By Jonathan Kaminsky
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A national museum commemorating the American experience of World War Two will open a new exhibit next month aimed at bringing the sounds and sensations of the conflict to new generations.
With a particular focus on reaching young people, the mission of the New Orleans-based National World War II Museum is to illustrate the purpose, execution and enduring meaning of the global war that ended in 1945.
The "Road to Berlin" exhibit, set to open on Dec. 13, is the first of two exhibits planned in the sprawling complex's "Campaigns of Courage" pavilion. The "Road to Tokyo" is due to open in 2015.
"This is the building that answers the question, 'How it was won.'" said Owen Glendening, a museum official. "It has been designed for the next generation. There's a lot of stimulation."
The exhibit starts in a room made to feel like a North African hut and explains why the United States, having been attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, begins its war effort not in the Pacific, but by fighting against Nazi Germany in North Africa - an imminently more winnable campaign.
It proceeds through eight more rooms replete with faux-newsreel footage, period objects, such as a Howitzer artillery piece as well as German and American soldiers' winter gear, and interactive stations that allow visitors to follow the story of a particular soldier or civilian at multiple points during the war.
Ending in what is designed to evoke a bombed-out German city, the experience is not intended to sanitize or minimize the vast scale of destruction the war wrought, Glendening said.
The museum was founded in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum with exhibits on Normandy and the Pacific. The U.S. Congress designated the complex the National World War II Museum in 2003.
New Orleans was chosen as the site because of the American war effort's reliance on the amphibious "Higgins Boat," which was invented and mass-produced in the city.
The museum has since expanded to include the Solomon Victory Theater, which features the large-screen documentary film "Beyond All Boundaries," and a pavilion with U.S. aircraft dating to the war hanging from the ceiling.
Another building, the Liberation Pavilion, which will cover the closing months of World War Two and the years that followed, is planned to open in 2017, completing the bulk of a $325 million expansion project.
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; editing by Jill Serjeant and G Crosse)