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National Museum of the Pacific War

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Located in the Texas Hill Country a little over an hour from San Antonio and 1-1/2 hours from Austin, Fredericksburg has a long and storied history. And one of the most popular tourist attractions here, particularly for older Baby Boomers, is the National Museum of the Pacific War.

The museum is part of the 6-1/2-acre National Museum of the Pacific War complex and features an amazing state-of-the-art, 33,000 square foot museum that came to fruition as part of the legacy of another Fredericksburg native son, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces, Pacific Ocean Area. 

Here you will find an astounding 900 artifacts and 40 media installations in very poignant galleries including photographs, audio-visual elements, interactive exhibits and other items in 97 climate-controlled cases. 

It is both visually and tactically stunning, but I will warn you that a visit here is not for the faint-of-heart, as it wonderfully yet painstakingly details the horrific physical, social, psychological, emotional, financial and most importantly, human tolls of the Pacific-Asiatic Theater of Operations during World War II, and today is the only institution in the nation dedicated exclusively to this time in history. 

The average visitor is here 3-4 hours, however there is so much to see and digest that your ticket is good for 48 hours, allowing you to explore the museum in blocks of time at your leisure—a benefit of which many take advantage. 

The tone is set from the beginning in a five-minute, introductory film broadcast in a voluminous, dark, standing only room on an expansive floor-to-ceiling horizontal screen that stretches behind the full length of a 78-foot, restored, two-man, midget submarine, offering only the sounds of military aircraft and explosions, and peppered with only brief clauses detailing the less than 30 minute timeline of events that took place before the first bombs were dropped on Pearl Harbor.  

From there it is a truly emotional journey through the various aspects of each of these world conflicts that leaves much more than a lasting impression. In fact, museum staff say that many a veteran who has come here were so moved, that it is often the first time that they have ever spoken of their unthinkable personal experiences during these various conflicts. 

Although it is in some ways an emotionally gut-wrenching experience for some, there is a lot of healing taking place when these places are coupled with personal faces, historic figures, extraordinary tales of survival, and so much more. 

Written by Lysa Allman-Baldwin


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