main story image for facebook sharing

History and Heritage

In Harm's Way

Displaying the Navy's role in WWII

The U.S. Navy Museum boasts the largest and most comprehensive exhibit detailing the Navy's role in World War II. Divided into the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters, and the Home Front, it follows in chronological order from Pearl Harbor to the victories in Europe and Japan.


The Atlantic Theater is presented in the west side of the museum and traces the technology and tactics employed fighting German and Italian forces. Told chronologically, this exhibit details major battles in the Atlantic, while numerous maps chart the course followed by Allied forces in Europe and North Africa.

Innovative technology is also on display, such as the XAF Radar Receiver, the first of its kind to detect enemy craft. Video presentations from "Victory at Sea" augment the exhibit, including a detailed view of the Normandy invasion. Examples of ammunition and firearms used by both Allies and Germans are out for visitors to touch and examine.

Located within the Atlantic Theater portion, the Home Front focuses on the massive effort to increase public and corporate contributions to the war effort between the period 1941-45.

Examples of how the advertising media and the entertainment industry participated in the effort by extolling the virtues of buying war bonds, giving blood, and rationing food are available in this section. Visitors may sit in a simulated movie theater and watch propaganda films, newsreels, and fictional sagas that focus on World War II. Also on display are posters that encouraged women to leave the home and work in defense industry factories, and to fill in the employment gaps left by conscripted males. Service by Navy WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, is also detailed in this exhibit.

A radio broadcasting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's address to the nation declaring war on Japan begins the Pacific Theater portion of "In Harm's Way" on the east side of the museum. This exhibit displays the technology and tactics used across the Pacific while Americans battled Japanese forces.

Submarine warfare is covered in detail, while a video presentation takes visitors inside a World War II submarine to explore its living conditions. Photographic displays depict battles for islands in the Pacific and the war in the Aleutians. A twin 5-inch 38-caliber gun turret sits on the museum floor for visitors to climb on and look inside. Video presentations portray elements of the war in the Pacific. Also displayed is an atomic bomb casing identical to that dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the War. Hanging above the exhibit are examples of aircraft used by both American and Japanese forces.