The National D-Day Museum changes name

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When fund-raisers for the National D-Day Museum try to squeeze donations out of World War II veterans, they sometimes get a polite brushoff from those who weren't part of the celebrated invasion of France: "When you get to my war, let me know."

Though the 6-year-old museum in the Warehouse District offers glimpses into a sweeping war experience, that fact wasn't readily understood. But that should no longer be a problem, officials said Friday as they officially changed the institution's name to the National World War II Museum.

"You don't have to explain it, there's no hurdle," said museum President and Chief Executive Officer Nick Mueller.

While New Orleans' role as the home of the landing craft used on D-Day provided logic for developing the museum in the city, the need for a broader appeal has been discussed for years, said Bill Detweiler, the museum's special events manager and a former board member. "This is a Navy town and a Marine town," he said. "You're going to talk about (just) an Army invasion? You've got to do better than that."

The museum used a booming anti-tank gun and the unveiling of new lettering on a wall overlooking Camp Street to dramatize the name change.

Former California Gov. Pete Wilson, incoming chairman of the museum's board, said in a prepared statement that "just as D-Day was only the beginning of the Allies' road to victory in World War II, D-Day is only the beginning of this great museum's exploration of the entire American experience of the war years."

Already endorsed by Congress, the change will help raise money as the museum plans a $282 million expansion, allowing it to explore all facets of the war, Mueller said.

Average attendance, which reached 700 a day before Katrina and fell to less than 100 after a Dec. 3 reopening, has rebounded to nearly 400 daily, officials said.

Officials have scheduled an early 2007 groundbreaking for a theater that will feature a film about the war produced and narrated by actor Tom Hanks. The museum, which was founded in 2000 under the direction of historian Stephen Ambrose, will quadruple in size and occupy several blocks when its expansion is complete in several years.

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