NEW ORLEANS (AP) —
Even with enough artifacts to fill a growing number of buildings, the National World War II Museum's collections have some gaping holes. Those include items from the Holocaust, the first U.S. engagement with German troops, and the women who flew military airplanes to the front, freeing male pilots to fight.
Although the museum's 100,000-plus artifacts include belongings from about 900 women in other services and the home front, its only illustration of the Women Airforce Service Pilots is a single shoulder patch embroidered with a winged Disney character. It came from a patch collector, without information about the pilot who wore it, said Toni M. Kiser, assistant director of collections and exhibits.
What she'd like is a uniform, a log book, a flight jacket or other artifact with information about its owner. "We like to collect the personal story that goes along with any gear, any uniform, any helmet," she said.
The WASP trained more than 1,000 pilots starting in November 1942; the last graduation was in December 1944.
"There just weren't nearly as many WASP as there were women in other service branches. They also weren't recognized as a service branch for a long time. They had to really fight to be recognized for their work," Kizer said.
Furthermore, each woman had to buy her own gear. "There was no standard issue gear, so there was no surplus," Kizer said.
The Holocaust is another "particularly spare" area for the museum, said curator Kimberly Guise.
"We would be overjoyed to get any material connected to the camps," she said.
Guise said the museum's few concentration camp artifacts include a jacket without information about its wearer.
The permanent home for Holocaust artifacts would be the museum's sixth and final building, to be called the Liberation Pavilion. It hasn't been started. The fifth building, showcasing the European and Pacific theaters, is scheduled to open in November 2014 with The Road to Berlin, and its second floor — The Road to Tokyo — opening in summer 2015.
Guise would also like more items from Japanese troops, Japanese-American troops, and the 100,000-plus Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps, such as clothing or anything else made in the internment camps and a senninbari or "thousand-stitch belt" — a good-luck talisman given to one of the 33,000 Japanese-American soldiers who went to war.
Senninbari are "handmade Shinto religious items — something that's particularly evocative," Guise said.
The thousand or more knotted stitches, often red, were set in rows, drawings or other patterns. Each was sewn by a different woman — Japanese wartime postcards show women gathering stitches at a train station, a high-traffic location. Many were stamped with patterns, like embroidery kits.
"We have a couple collections of dictionaries used by Japanese-American translators and we have a couple uniforms but would certainly like to increase our collections in this area," Guise said. The uniforms include one worn by a member of the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Japanese-American regiment in which the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye served.
The museum's online list of what it wants includes "military and non-military items made in Japan during the war and occupation," but asks for a photo before any decision is made. "We are no longer accepting katanas or samurai swords," it states.