Lest We Forget: The Mission

The National WWII Museum

New Orleans, LA

Memorial Day Weekend, 2019

 

Recently, we had the privilege of attending the unveiling of a new exhibit at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans.  The exhibit, Lest We Forget: The Mission, and the artist who conceived and produced it, Fredric Arnold (January 23, 1922-May 28,2018), are both amazing and inspirational subjects.

Fredric Arnold was born an artist:  producing sketches at the age of 5 years, creating sculptures from bars of Ivory soap at 11; studying at the Art Institute of Chicago while still a teenager.  But in 1942, despite being raised as a pacifist, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps.  As one of 14 young men assigned to train in the P-38, he joined class 42-J and trained for air combat.  Only 2 of those young men would survive.  Fredric Arnold and Jim Hagenback remained friends for 67 years and vowed to never forget their comrades.  When Hagenback died in 1998, it fell to Fredric Arnold to fulfill the vow.  Rather than simply drink a toast to his fellow aviators, he imagined a lasting tribute that would not only honor the accomplishments of these young men, but also their motivation, character and sacrifice.  “Lest We Forget:  The Mission” is the result:

 

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Fredric Arnold was 94 when he completed this work in 2016. The display site at The National WWII Museum was not yet ready, so the sculpture opened at Wings Over the Rockies in Denver, Colorado.
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On Sunday, May 26, 2019, the sculpture is installed outside The National WWII Museum in New Orleans and awaits the official unveiling.
At 11:00am, the Arnold family assembles and the unveiling takes place.
At 11:00 am, the Arnold family assembles and the unveiling takes place.
The signage explains the artist's vision.
The signage explains the artist’s vision.
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Prior to Allied air superiority in Europe, P-38s made 130,000 sorties while outnumbered and facing a skilled and determined enemy. But the P-38’s virtues of long range, heavy payload, high speed, fast climb and concentrated firepower made it formidable.  (Wikipedia photo) 
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And the resolve, determination and dedication of the young pilots was even more formidable as this tableau depicts.
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After the unveiling, followed by a memorial service for the artist, we toured the museum.
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One of the first exhibits we come upon is in the main entry hall. This is the German Flak 37, an 88mm, dual purpose anti-aircraft gun used in the North African, Mediterranean and European Theaters. It was deadly.
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Since I am writing this on June 6th, D-Day, I must mention the Higgins Boat, a major component of the D-Day invasion that is steeped in New Orleans history.
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Built by Andrew Jackson Higgins and known as the Higgins Boat, the LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) revolutionized amphibious warfare by making it possible to land a well-equipped invasion force on a defended shore.
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And this is why The National WWII Museum is located in New Orleans! Not only did historian and the museum co-founder Stephen Ambrose live in New Orleans, but Andrew Higgins also designed and manufactured his boats here.
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This sculpture is the reason we are in New Orleans; visiting the WWII Museum on Memorial Day weekend; and only a week before the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. The crowds are overwhelming but it’s been an extremely worthwhile experience!!!
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I would love to tell you about our weekend in New Orleans, but for now, I’d like the images of the exhibit to linger. We’ll talk about the Big Easy later.
Lest We Forget:
Lest We Forget:
The Mission
The Mission

 

For now, just reflect on this amazing work; perhaps do a little Google searching; for sure, click on our Archives for December 2018 to see “Lest We Forget:  The Mission” during its Wings Over the Rockies display; and come on back later to view some photos of New Orleans!!!

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