You can’t miss the towering three-story steamboat-esque structure presiding over the entrance to the National Museum of the Pacific War (340 E. Main St., 830/997-4379, www.nimitz-museum.org , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $7 adults, $6 seniors/military, $4 students), and you shouldn’t miss it. The building sits on an enormous six-acre site owned by the Texas Historical Commission and is the only institution in the continental U.S. dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the Pacific Theater battles of World War II.
But why is it in Fredericksburg ? The museum was originally known as the Admiral Nimitz Museum, named after Fredericksburg native Chester Nimitz, one of the most respected leaders of World War II’s Pacific campaign. As a boy in Fredericksburg, Nimitz lived in the family’s famous steamboat-shaped hotel, and he went on to have a highly decorated military career, highlighted by his position as fleet admiral during World War II.
The museum offers a fascinating collection of equipment, artifacts, and models related to the Pacific campaign, including a B-25 bomber, a submarine, battleship artillery, and a comprehensive collection of uniforms, weapons, and scale-model destroyers and aircraft carriers. Elaborate walk-through dioramas bring the island combat scenes to life, and, though the Nazi flags and uniforms cause an involuntary shudder, they put the war and the era in context. Even if you’re not a history buff, you’ll find the well-preserved and simply interpreted artifacts and memorabilia intriguing.
Outside the exhibit halls lie a memorial courtyard honoring war veterans, a Plaza of Presidents dedicated to the 10 commanders-in-chief who served in World War II, and the remarkable Japanese Garden of Peace, an inviting natural sanctuary containing the three basic elements represented in a traditional Japanese garden: stone, plants, and water. The garden was a gift to the American people from the military leaders of Japan, who held Admiral Nimitz in extremely high regard.