The National WWII Museum started as a vision shared between two University of New Orleans professors to build a small lakefront museum to honor D-Day veterans. Opened in the city’s Warehouse District on June 6, 2000, The National D-Day Museum fulfilled its cofounders’ vision by focusing on the personal stories and narratives of the veterans themselves—and set the template for rapid expansion following the Museum’s 2004 Congressional designation as the nation’s official WWII museum. Since its opening, the Museum has welcomed more than 6.5 million visitors and has become a top tourist destination in Louisiana.
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune recently honored those professors, Stephen E. Ambrose and Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, in its “300 for 300” project marking the city’s tricentennial. Described as a “ride through the heart and soul of New Orleans,” the series celebrates “the people and moments that inspire and connect us.”
Ambrose and Mueller forever connected the city to its greatest WWII legacy—the thousands of landing craft and PT boats manufactured here during the war by Andrew Jackson Higgins and Higgins Industries employees—and set the Museum’s mission to tell present and future generations about the American experience in the war that changed the world.
A museum dedicated to D-Day was in part inspired by a desire to have a place to house the WWII artifacts and interviews Ambrose accumulated while researching best-selling books like Band of Brothers and Citizen Soldiers. “First, he chronicled history,” says the NOLA.com headline atop John Pope’s “300 for 300” profile. “Then, he made history.”
In the years since Ambrose’s 2002 death, Mueller has been “the Museum’s most visible advocate as he talked up the ever-expanding project, raised money, convened historical symposia, welcomed visitors and amassed artifacts big and small,” wrote Mike Scott in his “300 for 300” profile.