Sunday, March 27, 2011

Learning How Louisiana Won the War

Richard's work as archivist and all-round volunteer with The Higgins Boat Society at the World War II Museum has, since 1997, been the joy in his life. Today we were to show it off to my aunt and her husband who is a WWII veteran and worked for the Higgins Boat builder, Andrew Jackson Higgins.

According to Eisenhower, Higgins "won the war"; Hitler called him "The New Noah". I think of Higgins Industries as "The Louisianians Who Won the War" with their hard work and cooperation. With the amount of play we swamp rats do, it's not surprising that partying is that for which we are best known. But an old adage on the bayou is that we work hard and we play hard. This would be closer to our truth.

My aunt and uncle were driven by their school teacher daughter to New Orleans from "down the bayou" to see what kind of honors had been bestowed on their contemporaries, dubbed by Tom Brokaw as "The Greatest Generation". They weren't disappointed. What a wonderful job has been done on the World War II Museum! There's so much to see and do that we actually never got to visit the PT 305 work site with our Cajun relations. This is okay because there's enough left to see to fill at least one more day.

It's a nicely paced place, in that there are several short films interspersed in the exhibits. Especially for those who have to take it slow, we were never stressed or over-stimulated. We started out with a guided tour of "The Homefront" and "The Pacific". The tour guide recognized Richard several times as an expert on Higgins contributions, and asked for his input in the tour. Richard, of course, became embarassed and declined to comment. It was also very touching that the tour guide, more than once, asked for my uncle's input.

We followed this tour with a forty-five minute film of eye witness war accounts. The experience evoked such strong emotion in me that I was glad when my cousin suggested that we take a lunch break. Off to lunch we went at the forties-themed diner in the museum operated by celebrity chef John Besh. Everything served was done well, unlike the food choices at so many tourist venues. It made me proud that Chef Besh was staying true to what people expect from New Orleans cuisine.

The final event of our day was something new to all of us, the four dimensional movie narrated by Tom Hanks. By this time, my eyes and heart were brimming over. It was with great relief that we accepted my cousin's suggestion that her parents had experienced enough for one day, and we saw them to their car.

They plan to return for a live show, coupled with another John Besh dining experience in the Stage Door Canteen. At this time, they'll tour the third wing of the museum. That's when they'll probably see the PT 305; but by then the PT boat will have been moved to a fourth wing of the museum where patrons will be able to watch the boat builders in action.

So much to see...


  1. Awwww, I can't wait to go thru the museum again. It was a thrill the first time. I can imagine how I would have felt with my brother and Uncle with me, who rode the Higgin's boats in WWII,Such insight.
    I rode them myself but by the early 50's they were referred to as LCU' LCM's. They were still Higgins boats.

    Yes, many men left their Higgisn boats on Amphib. landings.
    Good memory lesson in History.
    Thanks. And Thanks to Richard for all his work to preserve History!!!

  2. What an enjoyable and informative post! Altho I served in the Coast Guard I did not/do not know very much about the Higgins boats or LCU/LCM's. Where is the museum located exactly? I would just love to visit it and be informed about it all.