Next, a Sherman Tank

President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously called the United States “the arsenal of democracy” during World War II, and the nation’s prodigious industrial capacity churned out tanks, ships and planes that Allied forces used to prevail around the globe. Now the New Orleans museum dedicated to America’s role in that conflict has a new showcase of historic examples from that arsenal being returned to their former glory.

The National World War II Museum has opened its new John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion just across from its main hall. It is the latest phase of the museum’s ongoing $300 million expansion.

While this new pavilion serves as an exhibit hall, it’s also a functional workshop where museum conservators refurbish and preserve large artifacts destined for future display. Visitors can sign up for guided tours of the pavilion, and the building itself was designed to give passersby a view of ongoing restoration work through thick glass walls surrounding the workspace.

The artifact now under repair here demonstrates the Restoration Pavilion’s role in a dramatic fashion. Inside, work is underway on PT-305, one of the torpedo-armed, fast-moving patrol boats that formed an important part of American naval forces early in the war. With a mahogany hull measuring 78 feet, this PT boat was originally built here in New Orleans at Higgins Shipyards in 1943. Bristling with weapons and driven by high-powered engines, it saw action against German forces in the Mediterranean. After the war, it was sold as surplus and pressed into service, first as a sightseeing boat, and later as an oyster lugger in Chesapeake Bay. The National World War II Museum bought it from a collector of military artifacts in 2007 and began the painstaking restoration.

Other large artifacts slated for restoration in the facility include a Sherman tank, a German staff car, a Dodge military ambulance and numerous artillery pieces. Work ranges from welding, painting and carpentry to fabricating replacement parts for World War II-era components no longer manufactured elsewhere.

Named for the late local real estate broker and museum trustee John E. Kushner, the pavilion was completed in the spring on a budget of about $3 million.
 

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