The D-Day Museum

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Saving Private Ryan provided another major boost. I was the historical consultant to the movie, and Steven Spielberg donated a large sum of his own money to the museum, along with part of the sales from the video of the film on behalf of his firm, Dreamworks. The star, Tom Hanks, also made a sizable contribution. So did Tom Brokaw. So did foundations and business leaders from New Orleans and elsewhere, who have donated eight million dollars since 1998.

We’ve raised twenty-one million so far from the public and private sectors. Still, it is no surprise that we must go on seeking money—at least another four million to complete the Pacific exhibit. What is a surprise is that we will have our grand opening on June 6, 2000. That is six years later than we originally announced, yet it is here. Of all the things I’ve done in my life, this is the one of which I’m proudest. By far.

I’m not going to try to describe the museum here. To appreciate it, people must come to New Orleans and see it. They will be involved in the interactive displays MetaForm has built; they can listen to the interview accounts of the veterans’ experience; they can admire and get on board an LCVP. And much more.

The museum exists to honor the men and women of America who made the D-Days of World War II possible. They are the ones to whom we all owe our freedom, or as Spielberg put it to me, the ones who put to an end the Holocaust and the Japanese death camps in Asia. It will be there throughout the twenty-first century. Nay, for longer. The only other successful invasion across the English Channel was in 1066. William the Conqueror commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry to honor that invasion. Today the tapestry draws hundreds of thousands to see it every year. That is almost a millennium. The National D-Day Museum is going to be there for that long too. During that time it will teach billions of young Americans that freedom doesn’t come free, that nothing can beat the fury of an aroused democracy, that teamwork always prevails, and that the virtues of dedication, patriotism, loyalty, and doing one’s duty will prevail forever.