Museum Founders

Stephen E. Ambrose and Gordon H. "Nick" Mueller

Stephen E. Ambrose and Gordon H. "Nick" Mueller, PhDs, immersed in academic life at the University of New Orleans, had differing points of emphasis in their careers: Ambrose moved beyond traditional scholarship to pen works of military history or biography that captured wide public attention, while Mueller, a specialist in diplomatic history, focused his attention on institution-building and the development of overseas study programs.

But the two historians were the best of friends for 30 years, colleagues who pursued personal and professional dreams together. They shared business ventures and family vacations, helped one other launch educational tours to Europe, spent countless hours sailing, hiking, canoeing, and talking about pivotal episodes and figures from the past. Their energy and ideas were contagious. Beginning in 1990, and continuing for more than a decade, these comrades from academia pursued a bold vision, the creation of a museum that would tell the world about the millions of Americans who came together in the 1940s to defend freedom and democracy from tyrannical regimes bent on defeating the United States. The history of this cataclysmic war carried values and extraordinary stories of valor and that simply had to be passed on to younger generations.

Together, Ambrose and Mueller on June 6, 2000, brought to life The National D-Day Museum, an institution ultimately designated America’s National WWII Museum by a 2004 act of Congress. TripAdvisor users ranked the Museum #3 museum in the United States in 2018.

Public Historian and Museum Founder

Stephen Ambrose

Stephen Ambrose, (1936-2002) PhD, inspired and guided the early development of The National D-Day Museum with his close friend, Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, a colleague in the History Department at the University of New Orleans and Vice Chancellor of the University. Ambrose’s role as founder of the institution that would later become The National WWII Museum was strengthened in many ways by his celebrity as a bestselling historian who was sought after as a speaker and film consultant.

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At the core, the American soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn't want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed. So they fought and won, and we, all of us, living and yet to be born, must be forever, profoundly grateful.

Stephen E. Ambrose

President and CEO Emeritus


Gordon H. “Nick" Mueller, PhD, former historian and Vice Chancellor at the University of New Orleans, served as Founding President and CEO of The National WWII Museum. During a distinguished career at UNO, Mueller made his mark as a popular teacher, Dean and Vice Chancellor. He played a lead role in creating the Metropolitan College and in building new extension and distance learning programs, the university Conference Center, Center Austria and the International Summer School in Innsbruck, Austria, and founded the UNO Research and Technology Park.

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World War II served as a crucible. All of the human, spiritual and material resources of our nation were mobilized to defeat authoritarian and racist regimes and to defend freedom. It was a fight to the finish for civilization itself. The American Spirit prevailed.

Gordon H. "Nick" Mueller