Museum space honoring 41st president an important part of history, town’s growth
It was a cold day in 2009, the 68th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, on the dedication of the newest expansion of the George H.W. Bush Gallery at the National Museum of the Pacific War. Even so, the gallery’s namesake was supposed to parachute into the museum courtyard with a precision jumper.
The jump didn’t happen due to weather. But the Bush Gallery, which was originally dedicated in 1999 at about half its current size, that day celebrated an additional 24,000 square feet of exhibit space to house thousands more World War II Pacific Theater artifacts and information.
The big weekend preceding the dedication featured educational panels, music and more, and was followed by years of big visitation by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year from around the globe.
The museum honoring our hometown hero Adm. Chester Arthur Nimitz, and its expansions honoring the nation’s 41st president, is intertwined with Fredericksburg’s growing reputation as a visitor destination over the past decades. The museum draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to Fredericksburg. And its efforts are supported by generous donors both locally and others with connections to the fascinating history which it honors.
It is fascinating to see the museum host veterans and individuals who are descendants of those who served during World War II. The world-class museum even brings descendants of our then-adversaries to see its thorough and balanced view the Pacific battles of the last century’s greatest conflict.
The museum has brought to this small town a first-class experience. It chronicles Nimitz’s and Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s “island-hopping” strategy in the Pacific which led to a hard-fought victory. It is comprehensive, technologically advanced and features surprises around every corner. It brings personal war stories to life as well as outlining battle plans. And it easily holds visitors’ attention spans for multiple days’ worth of visits.
All of that is due to the leadership at the Admiral Nimitz Foundation — Adm. C.D. Grojean and the board — and the museum staff and the foresight of this town’s leaders past and present. Now, under the leadership of Gen. Michael Hagee, another hometown hero, the museum has continued to flourish and grow.
And the gallery could have picked no finer namesake for its large gallery than the 41st president, who served and survived as the youngest aviator in the Naval fleet. It further cements the president’s Texas connection and will be a part of his sizable legacy that includes foreign policy expertise, societal advances and, of course, his role as the only other fatherson presidential team along with John Adams and John Quincy Adams.