This year is the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. That’s an important moment in history this week as Americans salute and thank the men and women of the U.S. military for their service and sacrifice.
Only a few of the veterans who fought in WWII still are with us. Fortunately for all WWII veterans, the nation has rightfully acknowledged their role in freeing the world from the grip of the Axis powers: Germany, Japan and Italy. WWII involved every continent and every ocean, and it brought tremendous suffering and sorrow to its victims around the globe.
The scale of the conflict is well represented in the WWII memorial that was completed on the mall in Washington, D.C. in 2004. The memorial honors the 16 million men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces and the more than 400,000 who died. The spirit, sacrifice and commitment of the Americans who supported the war effort at home also is recognized in the memorial. It’s a reminder of the total commitment required to win the war.
Nebraskans can be proud of their state’s role in WWII for sending thousands of our sons and daughters to fight, and also for the contributions made on the home front. Many of our cities and towns were transformed to support the war effort. Kearney joined Omaha, North Platte, McCook and Scottsbluff as the site of air bases. Bombers mnufactured in Bellevue included the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb against Japan.
Facilities in Hastings manufactured one-third of the ammunition used by the U.S. Navy. The ammo depots that sprang up in Grand Island and Sidney also contributed to victory, as did the German POW camp at Atlanta, and the Higgins landing craft that were designed by a Columbus manufacturer.
There may be no better example of commitment and sacrifice at home than the North Platte Canteen. It was one of 120 community-based food stands that greeted soldiers rolling into the Union Pacific terminal for a short break on their way to fight the war. There’s no telling how many of the 6 million soldiers who visited the canteen lost their lives, but the volunteers’ smiles, along with a slice of pie and sandwich at the canteen, left an impression.
“I would say that a majority of the men on the battlefields knew exactly what North Platte was. They would talk about it like it was a dream,” said a soldier from Wisconsin about his experience in North Platte.
Much of the food served there came from area farms. And much was donated by the 55,000 volunteers from 125 Nebraska towns who adopted the canteen.
Nebraskans found other ways to support the war effort. They planted victory gardens, collected scrap mental, rationed food and bought victory stamps and war bonds. In these ways and many others, they collectively told the brave individuals shipping out to fight the war, “Thank you for your service.”
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