Exhibit explores state’s contributions to the war effort

Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser and the Louisiana State Museum will unveil a new special exhibition at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum Friday, Feb. 1 called “The Pelican State Goes to War: Louisiana in World War II.” Produced by The National WWII Museum, the exhibition will feature artifacts, photographs and oral histories that highlight Louisiana’s extraordinary contribution to America’s war efforts during World War II. The exhibition opens with a reception Friday, Feb. 1 from 5 – 8 p.m. and a special performance by the Victory Belles. The public is invited to this free opening event.

Natchitoches Wood

“Louisiana, played a pivotal role in World War II, especially in the early stages of the war before the Pearl Harbor attack,” said Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser. “President Eisenhower and General Patton met at the Hotel Bentley in Alexandria to plan the Fort Polk training exercises, called the Louisiana Maneuvers, and the Higgins boats that were used in the D-Day invasion were built in New Orleans. Our state played a tremendous role, and we are excited to partner with The National WWII Museum for this exhibit.”

“Nearly 280,000 citizens of Louisiana contributed to victory in World War II on the battlefield,” said Stephen J. Watson, President and CEO of The National WWII Museum. “The Pelican State Goes to War shares the courageous stories of these individuals, along with those who contributed here on the Louisiana Home Front – from the great mobilization efforts of Higgins Industries, to first grader Billy Michal’s scrap collection for school. We’re thrilled to have this exhibit on display at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum, so we can share these special stories with expanded audiences in Natchitoches and beyond.”

On Dec. 8, 1941, just one day after the Pearl Harbor attacks, the United States officially entered World War II; Louisiana, however, was already front and center in the country’s defense preparations. From 1940 to 1945, the state hosted the largest maneuvers in U.S. military history, witnessed massive changes to its industrial base, and saw its citizens become enthusiastic contributors to what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt deemed “The Arsenal of Democracy.

“World War II provided new, previously unimaginable opportunities to Louisiana’s residents,” said the exhibit’s curator James Linn. “This exhibit will highlight the heroic stories of people like Claire Chennault, who created an early warning system to help protect China’s air force against Japanese attacks; and Richard English, who served in the African American 761st Tank Battalion and later became an advocate for civil rights. These unique wartime experiences, which were born in Louisiana, also helped lay the groundwork for sweeping economic changes in the postwar world.”

During World War II, many citizens of Louisiana contributed to victory on the battlefield with nearly 280,000 individuals from the state serving in the armed forces. The Pelican State Goes to War will share the courageous stories of Louisiana’s six Medal of Honor recipients, which represent sacrifice and devotion. The exhibition will also explore tales from Louisiana’s home front, ranging from the great mobilization efforts of Higgins Industries to first grader Billy Michal’s efforts to collect scrap metal for his school.

“The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum is a great arena in which all manner of great accomplishments by residents of our state are celebrated,” said Steven Maklansky, Interim Director of the Louisiana State Museum. “The Pelican State Goes to War documents how many great Louisianans were part of the greatest generation and the winning team of the greatest conflict of the 20th century.”

The Pelican State Goes to War will be on display through March 15 in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum located at 800 Front St. For more information, visit www.louisianastatemuseum.org or call (318) 357-2493.