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G-Star School of the Arts’ World War II project to draw visitors, share history

From northern Africa to the beaches of Normandy, the C-47 Skytrain aircraft that sits on the G-Star School of the Arts campus criss-crossed numerous battlefields during World War II.

Donated to the school seven years ago by the owners of the now-closed 391st Bomb Group restaurant in West Palm Beach, the military transport and supply plane flew injured soldiers from behind enemy lines to its base in Casablanca, Morocco, transported cargo and paratroopers to combat zones and pulled gliders for secret missions.

“This plane just has an incredible history,” said Dawn Hauptner, a G-Star representative. “It really did probably more than most planes.”

Within the next five years it will become the centerpiece of an ambitious, $8 million on-campus project designed to teach students and visitors about World War II.

“Into the Past: The World War II Experience,” an interactive exhibit and tour that will be open to the public, is expected to include two museums, 14 new classrooms, a World War II canteen, a student research center and three interactive learning centers featuring authentic World War II battlegrounds and post-war events.

The project was conceived by Hauptner, whose husband, Greg, is the school’s founder and CEO, as a permanent tribute to veterans and soldiers who lost their lives in the war and victims of the Holocaust.

Both museums will serve as memorials to these veterans and soldiers, while the interactive learning centers will feature the re-creation of seven battles and events, including the D-Day invasion at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, Iwo Jima, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, the defeat of Berlin and the Nuremburg Trials.

“It will be very interactive,” Hauptner said of the exhibit. “You’ll actually be in one room and walk through with planes going over you, bombs going off and people running and screaming. You’ll be walking through the physical part of it while you’re experiencing the rest of it.”

The C-47 plane is expected to be part of the D-Day experience, Hauptner said. Students in the school’s theater department painted the plane this week, and it is expected to be fully restored.

“We want to give it a facelift,” Hauptner said.

The school plans to raise money to support the project and has hired a fundraiser. Proceeds generated from the project will benefit the school and local veterans’ organizations.

“It’s going to do a lot for the school,” Hauptner said. “Not only is it going to increase the size of the school and give us new classrooms, but this will be something that the kids are going to be able to present to the community.”

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