National World War 2 Museum Essay Contest 2016

Winners of the 2015 WWII Student Essay Contest!

WWII 7th War Bond Drive poster featuring the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima, 1945. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

The National WWII Museum is pleased to announce the winners and runners-up for The 2014 National WWII Student Essay Contest! This year, we received over 5,200 essays from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as entries from the US territory of Guam. The Education Department at the Museum enjoyed reading your thoughtful and poignant responses to the 2015 prompt, “How do you define a hero?” inspired by the 70th Anniversary of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima.

With so many great essays, it was difficult to choose a winner. However, we are happy to share our winning selections and runners-up with you below and on our essay contest website. For those of you who are interested in reading the winning middle and high school essays, please click on the links below or visit our main essay contest webpage.

Middle school contest winners will receive a $250 prize, while honorable mentions from grades 5-8 will receive a WWII Museum baseball cap. The first place winner of the high school contest will be awarded $1000, while the second place and third place winners will receive $750 and $500, respectively.

Congratulations to all of the winners and honorable mentions for the 2015 essay contest, and thank you to everyone who participated! We hope you will check back at our website in January 2015 when we announce the 2016 Essay Contest theme!



2015 High School Essay Contest Winners

  • First Place: Sabrina Mahe, “No Capes Necessary,” Foothill High School, Henderson, NV
  • Second Place: Alexander Caines, “The Nature of a Hero,” Lake Park High School, Roselle, IL
  • Third Place: Julia Nguyen, “How Do You Define a Hero?” Kentridge High School, Kent, WA

2015 Middle School Essay Contest Winners and Honorable Mentions

5th Grade:

Honorable Mentions:

  • William Wegman, “Heroes: Past and Present,” Stuart Hall School for Boys, New Orleans, LA
  • Kylie Smith, “American Heroes,” Trimmer Elementary, York, PA

6th Grade:

Honorable Mentions:

  • Anya Ruzicka, “Cpl. Jack Schlegel and Mary Evelyn King: Unbroken,” Yorktown Middle School, Yorktown, VA
  • Erik Rennesund, “How Do You Define a Hero?” Walker Middle Magnet IB School, Odessa, FL
  • Ishrat Zarrin, “Heroes,” IS 303, Brooklyn, NY

7th Grade:

Honorable Mentions:

  • Isabella Mancini, “Our Thoughts About What Heroes Are Seem Like Snowflakes,” Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School, Merritt Island, FL
  • Laura Kim, “My Past, Present, and Future,” J. L. Stanford School, Palo Alto, CA
  • Angele Yang, “A Hero Sacrifices,” Creekside Enrichment School, Cupertino, CA

8th Grade:

Honorable Mentions:

  • Emma Hall, “Heroism: A Tribute,” Episcopal Collegiate School, Little Rock, AR
  • Angela Kang, “WWII Hero Essay,” Creekside Enrichment School, Cupertino, CA
  • Savannah Linares, “No Heroes,” Western Pines Community Middle School, West Palm Beach, FL

Great job, Everyone!

Post by Megan Byrnes, K-12 Curriculum Coordinator at The National WWII Museum

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The National WWII Museum, formerly known as the D-Day Museum, is a military history museum located in the Central Business District of New Orleans, Louisiana, on Andrew Higgins Drive between Camp Street and Magazine Street. The museum focuses on the contribution made by the United States to Allied victory in World War II. Founded in 2000, it was later designated by the U.S. Congress as America's official National World War II Museum in 2003.[2] The Museum maintains an affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution.[3] The mission statement of the Museum emphasizes the American experience in World War II.[4]

Museum description[edit]

The museum opened on June 6, 2000, the 56th anniversary of D-Day, and has since undertaken a large-scale expansion project, which is still ongoing as of October 2017. In addition to the original building, known as the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the museum has since opened the Solomon Victory Theater, the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion, the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, and the Campaigns of Courage pavilion. There are further plans to construct what will be called the Liberation Pavilion.[5] In 2016, the Museum was ranked by TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards as the #4 Museum in the United States and #11 in the World.[6]

Within the large atrium of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion several aircraft are on display, including a Supermarine Spitfire and a Douglas C-47 Skytrain suspended from the ceiling. A LCVP, or "Higgins boat", is also usually on display in this pavilion. The exhibits in this pavilion focus on the amphibious landings of the war, in both the European and Pacific theaters of war. Topics covered include the Allied strategy of island hopping, culminating with nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The Louisiana Memorial Pavilion is also home to rotating temporary exhibits, as well as the immersive and interactive Union Pacific Train Car (part of the larger "Dog Tag Experience" interactive), which opened in 2013.

This part of the museum includes several permanent galleries, including the Home Front, Planning for D-Day, and The D-Day Beaches. The third floor of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion includes an observation deck for closer viewing of the hanging aircraft.

