NEW ORLEANS (July 25, 2011) — Today The National WWII Museum in New Orleans received a very special care package from the Utah Beach Museum at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France — three large segments of Nazi Germany’s infamous Atlantic Wall. Each piece measuring 5.5 feet tall and 18 inches thick, the sections total 35 feet in length and weigh nearly 22 tons, all pockmarked from the gunfire of incoming Allied troops.
Completed in 1944, the Atlantic Wall was a series of fortifications Hitler ordered built to guard Europe’s west coast from Allied assault. Made up of mines, pillboxes, tank traps and the famous “Rommel’s asparagus,” the Atlantic Wall stretched more than 3,200 miles, presenting a formidable obstacle for the Allied troops charged with executing the D-Day invasion.
“Considering the roots of this Museum, which originally opened as The National D-Day Museum, receiving these pieces of the Atlantic Wall fortifications is especially poignant to us here in New Orleans,” said Dr. Nick Mueller, President and CEO of The National WWII Museum. “To see only a small portion of what our troops had to overcome to begin to liberate Europe, to be able to feel the chips and holes made in the wall by their artillery, it really gives you a renewed sense of appreciation for their sacrifice.”
The wall segments were removed to make way for a significant expansion of the Utah Beach Museum. Directed by American architect Nicolas Kelemen, the project included construction of a new hangar that houses a life-size replica of a B-26 bomber, as well as a flight simulator.
The ambitious extension and renovation received support from several key donors in the U.S., including Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and his brother, businessman Gene Dewhurst.
For the Dewhurst family, the connection is a personal one. Their father was a highly decorated pilot who led a B-26 mission over Utah Beach on June 6, 1944. He returned to the States after the war but died in a car accident when Gene and David were very young. In 2007, the family visited Normandy, where they discovered information on their father’s service at the Utah Beach Museum. “It was an incredibly emotional experience to come face-to-face with details about dad’s life and his service during the war,” said David. “He and his brave crew are outstanding examples of why we still call them the Greatest Generation.”
A portion of wall will be displayed indefinitely on the Museum’s grounds for the public to see. Long term plans for the wall have not been decided but curators are exploring how the institution’s newest artifact will be integrated with the Museum’s ongoing $300 million expansion project.
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans 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 504-528-1944 or visit www.nationalww2museum.org. Follow us on Twitter at WWIImuseum or visit our Facebook fan page.