Cohens Tour D-Day Museum
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
NEW ORLEANS, Jun. 6, 2000 Like a proud father, historian and best-selling author Stephen E. Ambrose showed off his baby, the National D-Day Museum, to his guests.
Ambrose and museum chairman Gordon "Nick" Mueller led Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, his wife, Janet Langhart Cohen, and most of the Louisiana congressional delegation on a preview tour of the museum June 5. The hosts pointed out the museum's artifacts and explained their significance.
While the museum opens June 6, the 56th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, it will honor all Americans who participated in D-Day landings during World War II. Mueller said only the Normandy portion of the museum is finished now, but he expects the portion devoted to landings in the Pacific, Mediterranean and North Africa to be dedicated August 7, 2001, the anniversary of the 1942 invasion of Guadalcanal.
One reason the museum is in New Orleans is Andrew Jackson Higgins. The New Orleans resident designed and built what came to be known as the Higgins boat. The military's more mundane name for it was LCVP, or "landing craft, vehicle, personnel."
In the 1960s President Dwight Eisenhower told Ambrose that Higgins was the man "who won the war for us." His boat made possible the Allied invasions of World War II. The shallow- draft boats were made of plywood, Ambrose explained to the Cohens, as he showed them an example at the front door of the museum. The only metal part was the ramp on the front. The boat was built tough to survive repeated groundings in the surf. Its shielded propeller enabled the boat to pull free of the beach and turn around in its own length.
Higgins made 20,000 of the boats at his New Orleans factory. The boat in the museum is a reproduction, made by World War II Higgins Co. factory workers using original plans.
The Cohens and congressional guests also met many D-Day veterans during their tour. Langhart Cohen asked a Navy corpsman what it was like to treat casualties on Omaha Beach.
"Ma'am, there are certain memories that I carry with me that I don't like to talk about," he said. "Something happens to you when you treat a man and then come back to him later and he's dead."
The National D-Day Museum is at 945 Magazine St. It is a private, nonprofit organization under the auspices of the University of New Orleans Eisenhower Center.