By Kevin Shannahan
Northwestern State University History Professor, Dr. Susan Dollar, gave a presentation at the Louisiana Sports Hall Of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum Saturday, Feb 16th. The standing room only crowd was treated to a lively lecture on Louisiana’s role in the Second World War. Our state was the scene of the Louisiana Maneuvers, a series of military exercises that were held shortly before America’s entry into WWII and continued throughout the war. The first, and best known of the exercises, featured soldiers from 33 states. All in all, over 500,000 soldiers honed their skills in Louisiana before combat against Nazi Germany.
Dr. Dollar also brought artifacts from the era to bring history alive. One of the items was a wartime gasoline ration book with the rations in 25 cent increments. Another item was a 1943 penny made of zinc as copper was too precious to the war effort to use in coins (as an interesting side note, Dr. Dollar told the audience that 40 pennies were made of copper in error and are quite valuable to coin collectors.) The talk was full of the personal details of the era that she was able to elicit from the local people who lived in the areas of the state in which the maneuvers took place.
Dr. Dollar’s talk was in conjunction with a traveling exhibit produced by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans about Louisiana’s contribution to victory in WWII. The exhibit features uniforms, memorabilia and information about everything from Higgins boats to P.O.W. Camps in the state. There are also exhibits featuring the Louisianans who earned the Medal of Honor during the war as well the first African Americans to join the Marine Corps.
The exhibit will be at the museum through Mar. 15th at which time it will travel to the Alexandria Museum of Art. It is a look into a fascinating era of our history and is well worth a visit before it moves on.