February 13, 2001
At 0800 Central Standard Time, the Training Ship Empire State was located at Bienville Street Wharf, New Orleans, Louisiana and taking various services from the pier. The air temperature was 65 degrees Fahrenheit; skies were mostly cloudy and foggy; winds were from the East South East at 11 knots; barometric pressure was 1024 millibars and steady. Relative Humidity was 90%.
When I read great literature, great drama, speeches, or sermons, I feel that the human mind has not achieved anything greater than the ability to share feelings and thoughts through language. James Earl Jones
Many of the Captain's Logs are devoted to describing the everyday life and learning aboard Empire State and I try to bring the readers with us into the interesting places that are the Sea Term. I often describe in bits and pieces the pursuits that occupy the precious free time that the Cadets enjoy, and that generally tends to be the social outings of local interest. I want to depart from that somewhat today, however, and write about a new and growing attraction here in New Orleans. It is not a party destination. On the contrary, many who visit will leave with a tear in their eye. Some sixty Cadets, possibly enticed by the movie Saving Private Ryan, went as "special guests" of Ms. Jane Stickney. I suspect that in the end, the experience was more than they bargained for.
Everyone knows that events in and around New Orleans have had profound effects on American History. Walking city streets is like stepping through America in earlier times- the War of 1812, and the Civil War. Now, just up the road from the French Quarter, in a renovated 19th century warehouse, recent history is eloquently displayed at the National D - Day Museum. The living museum promises to be a remarkable place for learning and remembrance, and it highlights a little know fact about New Orleans' significant contributions to the victory in World War Two.
For many of my readers, Nineteen forty-four is the time of great grandfathers, so permit me to briefly define "D - Day".
"D-Day" is a military term that is used to describe the start of the major offensive of World War II. That date was June 6, 1944 and the assault took place at Normandy on the coast of France. The German Nazi Army had fortified the coastline with 2,400 miles of concrete, razor wire, mine fields, bunkers, and thousands of heavily armed troops. In addition, they had laced the off-shore areas with massive underwater obstacles designed to prevent any ship from landing on the beach. Despite the tremendous difficulties, Americans, British, and the other Allies, under the Command of General Dwight David Eisenhower, attacked. "Operation Overlord", the code name given to the assault, marked the turning point in the War.
The attacking Allied Force was the largest in the history of amphibious warfare and included more than 5,000 ships, 11,000 planes, and more than 175,000 men who landed and fought the Germans on five Beaches- code named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. The fighting was terrible and by day's end nearly 5000 Allied troops were casualties, (2,500 died within minutes of reaching the beaches) but the German Wall of concrete and wire had fallen. Heavy fighting continued for many weeks and Germany was finally defeated more than one year later.
The exhibits at the museum take the visitor through that great day in American History with pictures, videos, artifacts, and materiel and will eventually feature many interactive exhibits to make the visit even more lifelike. The Museum is currently divided into approximately six sections that lead the visitor through WW II but from the perspective of just one Historic Day.
Today, we hear of ourselves described as the world's biggest "Super Power" but the main entrance to the Museum depicts a much different story in a more powerful time. The displays compare and contrast the enormous war machines that existed in Germany and Japan in the late 1930's with the skimpy peacetime forces of the United States. That alone is frightening.
The next section depicts the rush to prepare for the fight and the mobilization efforts that were undertaken. It clearly emphasizes the sacrifices made by the hometown work forces, comprised mostly of women. Then, it is on to Normandy, the Atlantic Wall, Command Posts, and many German and Allied relics, uniforms, weapons, and equipment packs. The arrangement helps one to understand the great burden that is war, even before the first shots are fired. The air and sea assaults were overwhelming and the logistics of moving thousands of men and equipment across the English Channel, in secret, seems impossible today, but heroic men from every large city and little town in American made it happen. Life sized pictures take the visitor into the belly of an assault landing craft, door down, and onto the beach. One can almost hear the chilling whine of bullets and feel the devastating concussion of nearby mortar blasts. Battle helmets, scarred by war and stained by tears and sweat, sit nearby as grim reminders. This scene is not computer enhanced, these men are not actors, and those men lying just over there have truly breathed their last. This is war in the human dimension that was, and is, and will likely forever be...It is life turned suddenly asunder, youth turned suddenly old.
"It is an honor for me to be able to help in this important project. It shocks me that most of these heroic fighting men were only five years older than me".
Jonathan Levy,Donor & Museum Volunteer, age 14.
Out of the mouths of babes.
However, this National Museum appears more than a depiction of war. It is "learn - do - learn" at the finest, and the visitor need only walk through to experience the life lessons of teamwork, courage, decision making, and optimism that the "Greatest Generation" so clearly possess. Victory in the face of such odds would have been impossible otherwise.
The Museum honors the generation that won the war by enlightening today's generation about its own potential. The Museum is dedicated to the premise that these lessons are just as valuable today as they were fifty-five years ago.
Why New Orleans, you ask? Well according to President Eisenhower, Mr. Andrew Higgins of New Orleans, designed and built the LCVP. (the military designation for the landing crafts used at Normandy) "If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different." Strong words from one who knew... and now you know the rest of the story, too.
Well folks, we are busily cramming as much fun as possible into the remaining time. We have the air conditioner to op- test this afternoon. Tonight we station the regular underway watch, and tomorrow we sail. See you then.
QUESTIONS FOR WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY
Cadet Engineers were reading ship's blue prints. The prints were drawn to the scale inch = 1 foot. How long is the fan room if it measures 10.5 inches on the plan?
When cadets determine the conductivity of seawater, the ability of the water to conduct electricity, what are they really measuring?
New Orleans, and all of Louisiana, lie on an extension of the submerged Continental Shelf on a flat, low lying region near the sea. What is this region called?
In what year did Louisiana become a state? How many other states were in the Federal Union then? What was Louisiana called before becoming the State of Louisiana?
ANSWERS FOR TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY
Let x = width
Let x + 3 = length
Then x + x + 3 + x + x + 3 = 4x + 6
4x + 6 = 38
4x = 38 - 6
4x = 32
X = 8 nm. The width is 8 nm.
The Louisiana Purchase. The land was purchased from France.