Abby Roberts only knew the basics of World War II before traveling to New Orleans in January.
“We never got to World War II in history class,” the 14-year-old West High freshman said Monday.
After touring the National World War II Museum, she knows a lot more.
The Montana winner of the museum’s Salute to Freedom Award, she participated in events that opened the newest part of the museum, The U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.
Abby carried a Montana flag during opening ceremonies and accompanied a veteran, Michael Doi of Georgia, in a procession.
Doi was a Japanese-American who served in the U.S. Army's 442nd Infantry Regiment. Doi’s unit suffered heavy casualties fighting along the Italian-French border.
After being selected to be part of Kenneth Behling National History Day in Maryland last year, Abby was eligible to apply for the recent award. The application process included an essay about her state’s contribution to the war.
Abby’s essay and supporting photos were on display along with other award winners at The Boeing Center.
Abby wrote about how Montana miners dug copper and zinc for the war effort.
She illustrated her essay with Montana Historical Society photos of Butte miners descending into the earth in cage elevators, miners setting up underground equipment and patriotic cartoons included in miners’ paychecks showing that their work at home was as important as that of the men fighting overseas.
Abby also wrote about Camp Rimini near Helena, where dogs were trained for war missions.
Founded by historian Stephen Ambrose, the New Orleans museum opened in 2000 as the National D-Day museum and was later designated by Congress as the National WWII Museum. It is a private, nonprofit museum.
The Boeing Center features larger artifacts of the war and the production of airplanes, artillery and tanks.
One of Abby’s favorite parts of the museum was a movie, “Beyond All Boundaries,” narrated by actor Tom Hanks with special effects of sounds of bombs, the smell of smoke and flashes of light while showing actual film footage of battles.
Abby has long liked history.
She’s fascinated by how established historical facts can be interpreted in many ways.
Although she studied history in lower grades, she was disappointed that she won’t be able to take a high school history class until next year.
Her trip to New Orleans helped to compensate for a hole in her history studies. Her family — mom Lynde, dad Brent and 11-year-old brother Benjamin – also toured War of 1812 and Vicksburg Civil War battlefields and Andrew Jackson’s home.
Although Abby hasn’t made up her mind what she’d like to do after college, she’s seriously considering becoming a history teacher.