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Look, I’m not usually one to tell you how to live your life. You do you. But I, in good conscience, must urge you to take advantage of something great while it lasts! Especially when a world-class exhibit, curated by one of the top ten museums in the world, arrives right here in Lake Charles’ Historic City Hall! The Pelican State Goes To War is currently on view, but not for long.

By now it should be obvious that I adore a great exhibition. From monstrous insects to colored cowboys to the world’s largest Mardi Gras museum to world-famous tycoon’s private art collections. I was even lucky enough to visit an exclusive exhibit featuring over 50 Van Gogh‘s masterpieces!

So when I found out that one of the most incredible museums EVER – New Orleans’ National World War II Museum – not only curated a special traveling exhibit but that it was currently featured at our local Arts & Cultural Center, I had to see it. And it keeps getting better. Featured on the second floor is National Geographic’s 50 Greatest Landscapes. And to top it all off, both exhibits are free!

The Pelican State Goes To War Lake Charles Louisiana

The Pelican State Goes To War

The Pelican State Goes To War spotlights the immense role Louisiana played in securing America’s victory in WWII. From the production of the game-changing Higgins boats to hosting the largest military training maneuvers in American history, Louisiana more than answered the call for the President’s “Arsenal of Democracy.”

The Pelican State Goes To War Lake Charles Louisiana
The Pelican State Goes To War on Exhibition now at Lake Charles Historic City Hall.

After signing the Lake Charles Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural guestbook, start your visit on the third floor. There, recorded voices of veterans reverberate throughout the room, recounting their first-hand knowledge of the war efforts. To the right, a collection of interviews allow you to explore daily life during wartime through those who lived it. Meet the women who filled crucial roles as nurses, riveters, and welders. Hear from those responsible for producing over 2,000 fighter planes a month, such as Rose Marie Elfer. Listen to how these incredible women helped assemble ships weighing over 10,000 tons in only 67 days.

The Pelican State Goes To War Lake Charles Louisiana
For the first time in history, African Americans, women, and disabled received equal work and pay.

Continue on and see how the war wasn’t only fought across oceans but also at Louisiana’s front door. Learn how German U-boats brought the battle to the Gulf of Mexico where 56 military and commercial ships were attacked and destroyed.

Further on, discover that nearly 280,000 Louisianans enlisted in military service of which six became Metal of Honor Recipients. Men like Leroy Johnson, who in order to save his patrol from Japanese attack, died after shielding two grenades with his own body. This act of self-sacrifice earned him not only the Metal of Honor but also the distinguished honor of having a New Orleans army based named after him.

The Pelican State Goes To War Lake Charles Louisiana
Louisiana was home to the largest “war games” in American history. Those who participated in the training, over 400,000 men, received Manuevers Badges.

Before heading down to the second floor, learn about the local POW camps. Due to the war draft and industrial jobs, farmers lost much of their laborers. In order to counteract such a shortage, roughly 20,000 Italian and German POWs filled this void. They subsequently bolstering Louisiana agriculture and allowed farmers to produce thousands of tons of rice, sugar, sweet potatoes, and cotton. Following the war, once these men returned home, they collected back wages from their time spent as laborers.

The Pelican State Goes To War Lake Charles Louisiana
A glimpse of the 280,000 Louisianans that served.

National Geographic’s 50 Greatest Landscapes

Next, head down to the second floor and spend some time walking through National Geographic’s 50 Greatest Landscapes. Begin in the Summer gallery and enjoy Shane Katyn’s haunting image of foggy islands in British Colombia, Micheal Milford’s brilliant sunflower fields of Denton, Montana, and moody black and white shots of California taken by Ansel Adams himself.

In the Autumn Gallery Orsolya Haarberg takes you into shrouded forests of Romania. Renown landscape photographer, George Steinmetz gives a birds-eye view of wind ravaged deserts of China, and Alessandra Meniconzi captures the Alpine peak of the Matterhorn at sunrise.

National Geographic's 50 Greatest Landscapes Lake Charles Historic City Hall Art & Cultural

Winter’s Gallery showcases Stephen Alvarez’s shot of the fiery lava flows of Hawai’i, Babak Tafreshi’s image of dancing aurora borealis over Tromsø, Norway, and verdant rows of rapeseed fields found in Yunnan Providence, China another landscape captured by Steinmetz.

Lastly, The Spring Gallery allows guests a glimpse of Spencer Black’s firefly trails illuminating the forest floor of North Carolina. Among other iconic Nat Geo images you’ll find Duncan George’s moss-enshrouded forest captured in England’s Dartmoor National Park. This exhibit ends September 28th.

Local War Stories

The Pelican State Goes To War Lake Charles Louisiana
Personal Memorabilia of Major J. W. Stine

Once back on the ground floor, browse a small gallery displaying a vast collection of war relics featuring locals of the Lake Charles area. Natives and new comers alike will certainly find familiar families, businesses, and neighborhoods among the honored. This exhibit leaves October 19th.

Lake Charles’ Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center is located at 1001 Ryan Street. For more information call (337) 491-9147 or email at [email protected].

Jessica Pickett

Gypsy mom, storyteller, and daydreamer extraordinaire, you can usually find me researching our next adventure. An explorer, lover of craft beers, and anything outside I'm at my happiest getting lost in a new city or hitting the trails with my family in tow.

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