EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — This year is the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and with fewer people able to give their first-hand accounts of the war, museums are left to recount the history and to remind younger generations of what happened.
The World War II museum in New Orleans is a place where people of all walks of life can get an up-close look at the conflict from the battles fought, to how families handled changes back home.
For Tom Czekanski, the museum is personal. His dad served in the Second World War and now his uniform hangs on display.
Czekanski said he didn’t realize the significance of what his father had been through in Normandy and Pearl Harbor until years later.
“He was sitting in the mess hall. He had gotten up early. He was a corporal and there was a table for noncommissioned officers and they were drinking their coffee when Japanese planes flew over the barracks,” Czekanski said. “I remember him saying there were several men in his company who were killed while they were still asleep.”
The museum highlights the American experience during World War II. The goal is to show the facts of history and allow younger visitors to reflect on the tragedy of war and how the country rallied together in challenging times.
“It’s critical for Americans to remember that at one point in our history we did all come together. We set politics aside and we all came together for the greater good of the country and the world,” said Czekanski.
What started as a small collection to recognize New Orleans native Andrew Jackson Higgins for his efforts in the war creating Higgins boats, it is now a federally recognized institution.
“When we first opened we used to see a lot more veterans and the veterans would often come with their families and their children and grandchildren and tour the museum,” Czekanski said. “They would learn about what their grandparents did during the war. As time has gone on there are less and less veterans who are able to travel.”
“The hardest part of this job is that those people are all passing away but it’s an honor for me to be able to work here and to make sure their story is told,” Czekanski said.
The New Orleans museum has been growing for decades. A new exhibit based around the holocaust and liberation of concentration camps is now under construction.