The past 2 weeks have been filled with nostalgia as memories of the World War II era have flooded the media. First, there was the dedication of the WWII memorial in Washington D.C., then the activities of Memorial Day, which also focused much attention on WWII, and finally the celebration of the 60th anniversary of D-Day.
The WWII memorial has been both praised and roundly criticized. Critics allege the design is flawed, the symbolism is wrong and that it should not have been placed on the Mall.
As a WWII vet, I find such fault finding as nothing more than sour grapes and I, for one, think it is terrific and feel a great sense of pride in it. Perhaps the most valid criticism is that it took too long60 years after the event. Many have held that WWII was the defining event of the 20th century, and to wait until 12 million vets had died before recognizing their achievement is hard to fathom. It certainly raises the questionwhy?
Perhaps the primary reason it took so long to create the memorial is that the veterans themselves did little or nothing to promote the idea. When WWII ended, such a project was not even a consideration for the typical vet. Uppermost in all our minds was the question of whether or not there would be a job for us in civilian life. The 25% unemployment rate and distress of the Depression of the 1930s were still lingering in our memory.
Reuniting with our families after being away 3 or 4 years or more was also a top priority. There was, in all of us, such an overwhelming desire to “catch up” or somehow make up for the hiatus that had disrupted our lives for so long. In short, the WWII vets returned, rolled up their sleeves and went to work to find security and build a better world.
In many respects, the accomplishments after WWII, as Tom Brokaw pointed out in his book “The Greatest Generation,” were as remarkable as winning the war. The Marshall Plan helped to rebuild Europe while we were creating the world’s strongest economy here at home. The GI Bill enabled millions to obtain the education and technical skills needed to raise the IQ of the nation, with vets being propelled into positions of leadership in all sectors of our society.