed for repairs, the Washington Monument is now lighting up the night sky. The National Park Service has installed 488 lamps on the scaffold surrounding the monument.

The rehabilitation is part of a welcome change. On Aug. 23, 2011, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the 555-foot-tall monument, cracking and chipping stones near the top and shaking the mortar loose. The lights are expected to stay on until the popular tourist attraction reopens in spring 2014.

The Big Apple more your style? If you’re heading to NYC, there’s exciting news for tourists who want to check out Lady Liberty. Yep, after being hit by Superstorm Sandy last fall, the Statue of Liberty has once again opened to the public after a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 4th.

You may recall that the National Park Service closed Liberty Island following Hurricane Sandy; however, the Statue of Liberty’s crown reopened after a year of renovations. Last October’s storm flooded and damaged New York Harbor docks and Liberty Island’s walkways, buildings and electrical systems, but the 126-year-old iron statue made it through the storm unscathed.

Looking for more sightseeing recommendations for these cities? Check out our list of Washington DC Attractions and Top 10 Attractions in NYC.

Anne Frank House

Photo by Radio Nederland Wereldomroep

Over a million people visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam each year, but on Friday the museum opened its doors to a celebrity (19-year-old pop star Justin Bieber, to be exact) and controversy followed.

Prior to a concert in Arnhem in the Netherlands, Beiber toured the home where Anne Frank spent 2 years hiding from the Nazis during World War II and wrote her world-famous diary. However, it was his guestbook message that set the Internet on fire.

For its part, the Anne Frank House released a short statement on its Facebook page earlier today gracious for Bieber’s visit and encouraging renewed interest in the museum and Anne Frank’s story.

“The Anne Frank House was pleased to welcome Justin Bieber to the Anne Frank House last Friday. We think it is very positive that he took the time and effort to visit our museum. He was very interested in the story of Anne Frank and stayed for over an hour. We hope that his visit will inspire his fans to learn more about her life and hopefully read the diary.”

Controversy aside, if you haven’t visited the Anne Frank House, it’s an intimate, moving experience to step behind the bookshelf into the secret annex.

If you feel inspired to plan a trip to Amsterdam, Bourdain’s travel guide is a good place to start.

Photo by Getty Images

The Hollywood buzz has started for the new movie 42, a look into the life of American baseball player Jackie Robinson — the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. And in just a few days, April 15 will mark the 64th anniversary of Jackie’s first MLB game at Ebbets Field as a Brooklyn Dodger, breaking the color barrier.

Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, GA, but he lived most of his childhood in Pasadena, CA, at 121 Pepper Street. At an early age, Jackie was a competitive athlete, achieving 4-letterman status in football, basketball, baseball and track at John Muir Technical High School and later, at UCLA, where he won the NCAA broad jump title at 25′ 6 1/2 “.

In 1941, Jackie moved to Honolulu, where he played football for the semi-professional Honolulu Bears. Shortly after, he was drafted into the US Army during World War II. Jackie was stationed at Fort Riley, KS, and then Fort Hood, TX. He became a second lieutenant, but his military career took a sharp turn when he was court-martialed in connection to his objections to incidents involving racial discrimination.

Photography by Ronny Jaques/Library and Archives Canada

After a dishonorable discharge from the military, Jackie dived back into the sports, accepting a position as athletic director and basketball coach at Samuel Huston College in Austin, TX, and playing one season in the Negro Baseball League for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. It was this same year that Branch Rickey, club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, scouted the Negro leagues for a possible addition to the Dodgers. Branch chose Jackie and soon after, in 1946, the young player was signed to play for the all-white Montreal Royals of the Class AAA International League, a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The very next year  Jackie was suited up as a Dodger, becoming the first African-American player since the league’s inception in 1875 to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier. African-American fans flocked to see the Dodgers play, finding, for the first time, a chance to root for more than just Negro league teams.

Although he struggled with racial discrimination throughout his career (he routinely faced racial slurs shouted from the stands), Jackie would be named the National League Rookie of the Year (1947) and National League’s Most Valuable Player of the Year (1949). He would also win the 1949 batting title, with a .342 average — a great percentage for any pro baseball player.

During the mid-1950s, Jackie’s batting average was on the decline, but oddly enough, it was one of the “highs” in his career. In 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the New York Yankees to clinch the 1955 World Series championship. In all, Jackie had a career batting average of .311 with the Dodgers, and in 1962, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, becoming the first African-American player to achieve such distinction.

Photo by Getty Images

After his baseball career, Jackie starred as himself in The Jackie Robinson Story, continued as a civil rights activist, and took a new career as a successful businessman and sports commentator. In addition to these career achievements and changes, he remained a devoted husband to his wife Rachel and a hands-on father to his 3 children.

In 1972, Jackie Robinson died of a heart attack in Stamford, CT, but his legacy lives on through the Jackie Robinson Foundation and at popular attractions, including the Jackie Robinson Field in Pasadena’s Brookside Park, the Jackie Robinson Stadium at UCLA and the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, located at the main entrance to the New York Mets Citi Field.

Photo by Getty Images

In 1997, 9-foot busts were erected across from Pasadena City Hall to commemorate Jackie and his older brother Matthew “Mack” Robinson, who set the world record for broad jump and won a silver medal at the 1936 Olympic Summer Games.  And today, every few years, MLB players remember Jackie Robinson in special ceremonies and by wearing his jersey number 42, which was retired from Major League Baseball on April 15, 1997.

Plans are underway to open a Jackie Robinson Museum and Learning Center at One Hudson Square in Manhattan in 2015.

Tonight at 9|8c on an all-new episode of Mysteries at the Museum, Don Wildman reveals the shocking stories behind artifacts in museums across the country.

Don examines a dress worn by the star of Howard Hughes’ Hollywood flop The Conqueror. Why did so many members of the cast and crew on this infamous film die young of cancer? Mysteries at the Museum then travels to the Strong National Museum of Play, home to an unassuming lump of gray clay that spawned one of America’s most iconic toys. Then, learn the story of a faded brown document from a murder case that inspired a chilling literary classic by Edgar Allan Poe. Plus, watch as Don unveils the stories of a deceitful art forgery, a devastating cruise ship fire, and an encounter with an otherworldly being.

Get ready for tonight’s episode with behind-the-scenes photos, and check out our travel guide to see all the museums featured in the show.

Until then, tell us – which is your favorite UFO or alien mystery? Vote now!

It’s easy to just think of President’s Day as a day off, but this year, why not skip shopping at those blowout sales and take a step back in time? Instead, explore the homes and learn about the lives of America’s former presidents. Whether you’re a history buff or just want to pay tribute to America’s famous leaders, these National Park Service sites are a great way to discover more about our nation’s history. READ MORE

 

Sentosa is the Orlando of Singapore — an island comprised of a Universal Studios theme park, and as many spas, casinos and beaches as you could ever desire. Last month, the tourist-friendly island opened its newest addition: the world’s largest oceanarium.

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