Manufacturing Victory gallery jeep with video projection, Arsenal of Democracy

The Arsenal of Democracy

The Herman and George R. Brown Salute to the Home Front

Telling the story of how the war was won is at the heart of The National WWII Museum’s mission, and The Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George R. Brown Salute to the Home Front—the Museum's newest permanent exhibit, located on the second level of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the Museum’s original building—literally brings that story home. 

The exhibit joins the WWII narrative that visitors experience across the Museum’s six-acre campus, with galleries that explore the road to war and then how the war was fought on the Home Front. Allied victory was an epic undertaking fueled by stateside industry, ingenuity, and the labor of millions of patriotic Americans. Through multimedia and interactive displays, and drawing on artifacts and oral histories from the Museum’s extensive collections, The Arsenal of Democracy creates countless opportunities for visitors to make personal connections with the men and women who helped win the war.

gallery guidelines

The Arsenal of Democracy

Atrium

On the second floor of the Museum’s original Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the entryway to The Arsenal of Democracy features a looping video and striking “E for Excellence” banner to attract the eye and introduce the themes of manufacturing and the iconography of WWII America.

The short, narrated video tells the story of the Brown Shipbuilding company and its founders, exhibit namesakes Herman and George Brown, engineers who rose to the challenge of the war by taking on massive new wartime construction projects, and who demonstrated the patriotic spirit of millions of Americans engaged in war work. Before the war, the Brown brothers and their parent firm, Brown and Root, had built roads and dams in Texas, as well as the Corpus Christi naval base. Their superior work led to US Navy contracts to build destroyer escorts (DEs) and patrol craft. Although they had never before built a ship, the Browns turned out about 355 warships from their Greens Bayou shipyard, and did so under budget and at a level of exceptional quality. After the war, the Brown brothers continued to exemplify the wartime virtues of innovation, technological advancement, and “can-do” spirit, as they became the first to drill offshore for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, pursued new engineering and business ventures around the world, and engaged in philanthropy.

Atrium entrance to The Arsenal of Democracy galleries
The Arsenal of Democracy

Gathering Storm

Gathering Storm covers the historical events that preceded the outbreak of World War II. Ranging from the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and hopes that the League of Nations would establish a peaceful world, to the rise of fascism in the 1920s, the impact of the worldwide economic depression, the surging German and Japanese aggression in the 1930s, and the appeasement policies of the Western democracies, the gallery examines the mounting pressures that would engulf the world in war. Americans held tightly to isolationist policies against the growing global unrest, only to find themselves poorly prepared to confront the Axis powers as they routed other nations and expanded their dominance into 1940.

Additional support provided by Iron Mountain, The Voelker Family in Honor of Frank Voelker Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Q. Davis in Honor of James Matthew Davis

The Arsenal of Democracy

A House Divided

A House Divided explores the debate between isolationists and interventionists that gripped America from the outbreak of World War II in Europe until the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. As Britain fought Nazi Germany alone, most Americans wanted no part of the conflict. President Franklin D. Roosevelt performed a delicate balancing act, supporting Britain through the Lend-Lease Act and beginning efforts to mobilize the nation’s defenses, while officially maintaining neutrality. The gallery immerses visitors in a time of great confusion, fear, and worry as Americans urgently debated the best course of action for the nation and war drew closer. Through a special media presentation featuring the images and sounds of conflicting voices engaged in the debate, the gallery immerses visitors in the atmosphere of anxiety that defined 1940–41 in the United States—as American society passionately hoped that peace would endure, but began to acknowledge that war may be unavoidable despite all efforts.

The Arsenal of Democracy

America Besieged

This impactful gallery is dominated by a 50-foot-wide projection screen—a suitably vast surface on which to display the shock and chaos of Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941. The surprise Japanese attack on the American fleet brought war to America, and swiftly united people with a sense of national resolve and purpose. The United States declared war on Japan the following day, and when Germany and Italy declared war on the United States days later, Americans found themselves fully committed to a global conflict. However, with the Japanese seizing American possessions including the Philippines, Wake Island, and Guam and sweeping through Asia, the southwest Pacific, and even the Aleutian Islands, and with German U-boats sinking American shipping on US coastlines, Americans were badly losing in the first months of war. Still, the sense of national morale remained unbroken. The unity of purpose on the American Home Front would become the backbone of a national effort in which every man, woman, and child would contribute, and would create an epic shift in world order that was begun on December 7, 1941, as Americans dedicated themselves to victory over our enemies.

