Bombers and torpedo planes will be the stars of the latest expansion of the National World War II Museum, and visitors will be able to get close-up views of the war planes on elevated catwalks.
Construction of the new $35 million exhibit will be formally announced Friday. One of Boeing Co.'s most famous World War II aircraft, the B-17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber, will be a centerpiece of the new exhibit.
The B-17G is recognizable by the nose turret designed to defend against oncoming attacks by fighter aircraft.
"When you watch some of the old movies of bombing runs, its the plane you see," said Boeing historian Mike Lombardi said.
The B-17 that has gained enduring fame, in part because it was a primary weapon in U.S. strategic bombing against Germany and because it was featured in the 1949 movie and 1960s television series "12 O'Clock High."
The new museum wing will be called the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: Land, Sea and Air.
"This will be our largest building and a wonderful new chapter on the story of the war," said Gordon Mueller, the museum's president and CEO.
The pavilion will be financed by a $20 million grant through the Department of Defense and $15 million given by the Boeing Co. It will have 30,000 square feet of exhibit space — about half of the current space — and is scheduled to open early in 2012.
It will have a number of other war planes on display. Among them will be a North American B-25J Mitchell medium bomber, made famous by the 1942 raid on Japan commanded by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle. The exhibit will also showcase a General Motors TBM Avenger, which was the Navy's mainline torpedo plane for much of the war, as well as a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber. That plane led the U.S. to victory over a Japanese fleet at the Battle of Midway in 1942, considered by many historians as the turning point in the war in the Pacific.
While the aircraft will be the featured attractions, the pavilion also is intended to honor collaborative efforts of the U.S. armed forces.
Included will be an interactive submarine experience based on the last patrol of the USS Tang, which was sunk during an attack against Japanese shipping in 1944. Visitors will re-enact roles of crew members as the sub engages the enemy.
The new pavilion is part of an overall $300 million expansion for the museum, which was founded in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum and later was designated by Congress as America's National World War II Museum. It is privately operated as a nonprofit museum.