National Museum of the Pacific War

When we rolled into Fredericksburg, Texas, this past week during our spring break meandering, we had no idea that we would be spending almost a day and a half at the National Museum of the Pacific War. However, that is exactly what we did, and it was time well spent.

Our first day in Fredericksburg, after we settled the Monkey Barrel into her campsite and unhooked, we found a parking spot in the visitors center parking lot and started walking around. The National Museum of the Pacific War is located really close to the visitors center, so we decided to go in and see what they had to offer. Well. Let me just tell you, we lucked out in a big way.

Apparently, the museum does battle re-enactments. However, they only do them a few times a year. We just happened to walk right up and purchase tickets about 15 minutes before the re-enactment started. I mean, could our timing have been better?!? I think not!

We found some seats, almost front and center, of the amphitheater, and a volunteer walked up and handed us earplugs. Already, I was getting excited. I mean, if you need earplugs, you’re going to see (and hear!) some action.

Soon, out trooped several staff members and volunteers, each dressed according to the person they portrayed. The men demonstrated their weapons, and spoke about their various jobs in the different branches of the military.

But then, something spectacular happened. Women walked out as well. Women dressed like Rosie the Riveter to housewives, to everyone in between. These women talked about their contributions, on the home front, during World War 2. They talked about the factory jobs they took over, and the victory gardens they planted. They talked about the metal drives and ration cards. Now, I have great admiration for the men who fought and paid the ultimate price fighting in World War 2. I can’t imagine what they must have endured, nor the lifelong effects war had on them. However, American women played a vital role here on the home front during that war. Possibly more so during WW2 than any other war. At one point, one of the volunteers quoted, “Women didn’t win the war, but without women, the war would not have been won.” At first I thought it was so important for my daughters to see and hear this, and don’t get me wrong, it was important. But the truth is, it was just as important for my sons to hear this.

After the historical presentation, it was time for the actual battle re-enactment. It was a cacophony of noise, motion, and action. Everywhere we looked, there was gunfire (blanks, of course), guys falling over, someone calling for a medic, and even a flame thrower routing out the enemy foxholes. It’s awkward for me to say “we loved it!” while talking about a battle scene from a war that cost so many lives, but I will say this: the educational value and depth of understanding we received from this re-enactment was incalculable.

When the re-enactment was over, the kids wanted to get a few photos of the battlefield and with some of the characters. At that point, we were too late in the day for the museum. However, when you buy a ticket to the National Museum of the Pacific War, it’s good for 48 hours! So, we returned the next day to do the actual museum portion.

The museum itself, even if you don’t get to see a re-enactment, is well worth a visit to Fredericksburg. The amount of content and the presentation of material is phenomenally put together. I lost count of how many hours we stayed in the museum, wandering from room to room, reading detailed descriptions of the exhibits. You would think that kids, especially six-year-old girls, would get bored of a war museum after a while, but none of the kids did. Let me say that again: of my four children and my one niece who came with us, none of the kids tired of this museum. Instead, they were asking questions, thoughtful and insightful questions. And so many of them, I didn’t know the answer to, so we found out together!

I must admit, before this trip, I didn’t know much about the Pacific Theater of WW2. When I was in college, I studied in Europe, and as a result studied quite a bit about WW2 in Europe. But, embarrassingly, I knew little of the Pacific War. This museum provided such an educational experience for me, as well as the kids, and I am really grateful that we took the time to go through it.

If you’re ever in the Hill Country, I highly recommend taking the time to visit this museum. You won’t regret it!

If you have visited the museum, I’d love to hear your thoughts and impressions in the comments section!

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