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Friday, June 4, 2004


Monument honors ‘Greatest Generation’

Ketchum veterans attend World War II Memorial dedication

Express Staff Writer

As young soldiers, World War II veterans John Caine and John "Denny" Pace had very different wartime experiences.

John "Denny" Pace Express photo by David N. Seelig

But indelible memories of those events led the two Ketchum residents to the nation’s capital last weekend. Joined by their wives, Caine and Pace attended the dedication of the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

At the tail end of the war, Caine was with the 20th Armored Division retaking ground in the Third Reich after landing in Normandy at Le Havre, France. He was in Salzburg, Austria, on VE Day, May 7, 1945.

Beginning in 1943, Pace flew 50 missions over North Africa and Italy, fighting the air war in a P38 Lightning fighter plane.

Although the men have attended many reunions with their fellow combat veterans around the country, they expressed gratitude that a national memorial was finally completed.

"The ranks are thinning," Caine said. "Of the 15 to 16 million veterans (who fought in World War II), about 4 million are left. And of those that are left, they are going at 1,000 to 1,500 per day."

John Caine Express photo by David N. Seelig

Caine said it was thanks to personalities like actor Tom Hanks and Sen. Bob Dole that former President Bill Clinton, signed the act in 1993 to have the memorial built, and that President George Bush supported completion of the memorial.

President Bush, who spoke Saturday at the memorial dedication, will also attend memorial events in France this weekend to commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day, when the Allies invaded Europe at Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Pace, who spent his career in the military, also served in Korea and Vietnam. He said one reason he wanted to go to the World War II Memorial dedication was to pay a tribute to his brother Reid Pace. A paratrooper in the D-Day invasion, he younger brother was killed in action on June 11 when he was 20 years old. He saw five days of combat.

During the 1950s Pace was responsible for organizing transportation for the troops charged with maintaining cemeteries for fallen soldiers in Belgium, France and Italy. Once, he took his father to his brother’s gravesite in France. He also has visited many other war memorials.

Pace said the new memorial does not have the personal feel that the Vietnam Memorial does, with its detailed list of those killed in action engraved on its long wall.

"I was very impressed by the memorial, but I wasn’t moved by it," Pace said. Nevertheless, he’s grateful that the Ketchum American Legion helped to sponsor his trip. He and his wife Aubrey said the whole experience visiting Washington, D.C., made the trip worthwhile.

Pace said he had hoped to find veterans who knew his brother at the dedication. Although that part of the trip was unsuccessful, he and Aubrey had a chance to visit the National Archives, the Vietnam Memorial, the Ford Theater, the National Air Museum at Dulles International Airport and the National Art Museum.

"Prior to visiting this memorial I visited the memorial for those who died in Pearl Harbor at the Punch Bowl Cemetery," he said. That experience was moving for Pace because he found the name of his friend Harvey Mink, who had been a fellow waiter at the Duchin Lounge in Sun Valley Lodge.

Pace said one of the impressive elements of the memorial is the Freedom Wall, a curved, 9-foot-high structure studded with 4,000 gold stars, each commemorating 100 of the more than 400,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and other troops who gave their lives in World War II. During the war, the gold star symbolized family sacrifice. Families placed the stars in their windows to signify the loss of loved ones.

"At the dedication they set up seats for various divisions. We were fairly close to the speakers," said Caine’s wife Marilyn. "There were folding chairs as far as the eye could see from the new memorial to the Washington Monument."

The Caines said the dedication was a well-orchestrated event and that security checks went quickly.

"You had the feeling a lot of eyes were watching you," Caine said.

But, he added that even with helicopters flying overhead, he did not feel that the high security hindered the experience.

"It was a very energizing experience," Caine said. "People gave so much of themselves for something we all believe in. I am glad it was done while we’re still around."

The memorial is a 7.4-acre plaza with a number of symbolic elements that pay homage to the troops who fought and died. Those who labored on the home front and the contributions of America's allies in the war are also recognized by the $172 million memorial.

At the north and south ends of the plaza, two, 43-foot arches represent the two major theaters of the war, the European and the Pacific. Perched on bronze columns on each arch are four 2,600-pound American eagles lifting a wreath, which commemorate the U.S. and Allied victory on the two fronts.

Extending in semi-circles from either arch, 56 pillars are inscribed to honor the U.S. states and territories at the time of the war. Each 17-foot-high, granite pillar supports two sculpted bronze wreaths representing the country’s industrial and agricultural strength.

The pillars are open at the center to signify the loss of lives. Representing the unity of the American people during the war, the pillars are connected by twisted bronze ropes.

In a course along the entrance to the memorial, 24 panels (some not yet completed) depict the country's agricultural, industrial, military and human mobilization.

The name of each state is engraved in the 56 pillars erected at the National World War II Memorial dedicated over Memorial Day weekend in Washington, D.C. The pillars extend in semi-circles from two 43-foot arches that represent the two major theaters of the war in Europe and the Pacific. Photo by Andrew Furber

Some panels represent the Atlantic front. Others depict paratroopers, the Normandy invasion on D-Day, medics in the field, the air war, tanks in combat, the Battle of the Bulge, Russians meeting Americans at the Elbe River, women in the military, "Rosie the Riveter" and aircraft construction, enlistment, the Lend-Lease program and the Battle of the Atlantic.

Panels for the Pacific front include figures engaged in shipbuilding, agriculture, submarine warfare, jungle warfare, the Navy in action, embarkation, field burial, war bond drives, Pearl Harbor, amphibious landings, the liberation of Europe and VJ Day.

Water features represent the continuity of life and the connection of the present to the past. They also symbolize that the war was fought largely overseas. There are waterfalls on each side of the Freedom Wall, and there are semicircular fountains next to the base of the arches. The historic Rainbow Pool forms the center of the plaza.


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