Pacific Combat Zone
Major renovations are still underway for the Pacific Combat Zone, one of the Museum’s most popular venues. The Pacific Combat Zone is a unique two-acre indoor/outdoor exhibit currently featuring restored WWII military vehicles and weaponry displayed in replicated docks, entrenchments and beachheads. Among the key exhibits are a hangar deck of an aircraft carrier where a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber is being prepared for flight and a South Pacific PT boat base displaying a restored WWII combat-veteran PT boat. Another unique feature is an island battlefield theater, modeled on the Japanese defenses at Tarawa that is used by uniformed Living History reenactors to bring to life a WWII battle, complete with guns, tanks and a flamethrower.
The PCZ was last updated/renovated in 2001. The buildings housing the key exhibits are deteriorating and need significant repairs. The exhibits, themselves, also require updating to enhance the visitor’s experience and educational value. There are no indoor storage, viewing or maintenance areas for the WWII vehicle collection. The Living History area is incorrectly oriented and not properly sized to maximize the educational experience. There are also no permanent restroom facilities on site, with the closest restrooms being two blocks away.
General Michael Hagee, President and CEO of the Admiral Nimitz Foundation, explained that one of the goals of the renovation is to ensure visitors will feel they are “still at the National Museum of the Pacific War” by matching the quality and thematic design of the Pacific Combat Zone exhibits to those at the Bush Gallery. Both the Admiral Nimitz Foundation and Texas Historical Commission approved the overall concept of renovations in 2012, and the years 2012 and 2013 were spent developing the master plan. The plan has been approved by the Texas Historical Commission.
The master plan’s five phases are:
Phase 1: Now Open
Renovation of the patrol torpedo boat (PT-9) and the TBM Avenger, torpedo bomber exhibits; the addition of visitor restrooms; a new visitors’ entrance on Austin Street, and the creation of two major courtyards – the Asiatic-Pacific Expanse Courtyard and the Air-Sea-Land Courtyard --the latter two courtyards designed to educate visitors to the enormous spatial geographic challenge of operations across the vast Asiatic-Pacific Ocean area.
Addition of an important building to house and maintain the museum’s extensive World War II military vehicle collection.
Construction of a re-oriented and enhanced Living History Battlefield and Amphitheater with expanded covered theatrical seating.
Renovation of the current archival storage building to become the Living History Operations Center. The addition of an overnight barracks facility for Living History volunteers.
When completed, the newly renovated Pacific Combat Zone will accomplish many goals. Among these are:
a. A significantly enhanced educational and visit experience, to include visitor self-guided tours, high-impact quality exhibits that are entertaining, as well as educational, and better visitor support facilities;
b. A reoriented, expanded and renovated Living History Reenactment Area and Amphitheatre. Facilities to support our living history volunteers;
c. A reduction in both operating costs and capital expenses; and,
d. Attracting additional visitors to Fredericksburg and the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Under the joint leadership of the Texas Historical Commission and the Admiral Nimitz Foundation, we have contracted with Richter Associates for the overall architectural work and DG Studios for the overall exhibit design work. We retained Duecker Construction for Phase 1. All three firms worked on the George H.W. Bush Gallery 2009 Renovation.
Phase 1 is now open. In the last four years, the National Museum of the Pacific War’s on-site exhibits and educational programs have reached over 500,000 visitors, school groups, and educators. We believe the Pacific Combat Zone Restoration Project will have a significant and measurable impact on our next 500,000.