NEW ORLEANS (May 17, 2016)—The National WWII Museum President and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller today received the French Legion of Honor alongside Tom Brokaw and Tom Hanks at a private ceremony at the Grand Chancellery in Paris. The Legion of Honor Medal, which was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, acknowledges services rendered to France by persons of exceptional merit and accomplishments. It is the highest distinction awarded by the French government.
“I’m honored to join the long list of individuals who have received this decoration since its establishment in 1802,” said Mueller. “This honor resonates at a very personal level. It draws fresh attention to the efforts of many, beginning with my dear friend and fellow historian Stephen Ambrose, to build a museum to honor, explore and document the American Experience in World War II.”
Ambrose and Mueller collaborated for 10 years to found The National D-Day Museum, which opened its doors to the public on June 6, 2000. The institution was based on the longtime vision of Ambrose, who had a deep desire to tell the stories of the many men and women who put their lives on the line during World War II. Today, the Museum’s numerous educational programs in Normandy also demonstrate a commitment to France’s liberation story, reflecting a long-held interest in history-focused travel to WWII battle sites that help shape the Museum's present-day educational offerings.
“Steve began leading tours in France in the late 1980s,” Mueller continued. “Today, our Museum continues to give close attention to America’s critical role in helping end tyranny and restore freedom in Europe, in alliance with our embattled friends in France. We take great care in delivering the exhibits, artifacts, oral histories and programming that tell the story of the landings, the battle of Normandy and the liberation of all of France in 1944.”
The Legion of Honor was presented to Brokaw, Hanks and Mueller by Army General Jean-Louis Georgelin after the gentlemen received a tour of the Museum of the Legion of Honor. Longtime champions and supporters of The National WWII Museum, Brokaw and Hanks have both worked tirelessly throughout their careers to document the WWII story, educating millions of Americans about our shared history and strengthening the legacy of the Greatest Generation.
“When the Museum first opened its doors in 2000, Tom Brokaw and Tom Hanks were already among the ranks of its supporters,” said Mueller. “Last year, The National WWII Museum honored their remarkable careers with the presentation of its American Spirit Award. This year, I am able to share the Legion of Honor with both of them. This is a phenomenal feeling, as both men have played personal roles in advancing the Museum’s mission: Tom Hanks served as executive producer of our 4-D movie experience 'Beyond All Boundaries'; Tom Brokaw narrated our exhibit film on D-Day in Normandy and has served as MC for Museum ceremonies.”
The Museum’s latest grand opening event took place in December 2015 with the completion of its newest permanent exhibit Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries. Last September, the Museum was recognized in the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice™ awards for museums, ranking No. 3 in the nation—up from No. 4 in the previous year. The institution also remains the No. 1 attraction in New Orleans for the third consecutive year in TripAdvisor ratings.
As part of a $370 million capital expansion plan, current developments of the Museum's New Orleans campus include new galleries in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion that tell the story of the Home Front and the road to war, drawing on personal narratives and evocative artifacts to highlight facets of American life during the WWII era. Additional stages of the Museum’s expansion include construction of the Hall of Democracy pavilion to house higher learning research and outreach programs along with special exhibit space. The final Liberation Pavilion will focus on the end-of-war and postwar legacy of World War II, the war’s meaning for citizens today and the enduring lesson that our freedom isn’t free.
“It has been thrilling to watch as our Museum continues to grow in innovative ways,” Mueller continued. “Receiving the Legion of Honor is a high point in my life and career, and as I reflect on this day, I am reminded of those whose stories we are pledged to preserve at the Museum. The courage and determination of the Greatest Generation drives and helps me every day. The Museum has come a long way from its humble beginnings, but there is still more work to be done. When complete in 2019, The National WWII Museum will stand as a powerful beacon to both our past and to the future for freedom-loving people.”
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—so that future generations will know the price of freedom, and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America's National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.