Robert Edsel's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Tom Brokaw’

Band of Brothers and the National World War II Museum: A Perfect Combination

March 1st, 2010 | 10:55 am


I was recently honored to become a Trustee of our nation’s National World War ll Museum in New Orleans.  For those of you who may not know, this museum is the joint vision of the great historian and the most popular storyteller of World War ll, the late Dr. Stephen Ambrose, and his best friend of 30 years, fellow historian and current CEO of the Museum, Dr. Nick Mueller. It has a dedicated board of trustees, a passionate group of employees, and prominent volunteer supporters, including Tom Hanks and Tom Brokaw, who together have created one of the most exciting and interesting visitor experiences in the world.

The museum is unparalleled in its telling of the war.  It has just opened a unique 4-D theater, home to “Beyond All Boundaries”, a one of a kind film produced by Tom Hanks which may only be seen in this theater.  The film presents an extraordinary summary of the war and the events which led to it.  Appealing to adults and kids alike, this museum is one of our country’s great cultural experiences in the exciting and fully recovered city of New Orleans.

This week the museum is having a “Band of Brothers” marathon leading up to the newest HBO special, “The Pacific”.  Anyone seeking a great experience should hop on a Southwest Airlines jet and get a front row seat for this great event!

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November 11th, 2009 | 10:12 am


Entry of the Color Guard at the National World War II Museum

More than 1,150,000 Americans have died in the wars our nation has waged to gain – and maintain – its freedom and independence. Through World War II the greatness of our nation was founded in the concept of shared sacrifice, the belief that those in uniform — and the families they left behind — shouldn’t shoulder the burden of defending our way of life alone.

Former President Teddy Roosevelt wisely observed that “…in the long run, success or failure [of the Republic] will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average woman, does his or her duty, first in the ordinary everyday affairs of life, and next in those great occasional cries which call for heroic virtues.  The average citizen must be a good citizen if our Republics are to succeed.”

Our veterans, and those men and women in uniform, continue to do their part, even when harm’s way appears on our own military bases at home.  But at a time in our Republic’s history when Veterans Day has sadly become notable more for its holiday shopping promotions and as a day off from school or work, one wonders what has become of the Good Citizen of whom Roosevelt spoke?


Tom Brokaw giving a speech at the National World War II Museum

Last Friday, while in New Orleans for the dedication ceremony of the National World War II Museum’s new expansion space, including its one of a kind 4-D theater and film, Beyond all Boundaries, I witnessed the work of many Good Citizens, but two in particular worth highlighting:  Tom Hanks and Tom Brokaw.  Their official roles were as hosts of the various events, none more moving than the Parade of Veterans, 350 men and women who served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corp, Army Air Force and Coast Guard during World War II.  Tom Brokaw told the audience that writing The Greatest Generation was “the single most important professional experience of my life.”  Tom Hanks spoke lovingly of his father, a Navy veteran, and the importance of each person doing their part as a prerequisite to achieving the long sought victory, even if their role was that of a machinist.

But behind the scenes, when the cameras weren’t rolling, the “Toms” were everywhere:  arriving early and staying late, serving food to the veterans, attending cocktail parties and dinners for supporters of the museum, and meeting with museum officials to discuss additional ways they could help to preserve the legacy of the men and women who saved our world from the greatest threat it has ever known.  As Dr. Nick Mueller, President of the museum, often stated, every time he and his friend of 30 years, the late Dr. Stephen Ambrose, called the “Toms” for help, they both enthusiastically appeared.


Tom Hanks talking with veterans

Personally I was struck less by what Tom Hanks and Tom Brokaw did than I was the spirit in which they did it:  gracious, humble, honored to be of help.  They were the Good Citizens, in this case extraordinary men applying their resources — none more powerful than their time —in a way that served as an inspiring example for others.  These are the same traits I’ve witnessed in my interviews with the citizen-soldiers known as the Monuments Men, a small group of men and women who saved and preserved the greatest cultural treasures from the destruction of World War II and theft by Hitler and the Nazis: graciousness, humility, inspiration.

So on this Veterans Day, I think NOT of the commercialism of the holiday or the de-coupling of the bond of shared sacrifice that built our great nation, rather I take hope in the example set by Tom Hanks, Tom Brokaw, and many other Good Citizens in New Orleans this past weekend. I give thanks to our veterans, and all those in military service, including their loved ones, who keep us safe.



November 6th, 2009 | 11:02 am


I’m in New Orleans today on behalf of the Monuments Men and the Monuments Men Foundation at the dedication ceremony of the new expansion space of the National World War ll Museum.  Hosts Tom Brokaw and Tom Hanks are among thousands of others here honoring the sacrifice of so many millions of Americans who experienced—and won—the greatest war in history.  As many of the speakers have commented, we can never thank them enough.  As the son of a World War ll veteran of the Pacific, an 18 year old marine at the time, I know firsthand the truth of this sentiment.


Last evening I attended a black tie dinner at which Tom Brokaw made moving remarks about how important this Museum has become in his life.  He said that writing his book, The Greatest Generation, was the most meaningful and important achievement of his professional career. Don’t I know…I feel the same about my role in working with the Monuments Men. It is an honor, a privilege.


Today we witnessed many beautiful scenes such as the entry of the color guard, and even more moving, the entry parade of the World War ll veterans, grouped by service–first the Army, then Marines, Navy, Army Air Corp, and Coast Guard.  16 members of the Tuskegee Air Corps are present.  Medal recipients abound.  It is so humbling to be in the presence of all these great heroes.

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