Fredericksburg museum is victory for history

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FREDERICKSBURG — When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Bob Jensen was 17 and assigned to the USS Maryland. The battleship, one of eight in the harbor that day, was struck by two bombs; four men lost their lives.

Jensen doesn't like to talk about that day or his experiences fighting in World War II. He doesn't watch war movies anymore. And during a visit Monday to the George H.W. Bush Gallery of the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, he passed through quickly, not lingering on the images within.

But Jensen, who lives in Sun City, Ariz., said he feels deeply that the museum's lessons are important for future generations: "I think that every kid in the United States should go through that museum."

The museum's expanded gallery reopened Monday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by former President Bush and his wife, Gov. Rick Perry and more than 5,000 people, including survivors of Pearl Harbor.

Following the $15.5 million, 38,000-square-foot expansion, the gallery's space for exhibits is twice what it used to be and includes photographs, videos and an HA-19 — one of five Japanese two-man submarines that took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Speakers at the ceremony called it the most comprehensive museum of its type in the world.

"In the walls of this wonderful museum, you quickly learn the facts, the true story, the living history of what happened during that memorable time so many years ago," said Bush, who served as a naval aviator and was shot down in the Pacific during the war. He praised those who died in the war and those who lived to rebuild after its devastation.

"We have an obligation to pass on to future generations the abject horror of war," Bush said. "Most of all, it is documented and remembered and used as a lesson and as an example of what happens when mankind falls short of his highest aspirations."

After the ceremony, which included music from the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, Bush cut the ribbon, opening the museum to the public.

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