NEW ORLEANS (Nov. 30, 2011) — The National WWII Museum is inviting the public to share a day filled with observations, special events and an exhibition opening on Wednesday, December 7, the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The 1941 event marked one the darkest days in U.S. history. Taking off from a fleet of Japanese aircraft carriers, waves of bombers unleashed a surprise attack on the U.S. naval fleet in Oahu, Hawaii, killing more than 2,300 Americans. One day later, the nation declared war on Japan, thrusting a formerly isolationist country into the global conflict.
“Pearl Harbor forever changed America,” said Dr. Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, president and chief executive officer of The National WWII Museum. “It is appropriate and important that we observe this anniversary at the national Museum devoted to telling the story of our country’s role in the Second World War. It is doubly so as this may be the last significant anniversary of the attack when we will have eyewitnesses to that event still with us.”
Witnesses to the assault on Pearl Harbor will be on hand for the observations and for the opening of the Museum’s newest exhibition, Infamy — December 1941, which recounts the strike in Hawaii as well as the lesser-known but nearly simultaneous attacks on American territories in the Pacific, including Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines. Oral histories from witnesses and an assortment of artifacts and images convey the losses, disrupted lives and reactions of military service members and ordinary Americans as they realized the nation was at war. Artifacts displayed in the exhibition will include a wristwatch that stopped minutes into the attack when its owner, R.S. “Swede” Boreen, jumped from the burning USS Oklahoma, and actual pieces of the USS Arizona, a battleship sunk during the Japanese attack resulting in the loss of 1,177 lives. The exhibition is open seven days a week from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm and is free with Museum admission. It will remain on display through February 19, 2012.
“The surprise attacks dealt a powerful blow to the American psyche,” Mueller said, “but as you will see in our galleries, the blow united a divided nation, and inspired a spirit of patriotism that would see us through that dark December 70 years ago.”
Other special events include a public tour of the D-Days in the Pacific exhibit, led by Museum docent Gaston Andre from 10:15 am – 11:00 am in the Pacific Galleries. This tour is also free with Museum admission. A special Pearl Harbor Commemoration Ceremony will follow the tour from 11:00 am – noon and will include a navy band performance, remarks by Museum and community leaders and a ringing of the Normandy Liberty Bell at 11:55 am to observe the local time of the first wave of the attack. Immediately following the Commemoration Ceremony, the Museum will host a Lunchbox Lecture, “The Raid on Pearl Harbor,” presented by Captain Rick Jacobs, who will discuss American and Japanese history — and strategy — that led to the “date which will live in infamy.” Both the Commemoration and the Lunchbox Lecture are free and open to the public.
Rounding out the day’s events will be a special Meet the Curator session during which attendees will join Museum curators Eric Rivet and Meg Roussel for a behind-the-scenes look at the Infamy exhibition from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm, followed by a Meet the Veteran/Meet the Author event with Col. Glenn D. Frazier, World War II veteran and author of Hell’s Guest. Col. Frazier will share his experiences as a soldier during the Japanese attacks on the Philippine Islands, hours after the Pearl Harbor attack. Following his capture, Col. Frazier marched north in the infamous Bataan Death March and spent the next three years struggling for his life in Japanese POW camps. After his presentation Col. Frazier will sign copies of his book in the Museum store. The Meet the Curator event is free with museum admission, while Col. Frazier’s presentation is free and open to the public.
The National WWII Museum’s two-and-a-half-day International Conference on WWII will begin the evening of December 7 and focuses on the tumultuous first year of American involvement in the war. Titled “From Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal,” it features an array of events and seminars conducted by 18 of the world’s most respected WWII military historians, including Richard Frank, Dr. Donald L. Miller, and Hugh Ambrose, as well as veterans of Pearl Harbor, the Doolittle Raid and Guadalcanal.
“At this year’s International Conference on WWII, the nation’s foremost historians, educators and experts will be gathered in one place to deliver and discuss their poignant perspectives about the ‘war that changed the world.’ This unique setting provides unprecedented access to this elite group of folks who can provide insight unmatched by any other source,” said Dr. Keith Huxen, senior director of history and research at the Museum.
The National WWII Museum 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 designated by Congress as America’s National WWII 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 504-527-6012 or visit www.nationalww2museum.org. Follow us on Twitter at WWIItoday or visit our Facebook fan page.