Driving through the Texas Hill Country this time of year is an explosion of color with wildflowers, particularly the well-known bluebonnets, blanketing the landscape. In fact most of the highways in Texas are a profusion of color as a result of wildflowers, a plant project that dates back to the days when Lady Bird Johnson encouraged the plantings.
Johnson City is located near the Johnson ranch, once the home of President Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. Farther west the German community of Fredericksburg has connections with another president. One of the major galleries at the Museum of the Pacific War is named for President George H. W. Bush. This museum takes you through the events of World War II in the Pacific from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, through the battles at such locations as Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. One exhibit deals with the story of President Bush and his bombing mission that ended with his plane going down and him ejecting from the aircraft to be later rescued, while his two companions were killed in action (whether during the attack on the plane or later in failing to be rescued is not known).
Interactive maps show the tactics and actions of the American allied troops and the Japanese at key battles, and there is an exhibit regarding the flights of the Enola Gay and Bocks Car, which carried the bombs that were dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading to the end of the war. A concluding exhibit area deals with prisoner of war camps in Japan.
It is impossible to visit this museum in a single day because it is extensive and there are many, many stories to listen to, see or read about. An audio tour can guide you through the experiences of the museum, or you can do a part of it one day, and then return for another visit the following day (tickets are good for two days).
The stories told here are those of the army and marines, and most particularly the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet, which was commanded by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, for whom the original military museum in Fredericksburg is named. The Nimitz Museum, adjacent to the Museum of the Pacific War, is located in a hotel that his family once operated.
The mission of the Museum of the Pacific War is to recognize the eight million Americans who were involved in the war against Japan and particularly the more than 100,000 who died in the various engagements. In addition to the Bush Gallery and the Nimitz Museum, the complex has a Memorial Courtyard, Plaza of Presidents, and Japanese Garden of Peace.
The Plaza of Presidents recognizes the ten U. S. Presidents who served during WWII including Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, both serving as Commander in Chief; General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, both who served in the army; and John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush, all who served in the navy.
Located a couple of blocks away is the Pacific Combat Zone, an area where you see a re-creation of a Pacific island battlefield, a Quonset hut hospital, a PT boat and base, a PT bomber, Japanese tank, and machine gun placements. The only way to visit the combat zone is with a guided tour, which begins on the hour and lasts most of an hour with plenty of time to see the authentic equipment and listen to the stories of knowledgeable tour guides. Monthly living historian reenactments take place in the zone.
Following my tour of the Bush Gallery and Pacific Combat Zone it was time to head downtown for lunch at Der Lindenbaum Restaurant, one of many German eateries in the city.
On departing Fredericksburg, I headed north to Llano, Texas. The landscape changed from rolling hills covered with grass and wildflowers, to hills dotted with cactus and mesquite. I rolled into Llano at 5 p.m. to meet my friends W. C. and Laurie Jameson and Mike and Annie Blakely. It was a Thursday night and I knew that W.C. and Mike played music every Thursday at the Badu House.
We had a great dinner and caught up on news before the guys headed to their outdoor stage as the crowd gathered, finding seats on cushioned couches or at tables where young wait staff brought them burgers and other culinary delights, or a beer to drink. Then it was time for the music: two solid hours of original songs by W. C., Mike and Richard Dobson, another Texas songwriter (who now lives in Switzerland).
My only regret about the day is that I did not have enough time in Fredericksburg to visit the many shops, or the other museums in the city. ❖