“The Pelican State Goes to War” Exhibit at Nicholls Highlights LA Ties to WWII

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Nicholls State University is hosting a traveling WWII exhibit “The Pelican State Goes to War” which will be held through December 15 in the archives of Ellender Memorial Library. The traveling exhibit will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. 


Dr. Paul Wilson is the head of the History Department at the university and said it was wonderful to be able to work to get the exhibit on campus, “ There are a lot of really smart, creative, interesting people who were on the committee. I always enjoy working with the World National World War II Museum, it’s one of the world’s great museums. I felt honored to be able to contribute in some way to this exhibit,” Dr. Wilson said.


Several years ago, the museum gathered historians and people who are involved in the history of Louisiana and WWII about the possibility of creating a Louisiana WWII exhibit. Dr. Wilson was among that group and he said they worked together, provided advice, but the museum curators did most of the work. It was decided to be a traveling exhibit from the beginning of planning to be able to showcase Louisiana’s contribution to the war and the allied victory in WWII.


Dr. Wilson said the exhibit was supposed to be on the Nicholls campus before, but with the pandemic, they had to reschedule twice. Despite the pandemic being ongoing and the community is rebuilding during the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, they decided to continue with the exhibit.


He said the students are excited about the exhibit and they have an internship course where several students are serving as tour guides and are available to assist guests at the exhibit. He said he’s excited about the opportunity because it gets students involved in what they are promoting in the department which is a concentration in public history and introducing a practical history that students can learn and understand, “they’re getting practical experience in that regard as part of our public history program,” he said.


Not only are students there to assist tours, but Dr. Wilson said he is encouraging croup tours and they already have field trips scheduled with local schools. To schedule a group tour of the exhibit, contact Dr. Wilson at 448-4463 or paul.wilson@nicholls.edu.


Louisiana Aids American Victory


Louisiana has a rich history and a wonderful oral history during WWII. Dr. Wilson said Louisiana had an incredible impact on the American victory of WWII through our citizens, volunteers, and services in the state. The people of our state trained soldiers and commanders for tens of thousands of personnel and behind-the-scenes innovators who ultimately affected the war’s outcome. Other important contributions were the oil industry and the most crucial, the shipbuilding industry. Shipbuilding in New Orleans was crucial in landing soldiers on European beaches on D-Day. 


The U.S. military began developing small boats in the late 1930s that could carry troops from ships to the beaches. Andrew Jackson Higgins of New Orleans was building shallow-water boats to support the oil and gas industry at the time. He adapted his Eureka Boat to meet the military’s specifications for a landing craft and it changed the way the war was fought. Not only did it help the local economy, but it also changed the course of world history!