I was without power for most of last week due to some freakish thunderstorm that rolled through on the previous Friday night. By Thursday I was going a bit stir/heat-crazy (it was near or above 100 all week) and since I had taken vacation days after the Fourth, I decided to play tourist in DC, which growing up around here we sometimes forget we are allowed to do. I headed down to the Smithsonian museums on the Mall, but rather than aimlessly wondering around I went with the idea of finding what they had related to the Pacific war and specifically submarines.
The American History museum seemed like a good first start, since I was looking for a retelling of history. Once you get inside though, you realize what an ambitious goal it is to have one building to display the history of America. Big building from the outside, but once inside you realize just how little space can hold exhibits, and how incredibly selective they have to be in deciding what to display. However, there was a full gallery devoted to military history, from the revolution through relatively modern times, and I did eventually find the couple hundred square feet devoted to WWII. There was a grand total of one 9x12 display board with a photo that claimed to be through a periscope of a ship sinking. The text noted the submarine's efforts in the war and said they had sunk nearly 50% of the Japanese merchant ships by the war's end (?). That was it, no pictures of what a sub looks like, no artifacts in a glass box of any piece of a sub.
Still searching for military stuff, I headed across to the Air and Space, always more reliable for the good stuff. They have a nice, although cramped, gallery devoted to WWII aircraft. They have an excellent representation of each major power's best known fighter. Here is the Zero on display:
And the nose-end view, I just managed to cut off the tip of the 7.7mm machine gun:
Across the way is a great gallery space devoted to carrier air operations, with a lot of really good display and informational material on the Pacific carrier battles. This is by far the place you would want to go to see the exhibition of the Pacific war history
SBD and Wildcat on display:
SBD from below:
The pictures came out not as bad as I feared, this is just with my little smartphone's camera and no flash. The gallery's tend to be dark with spotty accent lights.
Yes, the A4 even had some dummy ordinance mounted below. What appeared to be a couple clusters of smallish bombs.
I have to say, that carrier gallery has always been my favorite, but I had not been there in about 10 or more years, and certainly not since I had as much interest in the Pacific war as I do now. It was like a completely new experience.
On the other hand, 99% of the people going through those museums seem to be on foot-shuffling auto pilot. If you stop and actually view anything for more than 5 seconds, you are definitely in the minority. I honestly wonder if most people could describe anything they walked past during their visit.