National WWII Museum celebrates expansion

Veterans, scholars, celebrities, business leaders and elected officials will be at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans this weekend to commemorate the opening of the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, the latest installment in a $325 million expansion project.

The "Salute to Freedom" public opening on Jan. 12, will be streamed live 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. (EST) online here.

"We are the nation’s WWII museum," National WWII Museum President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Gordon H. "Nick" Mueller said. "And with the opening of the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, we’ll have even more to display to our community, our visitors and the world. It will be an exciting and emotional event."

The $35 million U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, will feature a variety of artifacts that comprised the "big guns" of American military might. These include the B-17E Flying Fortress and B-25J Mitchell bomber, as well as a SBD-3 Dauntless dive-bomber, TBM Avenger torpedo bomber, P-51D Mustang fighter and Corsair F4U-4 fighter. The pavilion also will include a massive wall honoring World War II Medal of Honor recipients and an interactive submarine experience based on the final mission of the USS Tang. Exhibits will employ the newest digital technologies to ensure a thrilling journey into the heart of the American Spirit.

Funds for the expansion came from a $20 million congressional grant through the U.S. Department of Defense and a $15 million gift from The Boeing Company. The gift from Boeing, which built the B-17, represents the largest private contribution the museum has received to date. Funding for pavilion exhibits and artifact restoration has been provided by several private donors. The American Legion has supported the museum and its purpose since it was first envisioned by the late author Stephen Ambrose in the 1990s. The facility has evolved and grown through the years and is designated by Congress as America’s World War II museum.

"The swift progress that has been made on this (expansion) project is emblematic of the unity of spirit, dedication and selfless hard work that won the war on the battlefronts and on the home front seven decades ago," said Dennis Muilenburg, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. "It is great to see the vision of the museum’s founders come to life as we move quickly toward the opening of this world-class museum as a place where future visitors can gain a fuller appreciation of what so many Americans achieved in World War II and can reflect on what today’s generation of war fighters continue to do for us every day."

"Industrial leadership was essential to winning the war effort," Mueller added.

Celebrants will inaugurate the new pavilion even as another — Campaigns of Courage: European & Pacific Theaters — rises on the museum’s campus. Campaigns of Courage is scheduled to open in early 2014 and will house two gallery-filled floors that examine the Allied campaigns around the globe. The Liberation Pavilion (scheduled to open in 2016) will focus on the closing months of the war and immediate post-war years and contain an expansive special exhibits gallery. The buildings are part of the museum’s "Last Campaign" effort to raise the last $100 million needed to complete the New Orleans campus before World War II veterans are gone. Upon completion, the museum will directly sustain more than 300 jobs and generate $100 million each year in positive economic impact.

"We recently welcomed our 3 millionth visitor to the museum," Mueller said. "We’re the No. 1 destination in New Orleans for tourists according to, and a vital engine driving the renewal of our city. So our new pavilion’s opening will also be a celebration of the museum’s unique and transformational role in the life New Orleans."