Around the square

By Charlie Wright/For the Daily Ledger

Canton Daily Ledger, IL
May 25 2004

World War II lasted from Dec. 7, 1941, to Aug. 14, 1945, for the
Untied States. Japan officially surrendered on the battleship USS
Missouri to General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur in Tokyo Bay.

Thousands of Americans were killed and millions of dollars spent.
America put its best foot forward from the White House on Pennsylvania
Avenue in Washington to the little white houses across the country in
rural America to the magnificent mansions in the metropolitan regions
of the country.

Great civilian and military leaders emerged to lead the country
to victory over the enemies of our way of life. Oh, there were
adversaries, but we were Team America. Sunday and Monday, Memorial
Day 2004 will be observed to remember all who have died in defense
of our country.

World War II is recognized as the most significant event in the
20th Century. The National World War II Memorial, established by
the American Battle Monuments Commission, is the first national
monument honoring what NBC’s Tom Brokaw called “the greatest
generation.” The memorial is to be dedicated May 29 on the National
Mall in Washington. It has a threefold purpose.

*To honor the more than 16 million men and women who served in
uniform and the more than 400,000 Americans who died in the war, as
well as millions more who supported the efforts at home, from Rosie
the Riveter to the Hollywood talent performing at bond rallies;

*To commemorate the entire nation’s participation in the war; and

*To honor the high moral and idealism that motivated the nation’s call
to arms, and to serve as a lasting tribute to the spirit, sacrifice,
and commitment of the American people to the common defense of the
nation and to the broader causes of peace and freedom in the world.

The American Legion advanced the idea and has been a player in seeing
the idea become a reality. Construction of the memorial located on a
7.4 acre site between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument,
began in September 2001. Dedication Day represents a unique opportunity
to honor Americans who, at a critical time in world history, stood
united in defense of freedom and democracy. It also represents the
culmination of many years of planning, preparations, and fundraising.

It took a lot of money to build a suitable memorial. Fundraising was
led by the National Chairman Bob Dole, former Senator from Kansas and
World War II veteran who received two Bronze Stars and two Purple
Hearts, and National Co-Chairman Frederick W. Smith, president and
CEO of FedEx.

Dole told the American Legion Magazine the importance of honoring “the
greatest generation” and the phenomenal campaign that transformed an
idea into a timeless tribute. Dole says the total cost of the project
is around $172 million. He tells about meeting a 73 year-old man, an
Armenian American from Pennsylvania. He wasn’t a veteran but told Dole,
“This country’s been good to me. I came here with nothing. I want to
give something back.” They were all shocked when they received the
man’s check for $1 million, the single largest contribution received
from an individual.

Return now for a moment to Sept. 2, 1945, on a ship in Tokyo
Bay. It was a Sunday. It dawned gray and sullen. Fujiyama’s white
crest reflected no ray of the rising sun. No sun over Tokyo on the
momentous day and the Japanese saw in this celestial manifestation
their “divine ancestors” were weeping. This was the day of formal
surrender to the Supreme Allied Commander General Douglas MacArthur on
the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. This was to be the first surrender in
Japan’s long history. Before the day was over — at the very moment
the 20 minute ceremony ended — General MacArthur pronounced simply,
“The proceedings are closed.” Suddenly, the sun broke through and
beamed its radiance upon a world at peace.

For that brief shining moment there was peace in the world and
today, as in 1919, when Eugene Lockhart and Ernest Seitz wrote it,
“The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise.”