This week marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a pivotal event in World War II history that has important ties to New Orleans.
In May 1969, the family which had made a name for itself at Brennan’s on Royal Street announced its purchase of Commander’s Palace. Emile Commander founded the Garden District restaurant in 1893.
The Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 was the largest seaborne invasion in history and led to the liberation of German-occupied France. The LCVPs (which stood for landing craft, vehicle personnel) that transported soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy during the invasion were known as Higgins boats, designed by Andrew Jackson Higgins, whose New Orleans-based company Higgins Industries created and produced the amphibious landing craft. Higgins landed the Navy contract after modifying his shallow-water work boats, which were used to support oil and gas exploration in Louisiana bayous. During WWII, Higgins’ eight local plants employed more than 25,000 workers and produced an estimated 280,000 vessels of all types and sizes.
Manning, who wore No. 8, became a beloved quarterback for the Saints at a time when the losing team was not easy to love.
University of New Orleans historian Stephen Ambrose, who was President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s official biographer, said Eisenhower once told him that Higgins was “the man who won the war for us.” That helped inspire Ambrose to push for the creation of the D-Day Museum, which opened June 6, 2000 and later was designated by Congress as The National World War II Museum. A reproduction of a Higgins landing craft is among its many artifacts and displays, which are viewed by hundreds of thousands of museum visitors each year.