The Arsenal of Democracy

America Responds

After the United States entered World War II, the American people responded with rapid and tremendous efforts to mobilize the Home Front for war. Enlistments in the military soared, as approximately 16 million Americans eventually served in uniform during the war. America Responds captures the mood of this pivotal moment of determination and unity in the context of a typical American town: a theater marquis plays patriotic advertisements and clips of propaganda movies; a reproduced newsstand recalls a coordinated show of patriotism in July 1942, when dozens of US magazines published, simultaneously, the American flag on their front covers; and a local recruitment office urges citizens to enlist. The America Responds gallery conveys how the onset of World War II unified the nation, as American media joined the US government in publishing iconic WWII propaganda posters, publications, movies, and newsreels, and every home could contribute to victory through rationing, scrap-metal drives, and bond drives.

Additional support provided by Boyd Gaming and Treasure Chest Casino

The Arsenal of Democracy

War Affects Every Home

The War Affects Every Home gallery explores how World War II required the help and determination of all American families. As 16 million American citizens joined the military during war (over 10 percent of the population, and some never to return), families had to adjust their lives, with those on the Home Front sacrificing and covering for their departed loved ones. Every home had to adjust to rationing and shortages of consumer goods, fuels, and food items. Women not only handled these issues in the home, but took on new employment, while children and the elderly contributed through victory gardens, bond purchases, and scrap drives. The radio was the tenuous line which connected American homes to what was happening to their loved ones overseas. The gallery, which immerses visitors in a 1942-style home, conveys a sense of the daily lives of American families during World War II.

Made possible through a gift by The Gheens Foundation.

Additional support provided by Virginia Eason Weinmann (Mrs. John G. Weinmann).

The Arsenal of Democracy

United but Unequal: I Am an American

While the cause of victory over the Axis powers united Americans, the racial supremacy championed by the Axis powers also refracted light on issues of national loyalty and race in America, exposing tensions which could not be ignored. As Museum founder Stephen Ambrose once wrote, “Soldiers were fighting the world’s worst racist, Adolf Hitler, in the world’s most segregated army.” This “terrible irony” existed on the Home Front as well: While German Americans and Italian Americans were not identified as potential threats, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were most dramatically singled out for intense suspicion and contempt. In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order through which Japanese American citizens were forced into internment camps without due process of law.

The Arsenal of Democracy

Citizens to Warriors

In the war years, each service branch saw explosive growth and brought together Americans from diverse backgrounds in a common experience of military training. But not all citizen soldiers’ experiences were alike: women, African Americans, and Japanese Americans all served in segregated units. The mobilization of the Coast Guard and National Guard took initial precedence as America’s first lines of defense after Pearl Harbor. Millions of young citizens flocked to enlist in the military in the early days of the war, but many millions more would eventually be drafted. Military personnel received specialized training appropriate to the service branch and environment in which they would serve, on the land, in the air, and at sea. This immersive gallery, set in a military barracks environment, highlights the massive effort to rapidly train and mobilize millions of civilians to become the nation’s troops in combat zones around the world.

The Arsenal of Democracy

Manufacturing Victory

The United States had remained mired in the Great Depression throughout the 1930s. But once the United States entered the war, the American economy mobilized and dramatically transformed into the Arsenal of Democracy, exceeding all production expectations and spearheading the Allied drive to victory. American industry poured out weapons and war material in staggering amounts, and utilized scientific and technological innovation to best our enemies in quality as well as quantity of equipment.

Additional support provided by The Reily Foundation; Davis Family in Honor of Lt. Col. James E. Davis, U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps; Motorola Solutions Foundation; In Honor of Martin W. Clement; and Charles and Elizabeth Goodyear.

The Arsenal of Democracy

Manhattan Project

Far away from public sight, the most consequential scientific innovation during World War II was the creation of the atomic bomb through the top-secret Manhattan Project. Inspired by refugee scientists from Europe including Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard, supervised by the US Army Corps of Engineers under General Leslie Groves, and with Dr. Robert Oppenheimer leading the scientific team, the United States engaged in a secret race to produce an atomic weapon before the Nazis. Under the Manhattan Project, the US military operated secret plants in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Hanford, Washington, to produce the needed uranium and plutonium elements necessary for a bomb. Isolated in remote Los Alamos, New Mexico, a tremendous team of physicists worked to create a viable detonation system. The $2 billion project employed over 125,000 people across America, most of whom had no idea what they were working on, and eventually led to the dramatic Trinity test in the New Mexico desert in July 1945, leaving the United States to face the question: was the atomic bomb a sufficient enough weapon to bring World War II to an end? Manhattan Project highlights one of the largest mobilization stories in the war, engaging visitors in an immersive Los Alamos environment and including a feature film detailing the massive scientific, technological, and military effort which ushered in the Atomic Age.

The National WWII Museum

Museum Campus

Exhibit Location

Louisiana Memorial Pavilion