In January 2013, the museum opened The US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, which is the now largest building on the campus.[7] The collection in the US Freedom Pavilion includes a B-17E Flying Fortress bomber, a B-25J Mitchell bomber, an SBD-3 Dauntless, a TBF Avenger, a P-51C Mustang, Corsair F4U-4 and an interactive submarine experience based on the final mission of the USS Tang.[7] The B-17E is the airplane dubbed My Gal Sal, famous for having been lost over Greenland and recovered 53 years later.[7] The US Freedom Pavilion was paid for with a $15 million donation from the Boeing Company and with a $20 million grant from the US Department of Defense with Congressional approval.[8]

In December 2014, the museum opened the Road to Berlin portion of the Campaigns of Courage pavilion, focusing on the European theater of war. A Messerschmitt Bf 109 hangs in the building. The Road to Tokyo portion of this same pavilion, which focuses on the Pacific war, opened in 2015.[9] The entire pavilion, including both galleries, measures 32,000 square feet.[10]

In June 2017, a new exhibit, The Arsenal of Democracy, opened in the Louisiana Pavilion, dealing the experience on the Home Front. [11]

The museum also has plans to open what will be called the Liberation Pavilion by 2020. Its goal would be to explore the "joys, costs, and meaning of liberation and freedom", as well as how the legacy of World War II affects us today.[12]

Visitors to the museum are encouraged to allocate roughly 2½ to 3 hours to tour the museum. An award-winning 4-D film, Beyond All Boundaries, is shown in the Solomon Victory Theater and gives the visitor an overview of the war on every front. Other multimedia displays are integrated into most of the museum's exhibits, notably the dozens of video oral histories conducted with veterans of the war by museum staff. The Museum currently houses two restaurants, the American Sector and the Soda Shop, both operated by noted chef John Besh until August 2014.

The museum sponsors a wargaming club and holds a wargame convention each year called "Heat of Battle".[13]

The museum also hosts a World War II-themed quiz bowl tournament, which is televised on Cox 4 New Orleans.

Relation to New Orleans[edit]

The Museum opened as the D-Day Museum, focusing on the amphibious invasion of Normandy, then opening a second gallery exploring the amphibious invasions of the Pacific War. As the Higgins boats, vital to amphibious operations were designed, built, and tested in New Orleans by Higgins Industries, the city was the natural home for such a project. Furthermore, New Orleans was the home of historian and author Stephen Ambrose, who spearheaded the effort to build the Museum and who wrote a book entitled D-Day in 1994 which describes the planning and execution of Operation Neptune, which was launched on June 6, 1944. A reviewer for the Journal of Military History commended D-Day as the "most comprehensive discussion" of the sea, air, and land operations that coalesced on that day.[14]D-Day became Ambrose's first best seller. He also wrote other books about the invasion, including Citizen Soldiers, and he wrote the book which inspired the miniseries Band of Brothers.

The Museum closed for three months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005, re-opening on December 3 of that year. A museum banner promoted the re-opening by proclaiming "We Have Returned," a phrase made famous by General Douglas MacArthur regarding his eventual return to the Philippines in 1944.

As of 2015, the Museum is in the midst of a $370 million capital expansion campaign[6] called The Road to Victory: A Vision for Future Generations. The expansion has resulted in significant increases in attendance.[15] The Solomon Victory Theater, Stage Door Canteen, and American Sector restaurant opened in November 2009. The John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion opened in June 2011.[16][17] The US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center opened to the public in 2013, followed by the opening of the first phase of the Campaigns of Courage pavilion in 2014. The second phase of the Campaigns of Courage Pavilion, Road to Tokyo, opened in 2015.[9] The final project in the expansion will be the Liberation Pavilion. Initially, the intended date of completion of the expansion project was 2015, but ground has not yet been broken on the final pavilion.

Visitation at the museum continues to grow, with 406,251 in 2010[18] having grown to nearly 700,000 in fiscal year 2016.[6]


Sherman tank 

Enigma machine on display at the Museum 

Norden bombsight on display at the Museum 

Higgins boat (LCVP) display 

The Louisiana Memorial Pavilion as seen from Camp St. at Andrew Higgins Dr. 

Entrance to the Solomon Victory Theatre 

Air raid shelter in front of Museum 

Portion of the Atlantic Wall on the Museum's campus 

75 mm pack howitzer M1A1 

1934 Opel Sedan in winter camouflage 


Spitfire fighter plane 

Dauntless dive bomber 

A C-47 on display in the museum atrium 

detail of C-47 

B-17 in The US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center 

See also[edit]


  1. ^"A Year of Record Growth". National World War II Museum press releases. Retrieved 24 May 2015. 
  2. ^Roberts, Deon (2005-09-22). "D-Day Museum in New Orleans plans expansion". New Orleans CityBusiness. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  3. ^List of museums affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution
  4. ^Mission Statement of the National World War II Museum
  5. ^
  6. ^ abc
  7. ^ abcNational World War II Museum press release of January 13, 2013.
  8. ^D. MacCash, New Orleans Times-Picayune, January 9, 2013.
  9. ^ ab"'Road to Tokyo' brings visitors to the National WWII Museum into the war in the Pacific". Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  10. ^"Campaigns of Courage: Road to Berlin | The National WWII Museum". Retrieved 2015-10-14. 
  11. ^"Louisiana Memorial Pavilion". Retrieved 2017-10-13. 
  12. ^"The National WWII Museum | New Orleans: EXPANSION: Liberation Pavilion". Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  13. ^Heat of Battle
  14. ^Steve Minniear, "Book reviews,"D-Day, June 6, 1944 by Stephen Ambrose/The Year of D-Day: The 1944 Diary of Admiral Sir Bertram I. Ramsay edited by Robert W. Love, Jr. and John Major/D-Day 1944 edited by Theodore A. Wilson and others, The Journal of Military History, vol. 60, no. 1 (Jan. 1996), p. 186
  15. ^National WWII Museum Sees Busiest Month Ever, 11 April 2012. Accessed 9 May 2012.
  16. ^New Orleans Times-Picayune report on the opening of the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion
  17. ^National WW II Museum published expansion plans, accessed June 5, 2011.
  18. ^"Top Construction Projects 2012". New Orleans City Business. 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2012-03-22. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 29°56′35.30″N90°04′13.26″W / 29.9431389°N 90.0703500°W / 29.9431389; -90.0703500

Artillery and a "Higgins Boat" on display in the museum lobby

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