You don't have to be in a war to know its grisly. Yesterday, we returned to the Pacific War Museum and spent 4 1/2 hours fighting our country's war with Japan, the most vivid history lesson I've ever experienced.
I don't remember reading who designed and built this superior facility next to the Nimitz building. It is incomparable.
The building holds three full sized planes, a submarine, jeeps, tanks, a Japanese mini-sub, and Japanese weapons as well as our own huge howitzers. It interprets and portrays every battle fought in the pacific from the smallest atoll to the Japanese Mainland. The well prepared Japanese were a formidable enemy fought with troops from all over the world on numerous fronts.
The seeds of war were determined by events in Japan and China and Korea before America ever got involved.
The historical background of China, her failure to move away from old empirical ways, prompted the Japanese to see China as weak-an opportunity for expansion. They took Manchuria, then pushed deep into China. Then Korea, Burma, Thailand, Guam, the Philippines and every Pacific Island within their reach. Weak Americans sitting in Pearl Harbor were in the way of Japanese plans and could not be ignored.
First, the museum educates you with the history of Asian conflicts in three exhibits before you ever enter Pearl Harbor. The names, Corregidor, Bataan, Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, Aleutian Islands, New Guinea, the Solomons, Marianas, Leyte, Tarawa, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa..mostly boys lost their lives on Islands they, nor their parents had ever heard of before. The 33 war rooms are chillingly real.
The rooms hold life sized artifacts with life sized and bigger than life sized pictures on every wall.
The history of each event is pictured and written. The battles are explained by the men who lived to tell them. The tank above has taken a fatal hit. The Austrailian soldier on the screen above explains his escape and that of his buddies. He lost a leg to that strike.
Besides the pictorial explanation, each war room is filled with the sounds of battle from a table sized screen that depicts the strategy of each battle, the movement of ships, the assault on beach heads, the bombers deployed. The various decisions and movements of men from the Japanese Generals and Admirals, sometimes in their own voices, as well as the counter moves and attacks by American Generals and Admirals.
Then when you read the step by step maneuvers on the walls, it is clear and easily understood.
In the ocean room you are warned the doors will not reopen for 9 minutes as they close behind you. You are facing a submarine with lighting that gives the affect of being underwater making me feel disoriented and unsteady on my feet. Four screens, two on either side of the sub's cone, make you part of the drama as the sub prepares to drop depth charges and sustains attacks from above. Newsreels report the progress of the war. When the lights go back on, you can read the walls. It gave me the chills.
All through the war, the other world events, the time line for Germany's Invasion of Europe, Amelia Earharts fatal flight, the importation of Bracero's to work the fields while women went to work in the factories, rationing, the amazing increase in shipbuilding, inventing better rubber, and so on were incorporated into the events. The picture above was the first published image of American dead. Previously, photos and news reels were censored.
The heart rending story of the Sullivan Brothers; the Sullivan daughter reading her mother's letter to President Roosevelt to comfirm whether the rumors of the death of her five sons was true or not. The army held off as long as possible, hoping to find one of them a survivor. It was not to be.
The changes that took place in American life as everyone hooked into the war effort. In some cases tent cities housed some of the 1/2 million people who moved from farms and small towns to cities for work in the war industry.
Women smashed lights in Seattle when businesses failed to obey a blackout; women wrapped bandages to send to our boys; black men and women got decent jobs for the first time and still, they had to tolerate getting paid less than their white counterparts. (Harry Truman integrated the armed services, a move that helped inch Civil Rights along.)
The assault on Japan's Mainland, the decision to use the atom bomb...all vividly real. The emotional moment of the Japanese signing an unconditional surrender. You step back out into the real world in awe of what you just witnessed. This is a living museum.
Don't miss it. Fredricksburg is located about 90 miles west of Austin.