1943 Willys MB Jeep at the National WWII Museum

1943 Willys MB Jeep at the National WWII Museum

A 1943 Willys MB jeep at the National World War II Museum has a 75mm recoilless rifle.

1943 Willys MB with 75mm recoilless rifle

1943 Willys MB with 75mm recoilless rifle. Edward Branley photo.

The Freedom Pavillion

On our recent trip to the National World War II Museum, we walked through The United States Freedom Pavillion. My firstborn, LT Branley, USN (Ret), wanted to see the various airplanes hanging above us. As we walked in, something else caught my eye, a jeep. Jeeps are pretty common, but this particular one caught my eye. It has a rocket launcher mounted in the back seat. The configuration reminded me of the old television show, “The Rat Patrol.” In the show, set during the North Africa campaign, the jeeps the “patrol” used had machine guns mounted in the back seats. I always thought this was a Hollywood thing. That’s why my eyes turned when I saw this rocket mounted on a jeep.

1943 Willys MB Jeep

1943 Willys MB with 75mm recoilless rifle

1943 Willys MB with 75mm recoilless rifle. Edward Branley photo.

While “The Rat Patrol” was fiction (it was based on a British SAS unit in North Africa), the Willys MB is authentic. Here’s the Museum’s description of the jeep:

Finally, a 1943 Willys MB is on exhibit in The United States Freedom Pavilion, The Boeing Center. This jeep, like other vehicles in the pavilion, runs; and it is moved on a regular basis to accommodate Museum events. This jeep is marked to represent the 155th Airborne Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion with the 17th Airborne Division during Operation Varsity. This unit received two 75mm recoilless rifles for use in that operation. This type of weapon was just being deployed at the end of the war and proved very useful in anti-tank operations. In addition to the recoilless rifle, the jeep features a wire cutter commonly found in the European theater and a limited collection of other accessories. The jeep has appropriate unit markings. The W number is painted in white, as is typically observed after a vehicle has spent time with a unit.

(from the article, “Shop Talk: Three Jeeps” on the museum’s website)

So, the MB jeep sports a 75mm recoilless rifle. In addition to the memories of the television show, the tube-like gun on the back reminded me of the Cold War board wargames we played in the 1980s. A common weapons system of that time was the BGM-71 TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) missile. It was interesting to see the evolution of vehicular weapons systems.

North Africa

1942 Ford GPW in the North Africa Exhibit. Courtesy of The National WWII Museum.

1942 Ford GPW in the North Africa Exhibit. Thomas Czekanski photo, Courtesy of The National WWII Museum.

In the North Africa exhibit of the Road to Berlin Gallery, another jeep caught my eye. The display contains a 1942 Ford GPW painted and weathered to look like it had been at Kasserine Pass. Back when I taught American History at Redeemer High School in Gentilly, I used to show the movie, “The Big Red One.” That movie features the battle at the pass. What impressed me about this jeep was the weathering. This jeep’s weathering includes mud spatters as if it traveled a lot of desert miles. No machine gun mounted in the back, just a hard-working vehicle. The National WWII Museum are masters in creating the “immersive experience.”

National WWII Museum Visit – D-Day @WWIImuseum

National WWII Museum Visit – D-Day @WWIImuseum

A National WWII Museum visit is a NOLA must!

Diorama featuring a C-4 Waco glider at the National WWII Museum visit, in New Orleans. Edward Branley photo.

Diorama featuring a C-4 Waco glider at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Edward Branley photo.

National WWII Museum Visit

My Firstborn, who spent ten years as a submariner, always wants to go to make a National WWII Museum visit when he comes home (he lives in the DMV, working for the Strategic Capabilities Office these days). We gladly oblige him, as the museum is a fun way to spend the day. He walks like he’s still on a boat and needs coffee badly, so we let him go ahead. When it’s three or four of us, it’s everyone for themselves, and we text to get back together. Being a naval officer, he usually spends most of his time in the Road To Tokyo exhibit. Being an NJROTC cadet who was often chewed out by Master Chief Brennan at Brother Martin High School, I share his interest in the Navy exhibits.

D-Day

So, this trip, I was surprised when my O-3 said, let’s start with the original D-Day exhibits in the Louisiana Pavillion. The museum evolved from Ambrose’s original D-Day focus to all of the war. In that first summer of 2000, though, Overlord dominated. There’s one diorama in particular that I like to stop at for a while. The scene features a CG-4 Waco glider. The glider crashed into a stone wall in the woods behind and to the west of the Normandy beaches. The US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions dropped into that area. They advanced, securing bridges and causeways connecting the beaches to the hedgerow country. While this particular Waco endured a hard landing (one wing is shown broken off), the jeep inside remains intact. Glider Infantry pushed the vehicle out, then drove off to connect with the rest of their unit.

