If HBO’s 10-part Pacific series has fired your interest in World War II’s Pacific Theater, consider visiting the newly renovated and much expanded George H. W. Bush Gallery of the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. Inside the 33,000-square-foot gallery, whose architecture evokes an aircraft carrier, pill box, and Pacific island beachhead, is a Japanese midget submarine and a B-25 bomber flown on the 1942 Doolittle Raid, along with exhibits about the war’s origins and the major battles from Coral Sea to Okinawa.
This isolated Texas town (population 8,900), about an hour from Austin or San Antonio and originally settled by German emigrants 150 years ago, is the hometown of Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. naval forces in the Pacific during World War II. In the 1960s, citizens offered their favorite son a museum in his honor, but Nimitz declined unless it would honor all who served.
“This new museum is the culmination of an effort begun almost 20 years ago,” says John C. Kerry, chairman of the Admiral Nimitz Foundation that runs the museum. “We wanted to build the largest, finest, and most comprehensive exhibit dedicated exclusively to the Second World War in the Pacific.” The museum received funding from the U.S. Congress, the Texas legislature, and numerous foundations.
Two blocks away is the museum’s three-acre Pacific Combat Zone complex, which includes a one-acre reconstructed island beachhead, on which small arms and flamethrower demonstrations are conducted; the Admiral Nimitz Museum; and the PT Boat Base, which features the only original PT boat on public display.