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The Pelican State Goes to War: Louisiana in World War II special Exhibit

1911 Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center

  • 1001 Ryan Street
  • Lake Charles, LA 70601
  • Presented By: World War II Museum
  • Dates: August 2, 2019 - October 19, 2019
  • Recurrence: Recurring weekly on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
  • Location: 1911 Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center
  • Time: Monday - Friday: 10 AM to 5 PM; Saturday: 10 AM to 2 PM
  • Price: Free
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A special exhibit from The National WWII Museum will explore Louisiana’s contributions to the war effort

On Thurs., June 6, Lake Charles Mayor Nicholas E. Hunter announced that a new special exhibit called The Pelican State Goes to War: Louisiana in World War II will open at Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center on Aug. 2. Produced by The National WWII Museum, the exhibit will feature artifacts, photographs and oral histories that highlight Louisiana’s extraordinary contributions toward America achieving victory in World War II. The exhibit is sponsored in part by Citgo; Hunter, Hunter and Sonnier in memory of Judge Edwin F. Hunter; and American Press.  

On December 8, 1941, just one day after the Pearl Harbor attacks, the United States officially entered World War II – Louisiana, however, was already front and center in the country’s defense preparations. From 1940 to 1945, the state hosted the largest maneuvers in U.S. military history, witnessed massive changes to its industrial base, and saw its citizens become enthusiastic contributors to what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt deemed “The Arsenal of Democracy.”

“World War II provided new, previously unimaginable opportunities to Louisiana’s residents,”  said the exhibit’s curator, James Linn. “This exhibit will highlight the heroic stories of people like Claire Chennault, who created an early warning system to help protect China’s air force against Japanese attacks; and Richard English, who served in the African American 761st Tank Battalion and later became an advocate for Civil Rights. These unique wartime experiences, which were born in Louisiana, also helped lay the groundwork for sweeping economic changes in the postwar world.”

Many citizens of Louisiana contributed to victory in World War II on the battlefield, with nearly 280,000 individuals from the state serving in the armed forces during the war. The Pelican State Goes to War will share the courageous stories of Louisiana’s six Medal of Honor recipients, which represent sacrifice and devotion. The exhibit will also explore tales of the Louisiana Home Front, from the great mobilization efforts of Higgins Industries to first grader Billy Michal’s scrap collection for school.

“World War II had a tremendous impact on Southwest Louisiana and multiple local residents participated in the war,” added Mayor Nic Hunter. “Having an exhibit of this caliber right here in Lake Charles is an historic event for the City; and we are excited to offer citizens and guests the opportunity to view it at no charge.”

Several community events are being planned in conjunction with the exhibit including a moderated panel discussing the war’s effects on the Southwest Louisiana, led by KPLC News Anchor John Bridges. The panel will be held in Tritico Theater, located at 4205 Ryan Street, on September 5 at 6 p.m. 

A local exhibit of relics specific to the Lake Charles region will accompany the special exhibit. The City of Lake Charles will catalogue artifacts received from the community. Objects could include letters of commendation, medals or awards, uniforms, personal letters, war bonds and stamps, or other items associated with the World War II era. Artifacts can be submitted in person at Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center, located at 1001 Ryan Street, on Monday through Friday, June 6 through July 12, between 1 and 4:30 p.m.

A Wall of Honor featuring the photographs of local veterans who served in the war will be assembled. The public is invited to submit photographs of service members along with their respective branch of service, rank, dates served, and location of service. Photographs can be submitted in person at Historic City Hall at the above-specified times or by email at grant.leonards@cityoflc.us. The Wall of Honor is sponsored by Stine Lumber in honor of J.W. Stine.

The City partnered with the Calcasieu Parish School Board Television Production program, led by Britney Glaser Felder, to record the oral histories of General Erbon Wise, a World War II veteran; E.K. Hunter, son of the late Judge Edwin F. Hunter, Jr., a World War II veteran; and Jim Beam, reporter for the Lake Charles American Press. The video documentary was recorded and produced by Felder’s students, and it will play alongside the exhibit at Historic City Hall.

The Pelican State Goes to War will be onview at Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center August 2 through October 19. The museum is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free. An opening reception will be held on August 2 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. For more information, please call 337 491-9147 or visit www.cityoflakecharles.com.