It’s the stillness of the scene that gets me every time. It’s quiet, maybe this was one of the first gliders to land. The drops were a mess in those early hours of 6-June-1944. Someone’s managed to open the cargo hold. Hopefully the pilots survived. Crickets remind you that this is forest country. The display features no strong special effects, just the night sounds. The All-American and Screaming Eagles started their European campaign there.

600 Tchoupitoulas, 1843

600 Tchoupitoulas, 1843

Several of the buildings in this illustration of 600 Tchoupitoulas are still standing.

600 Tchoupitoulas

600 Tchoupitoulas

George Sully painted this watercolor of the 600 block of Tchoupitoulas Street around 1843. The painting depitcts several three-story buildings on the downtown side of the block (near Lafayette Street). The middle of the block includes two-story buildings, likely warehouses or stables. The end of the block on the Girod Street side is a four-story warehouse building. 600 Tchoupitoulas is typical of much of what is now the Warehouse District. Goods arrived on ships along the riverfront. Crews transferred them from the wharves to warehouses and light industrial companies just behind.

Since Sully painted this in the mid 1840s, mules were the primary conveyance along the river.

Pre-Rebellion commerce

Cotton was king by the 1840s. It was the major export. These buildings likely handled incoming cargo. The main cotton mills stood in surrounding blocks. Workers unloaded bales of picked cotton from riverboats. Mules brought the cotton to mills, where the bales were compressed tightly. Ocean-going ships docked just behind the buildings of 600 Tchoupitoulas, as well as further upriver. Once the ships were unloaded and industrial goods from the Northeast and Europe delivered to warehouses, the mules then loaded the milled cotton. This trade built New Orleans into the second-largest port in the United States. By the 1850s, the port was the largest in the soon-to-be rebel states.

George Washington Sully

The artist was born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1816. George’s uncle (his father’s brother), Thomas Sully, painted the well-known equestrian portrait of George Washington, The Passage of the Delaware.

George’s father, Chester, was a cotton merchant. From Virginia, the family made their way to Florida, after its sale from Spain to the US. George then traveled to Louisiana, where he painted many scenes of New Orleans. He died in Covington, in 1890.

The 600 block today

The Lafayette Street end of the block are storefront buildings with offices and apartments above. The two-story buildings, leading to the four-story warehouse are now the Cambria Hotel New Orleans.

Podcast 18 – 13-April-2019 M.A.R.T. and City Park Avenue

Podcast 18 – 13-April-2019 M.A.R.T. and City Park Avenue

NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019

NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019

Mayor Ernest “Dutch” Morial stands by a M.A.R.T. “gondola,” 11-April-1985 (Morial papers, New Orleans Public Library)

NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019

Another short-form pod this week! Two items, “New Orleans Past” and unpacking a photo from 1951

M.A.R.T.

Our “New Orleans Past” item, from Catherine Campanella’s website, is her 11-April entry, which goes back to 11-April-1985. The Mississippi Aerial Rapid Transport, M.A.R.T. attraction at the 1984 New Orleans World Exposition attracted visitors and locals alike. Alas, it didn’t attract them in the numbers expected. But then, neither did the fair overall. As a rule, locals didn’t refer to the attraction as “MART”, but rather as “The Gondola”. The east bank station for MART was at Julia Street and the River, just to the east side of the main pavilion building. That building became the Morial Convention Center after Da Fair. The small cars ran across the river, landing next to Mardi Gras World. The theory (hope) of the Kerns was that folks would visit their year-round Mardi Gras attraction in Algiers before returning to the fair site.

This didn’t quite work out as planned. Folks rode MART like an amusement park ride rather than as transportation. Mardi Gras World figured out that the west bank location wasn’t good for attracting tourists, so they moved to the western side of the Convention Center. This was after the fiasco of riverboat casinos in that location.

The operators of MART hoped to continue the attraction as a transportation service, after the fair. While the concept was good, the gondolas weren’t in a good position for the nascent Warehouse District. MART was demolished in 1994. Some of the cars live on at various places around town, such as Poeyfarre Market.

City Park Avenue, 1951

NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019

City Park Avenue near the PontchartrainExpresway, 1951 (NOLA.com photo)

Unpacking an old photo. This is City Park Avenue in 1951. I found it on a Tumblr, attributed to NOLA.com. Not sure if it’s originally from the Times-Picayune or the State-Item. Also not sure who shot the photo. The streetcars made a left-turn onto City Park Avenue from Canal Street. The West End line continued from there out to the lake, on the eastern side of the New Basin Canal. The Canal line cars stopped on City Park Avenue. They changed for the inbound run there. The end terminal changed to Canal Street only in 1958.