Special exhibit from The National WWII Museum will explore Louisiana’s contributions to the war effort.

An opening reception is planned for The Pelican State Goes to War: Louisiana in World War II  on Friday, August 2, 2019 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center. Produced by The National WWII Museum, the exhibit will feature artifacts, photographs and oral histories that highlight Louisiana’s extraordinary contributions toward America achieving victory in World War II. The reception is open to the public with free admission, and refreshments will be served. The exhibit is sponsored in part by Citgo; Hunter, Hunter and Sonnier in memory of Judge Edwin F. Hunter; and American Press.  

Several community events will be held in conjunction with the exhibit including a moderated panel discussing the war’s effects on the Southwest Louisiana, led by KPLC News Anchor John Bridges. The panel will be held in Tritico Theater, located at 4205 Ryan Street, on September 5 at 6 p.m.

A local exhibit of relics specific to the Lake Charles region will accompany the special exhibit. Objects on view will include letters of commendation, medals, uniforms, personal letters, war bonds and stamps, and other items associated with the World War II era. A Wall of Honor featuring the photographs of local veterans who served in the war will also be showcased. The Wall of Honor is sponsored by Stine Lumber in honor of J.W. Stine.

“World War II had a tremendous impact on Southwest Louisiana and multiple local residents participated in the war,” added Mayor Nic Hunter. “Having an exhibit of this caliber right here in Lake Charles is an historic event for the City; and we are excited to offer citizens and guests the opportunity to view it at no charge.”

On December 8, 1941, just one day after the Pearl Harbor attacks, the United States officially entered World War II – Louisiana, however, was already front and center in the country’s defense preparations. From 1940 to 1945, the state hosted the largest maneuvers in U.S. military history, witnessed massive changes to its industrial base, and saw its citizens become enthusiastic contributors to what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt deemed “The Arsenal of Democracy.”

Many citizens of Louisiana contributed to victory in World War II on the battlefield, with nearly 280,000 individuals from the state serving in the armed forces during the war. The Pelican State Goes to War will share the courageous stories of Louisiana’s six Medal of Honor recipients, which represent sacrifice and devotion. The exhibit will also explore tales of the Louisiana Home Front, from the great mobilization efforts of Higgins Industries, to first grader Billy Michal’s scrap collection for school.

The City partnered with the Calcasieu Parish School Board Television Production program, led by Britney Glaser Felder, to record the oral histories of General Erbon Wise, a World War II veteran; E.K. Hunter, son of the late Judge Edwin F. Hunter, Jr., a World War II veteran; and Jim Beam, reporter for the Lake Charles American Press. The video documentary was recorded and produced by Felder’s students, and it will play alongside the exhibit at Historic City Hall.

“World War II provided new, previously unimaginable opportunities to Louisiana’s residents,”  said the exhibit’s curator, James Linn. “This exhibit highlights the heroic stories of people like Claire Chennault, who created an early warning system to help protect China’s air force against Japanese attacks; and Richard English, who served in the African American 761st Tank Battalion and later became an advocate for Civil Rights. These unique wartime experiences, which were born in Louisiana, also helped lay the groundwork for sweeping economic changes in the postwar world.”

The Pelican State Goes to War will be on view at Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center August 2 through October 19. Also see National Geographic’s “50 Greatest Landscapes,” which is on view through September 28. The museum is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free. An opening reception will be held on August 2 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. For more information, please call 337 491-9147 or visit www.cityoflakecharles.com.