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New Mexico Remembers World War II

March 29, 2012

New Mexico is famous for its hot air balloons and amazing cultural festivals; many people aren’t as aware of its representation of World War II. Four New Mexico museums have formed a partnership in order to highlight New Mexican contributions to the era: the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, the New Mexico National Guard Bataan Memorial Military Museum, and the New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society.

The group has established a blog, http://nmrememberswwii.blogspot.com, which includes information about each of these organizations as well as stories and facts about WWII in New Mexico.

The Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico has the Flossenbürg Flag proudly on display at 616 Central Avenue SW, Albuquerque. This likeness of the United States Flag amazingly was created by prisoners of the Nazis in the Flossenbürg work camp, in Germany, where inmates labored in a stone quarry and in the manufacture of munitions and arms. The flag’s background and stars and stripes most likely were painted over what was once a Nazi flag. At war’s end the inmates, not knowing who would liberate them, created at least three flags: a Russian, a British, and an American. It was the Americans who marched into the camp on April 23, 1945. In May of that year, a Medical Collecting Company, Third Army, entered the camp. Roy Shaffer, whose life journey eventually took him to Albuquerque, noticed that no one had claimed the flag, so he was allowed to remove it and bring it back to the United States.

The actual casings of Fat Man and Little Boy as well as aircraft and other war memorabilia are on display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, 601 Eubank Blvd SE in Albuquerque. In addition to the famous B29 Superfortress airplane (which was the same model as the Enola Gay, which delivered the Little Boy bomb over Hiroshima), there are two automobiles are on view: a replica of the 1942 Plymouth Special Deluxe that carried the plutonium core to the Trinity Site, and the 1942 Packard custom limousine that carried senior scientists from Los Alamos to Trinity and other New Mexico locations.

When war broke out in Asia and Europe in 1939, New Mexico’s contribution to the upcoming war effort was unclear. However, by early 1941, all New Mexico National Guard units had been ordered to active Federal duty. Many suffered unbelievable atrocities in the Japanese run prison camps and some of these soldiers would suffer the infamous Bataan Death march.  The New Mexico National Guard Bataan Memorial Museum at 1050 Old Pecos Trail in Santa Fe features artifacts, images, press clippings, weapons, and uniforms carried or worn by Guardsmen dating back to the 19th century.  The Museum (in Santa Fe) honors the history of the New Mexico National Guard and places specific importance on the infamous Bataan Death March.

Since our interstate highway system that allows for long distance trucking did not exists in 1940 and air cargo was in its infancy, railroads were the only way that troops, equipment, food stuffs and raw material could move rapidly and efficiently around our nation. Over the years of the war, railroads moved 783 billion breight miles and 93 billion passenger miles. That movement included 43 million members of the military on 114,000 troop trains. Santa Fe #2926 exists because of the US War Production Board would not grant the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway’s request for additional new Diesel Locomotives. It is estimated that her 22 months of war service covered 405,570 miles. The restoration can be viewed at 1833 8th St. NW in Albuquerque.

The collaboration is funded by a grant from the New Mexico Department of Tourism.

Presidents Day Camp - February 19

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History will host "Eureka: Simple Machines & Physics Edition" on February 19 for Presidents Day. In this one-day break from school, students 6-12 years old will build super structures using their own creativity, basic design principles and simple machines. They will also learn about the properties of building shapes and materials through hands-on experimentation.

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Discover STEM Day - Saturday, February 10

On Saturday, February 10, from 10 am to 3 pm, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History will welcome families and Scouts for a day of engineering fun! Visitors will experience the finest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). All activities are kid-friendly, completely interactive and designed to spark interest in the scientific fields of science and engineering.

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Einstein Gala - Saturday, March 31

The Einstein Gala is New Mexico’s biggest science party of the year! This prestigious black-tie event is the Museum’s most important fundraising event and features a cocktail reception with an amazing silent auction filled with the most unique items in Albuquerque, a delicious dinner experience among some of the most brilliant minds in science and history and thrilling entertainment featuring science experiments that will knock your socks off!

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