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Flag Day: The National World War II Museum and D-Day

I have the great fortune of having had my second book signing of Home Front Girl at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on June 13, 2013, the day before Flag Day.

Susie in front of the National World War II Museum, New Orleans.  Photo by Jim Kilfoyle.

Susie in front of the National World War II Museum, New Orleans. Photo by Jim Kilfoyle.

With John in front of the National World War II Museum, New Orleans.  Photo by Jim Kilfoyle.

With John in front of the National World War II Museum, New Orleans. Photo by Jim Kilfoyle.

With John in front of the National World War II Museum, New Orleans.  Photo by Jim Kilfoyle.

With John in front of the National World War II Museum, New Orleans. Photo by Jim Kilfoyle.

As before, I had wonderful conversations with visitors to the museum.  One lady bought Home Front Girl for her aunt who was about 6 months older than my mother, Joan.  And a dad bought the book for his two charming and brilliant daughters, ages 11 and 16, whom I had the pleasure the chat with!  I had fun, but I wish my wonderful Swedish cousin, Gerd, had been with me as she was the last time I was there–we always have a great time together.

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After the signing, I decided to wander through the museum.  It is so richly textured, I only got to see a small section of it.  I have to return! One of the first images I saw in the D-Day section of the museum you can see below.

Display show proportional number of troops in Japan, U.S. and Germany in the late 1930s: photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Display show proportional numbers of troops in Japan, U.S. and Germany in the late 1930s: photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Then I saw images from the home front, which is perfectly appropriate for the book with my mother’s diaries, Home Front Girl!  Here is a just a tip of the iceberg of what I saw.

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One of the most poignant entries on the page is the death of a 10 year old Portuguese girl.

I liked how the museum integrated all sorts of displays–diaromas, films, oral history segments you push a button to hear, artifacts including letters, diaries, flags, maps –just about anything you can think of!

Barracks display at National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Barracks display at National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Women were crucial to the war effort;  photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Join the U.S. Crop Corps!

Join the U.S. Crop Corps!

I  had never even heard of the U.S. Crop Corps til today!  I had heard of the British Land Girls, but had no idea that we had a similar program called the Woman’s Land Army of America.

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You can read more about service on the home front in America during World War II here.

Ration pack material;  photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Ration pack material; photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Paratrooper's silk scarf with map of escape routes if lost behind enemy lines; photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Paratrooper’s silk scarf with map of escape routes if lost behind enemy lines; photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

The museum included German soldiers’ points of view in the oral history section.

The title says it all;  photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

The title says it all; photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Cemetary in Normandy; photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Cemetery in Normandy; photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Flag that was carried on Landing Craft, Tank, Rocket 439 on D-Day;  photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Flag that was carried on Landing Craft, Tank, Rocket 439 on D-Day; photo from National World War II Museum, New Orleans.

Remember those who have defended the flag on this Flag Day!

World War II Carrier Pigeon Mystery: Can you crack the code?

There are always new things discovered about World War II.  I am so lucky to have found my mother’s diaries from 1937-43 and have published them as Home Front Girl:  A Diary of Love, Literature and Growing Up in Wartime America.  But a diary is not so odd as the skeleton of a carrier pigeon!!!

Yes, The New York Times recently reported how a bird skeleton with a coded message has been found in England!

A chimney in a home in Surrey, England, was found in 1982 to hold the remains of a carrier pigeon bearing a World War II coded message. An effort is now under way to find out what it says. From Alan Cowell’s article in The New York Times, November 2, 2012.

As Alan Cowell reports, the skeleton was found in a chimney between “the site of the Allied landing at the Normandy beaches in 1944 and a famous code-breaking center north of London at Bletchley Park.”  Bletchley Park is famous as the site of top-secret code breaking activities.  Read its wartime history here.  The pigeon’s message has not yet been decoded, but it is being worked on!  How wonderful to have this mystery still to tantalize us.

But how valiant the pigeon, 40TW194, was! And its message still cannot be decoded.  See the discussion of the problems decoding this message here. You can help to crack the code, by reading the message here and below.

AOAKN HVPKD FNFJW YIDDC

RQXSR DJHFP GOVFN MIAPX

PABUZ WYYNP CMPNW HJRZH

NLXKG MEMKK ONOIB AKEEQ

WAOTA RBQRH DJOFM TPZEH

LKXGH RGGHT JRZCQ FNKTQ

KLDTS FQIRW AOAKN 27 1525/6

If you figure this out, contact  the UK Government Communications Headquarters.

Carrier pigeons have  a long and esteemed history, starting with Noah’s release of a pigeon after the flood.  They’ve been used by ancient Romans, Genghis Khan, and in the Siege of Paris in 1870. In World War I, the Germans even strapped cameras to their bellies to take reconnaissance photos until planes took over that duty.  By the end of WWI, France had mobilized 30,000 pigeons for war duty!

This article by Mary Blume gives more heroic details, but I must report this heart-rending detail here:  “[A] brave French pigeon named Le Vaillant was awarded the Ordre de la Nation…Cher Ami, the equally heroic American Black Check Cock carrier pigeon [, who was one] of 600 birds flown by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, … saved the lives of the 77th Infantry Division’s ‘lost battalion’ at Verdun by delivering 12 messages and returning to his loft with a shattered leg after he was shot. He won the Croix de Guerre with Palm and died in 1919 as a result of his wounds.”

Here is Cher Ami (Dear Friend) on display at the Smithsonian Musuem

Imagine, winning a medal!  And the Musée de la Poste in Paris has more information about these brave avian aviators.

From the Musée de la Poste. Source: http://parispigeonpost.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/musee-de-la-poste-and-birds-at-paris-station/

You can read more about Paris and the Siege of 1870 and pigeons here.  And be sure to check out my upcoming post on Women Cryptographers in World War II.

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