Simi Valley, CA

Discover the Secrets of World War Two at the Reagan Library and Museum

Don Simkovich
A barracks to give a flavor of the timeDon Simkovich

A dress to bolster spirit in Britain, pigeons delivering timely alerts, and an interracial post-war marriage are among the fascinating artifacts and stories shared at Secrets of World War Two, an exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley that runs through October 9, 2022.

“Various technological advances of the time led to some of the biggest secrets of the war like the enigma machine and the atomic bomb,” says Melissa Giller, Chief Marketing Officer.

She says once the idea for the exhibit was formed then the curatorial team began researching various fun stories about the secrets of the war.

The next step was finding artifacts to illustrate the many stories including the enigma machine.

Notable Artifacts

Items include a dress sewn in Britain with the message There will always be an England, shown immediately below. The writing is printed backward, in a coded message. The sweater that Scarlett Johansson wore in the 2019 film JoJo Rabbit, scroll down, is also on display.
A British dress with inspiring codeDon Simkovich

Over 100 items are featured in the 11,000-square-foot exhibit and it's the first time many have been displayed together.

Look for:

  • A signed copy of General Eisenhower's speech to the soldiers on the evening before D-Day
  • A New Testament with metal cover that saved a soldier’s life
  • Stories of how homing pigeons were used to send messages from allied paratroopers landing behind enemy lines

In Italy, allies overtook a town that was slated as a bombing target but a pigeon with a message attached to it flew and prevented what would have been devastating friendly fire.

The Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo code talkers are honored in the exhibit. It’s revealed how the code talkers' work was classified and, when they returned, they weren’t allowed to tell friends and relatives what they did until the late 1960s.

Riveting stories include the Ahn-Cuddy family.

Susan Ahn Cuddy was born in Los Angeles in 1915 to the first Korean couple to immigrate to the U.S. She enlisted in the Navy in 1942, became the first Asian American female gunnery officer and trained pilots on how to shoot down enemy aircraft.

She met and married Chief Petty Officer Frank Cuddy in 1947 but due to state laws forbidding interracial marriages they had to be wed in Washington. D.C. at the Navy Chapel.

Inspiration through Hardship

Videos of veterans sharing stories of specific battles add to the insights, like the Battle of the Bulge when soldiers slept in the snow and survived on only a few hours of sleep each night and ate almost nothing for days at a time.

“It is crucial to never forget the men and women who gave of their lives for our freedom,” says Giller.

“One of the WWII veterans we interviewed for the exhibit – he’s a Medal of Honor Recipient, but he said, ‘I am privileged to wear the Medal of Honor. I don’t wear it for what I did, I wear it in honor of those Marines who never got to come home. I don’t consider myself a hero, I consider those who never got home the true heroes of America.’ And that is the purpose of our exhibit - to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.”
Recreating fashion and a touch of pop culture with the dress from Jojo Rabbit, centerDon Simkovich

When the exhibit finishes, all items will be returned to their owners and the museum will host a 5,000-square-foot exhibition from Nov. 11, 2022 to Jan. 8, 2023 called “The American Christmas Story.” The exhibit will have 50 trees decorated for each of the 50 states plus cases filled with artifacts that President Reagan received from those states.

Admission to the exhibit includes the main permanent exhibits like Air Force One and a replica of the Oval Office.

A visit to the museum or gift card covering the cost of admission can make a memorable Father’s Day present.

Museum hours are Monday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm and is located at 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, 93065.

Log on to Reagan for current admission prices and a listing of special events.

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I interview entrepreneurs, and dig into the news around Southern California, giving a voice to business owners, artists and more. I also co-write the thriller novel series Tom Stone Detective Stories.

Pasadena, CA

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