The Friends of the National World War II Memorial, Inc. was founded to help make the Memorial all that it was intended to be—an open, welcoming gathering place on the center of the National Mall, to commemorate and celebrate the defining event of the 20th Century, and to honor all those Americans who served on the home front and the battle front and all those who gave their lives in history's greatest and costliest war.
Its mission, through events and activities in cooperation with the National Park Service, will be to keep alive the spirit of America during World War II, the coming together of the nation in a just and common cause, a critical moment in American history that changed forever the face of American life and the direction of world history.
Friends of the National World War II Memorial Sponsors Commemoration of 66th Anniversary of V-J Day
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 2, 2011)—Sixty-five years ago, World War II ended on what became known as V-J Day, or Victory over Japan Day. The term is applied to both the initial announcement of Japan's surrender, Aug. 14, 1945, and the formal ceremony performed in Tokyo Bay, Japan, aboard the battleship USS Missouri, Sept. 2, 1945.
Of the more than 1,200 survivors of the Army's 88th Infantry Division, about 40 attended to help commemorate the end of the war at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., Friday, Sept. 2. During the event, veterans of both theaters and those who served on the home front were honored.
Known as the "Blue Devils," a name given them by the German Soldiers who were impressed by their fighting ability, they were the first all-draftee division to enter combat in WWII.
"This is our 64th reunion," said Tom Hanlon, 88, who came from his home near Pittsburgh, with his wife of 62 years, Eileen.
"I went over to Italy on July 15, 1944, where I worked as an electrician—that's what I did in the civilian life. I was also in graduate school at Carnegie Tech, for electrical engineering," Hanlon said, adding he was trained as an infantryman but also received special training in intelligence and reconnaissance.
"I saw my share of Germans who were easy to spot in the winter because they wore long coats. When I went on line, our division had 1,400 new replacements. We were green—my grandmother used to say it's a wonder the cows didn't eat us," Hanlon said, smiling.
In his keynote speech, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli, said that the 88th Division's efforts during the war were often referred to as the "quiet war."
"[Their efforts were] overshadowed, in many ways, by more publicized events in other parts of Europe and the Pacific front," Chiarelli said. "But every account of the their actions, in Italy, reads like a war novel [with] episodes of intense fighting, heroism, gallantry and crucial victories won."
In his remarks, Retired Lt. Gen. Claude "Mick" Kicklighter, chairman of the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, said "They fought the most destructive war in history. An estimated 60 million people lost their lives ... mostly women, children and the elderly ... millions were murdered in concentration camps and death camps and prisoner of war camps. Over 400,000 Americans never came home. We must ensure that we never forget the lessons learned and the united spirit that was so much required on the battlefield and on the home front that preserved our freedom and preserved our way of life."
Retired Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Reuben J. McNair, now 85, served Jan. 17, 1944 to 1946.
"It's an honor to be here," said McNair, who also served in Korea with the 1st Marines. "But people coming here today should remember that freedom doesn't always come easy," he said.
Terry Shima, currently executive director of the Japanese American Veterans Association, agreed.
"One of the lessons learned from WWII is that freedom is not cheap. We've got to fight for it, and we've got to defend it," Shima said.
Joining the Army in October 1944, Shima served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. "When we got out in August 1946, President Truman reviewed us after we paraded down Constitution Ave.," he said, noting how today is different from the time when he served in that segregated unit. "I was living on one of the outer islands of Hawaii when I was ,16 when Pearl Harbor was attacked," Shima said. "We didn't feel the bombing, but we felt the discrimination, the hatred. [We] had our friends turn their backs to us."
Robert Kline, now 85, was a medic with the 88th Infantry Division and trained at Camp Blanding, Florida. He came to the ceremony a day early with his wife, Ann.
"I was absolutely impressed with this ceremony," Kline said. "A couple of tears dropped when I heard the speeches delivered by the generals."
Kline quit high school and enlisted in the Army when he was 17 and got out Dec. 1, 1946.
"All the time up in those mountains north of Florence was just borrowed time," Kline said. "The terrain was so rough the Germans figured that no troops in the world could get through the few heavily-defended mountain passes. But the Blue Devils made it, through the passes or over the mountain tops." The veteran said it's important for all to remember what was learned during that war.
Veterans Day Ceremony at the World War II
Memorial Paid Special Tribute to African American Veterans of WWII
The Friends of the National World War II Memorial and the National Park Service commemorated Veterans Day at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The ceremony, which was open to the public, honored our nation's World War II veterans with a wreath laying ceremony and remarks highlighting the WWII generation's service and sacrifice.
Lieutenant General Julius W. Becton, Jr., USA (Ret) gave the keynote address to an overflow crowd at the Memorial. Mistress of ceremonies for the event was Ms. Cynné Simpson, Emmy and Edward R Murrow Award winning anchor for ABC 7/WJLA-TV. Special recognition was given to World War II veterans from African American units: the Tuskegee Airmen, 555th Parachute Infantry, 92nd Infantry Division, Montford Point Marines, the Prometheans, and the 3434 Quartermaster Corps Company (Red Ball Express) and also to the more than 100 WWII veterans of the Central Illinois Honor Flight. WWII veterans from each group participated in the presentation of the memorial wreaths at the Freedom Wall of Stars.Go to Page 2