Bush Salutes World War II Veterans At Memorial Dedication
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 29, 2004 President Bush today officially dedicated the World War II Memorial during a ceremony that featured more than 100,000 military veterans and guests.
The crowd applauds the Navy Band's performance during the
dedication of the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall in
Washington, D.C., May 29. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"We will raise the American flag over this memorial that will stand as long as America itself," the president declared to the audience, many of whom were attired in their World War II uniforms.
More than 600,000 individual contributions paid for the $195 million bronze and granite memorial, Bush pointed out. Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as former Sen. Bob Dole, actor Tom Hanks and NBC newsman and author Tom Brokaw accompanied him at the ceremony.
Many people, Bush recalled, "believed that democracy was finished" just before America entered the war on the side of the Allies after the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
At that time, totalitarianism seemed poised to engulf the world, he noted, as the Nazis had marched into Paris the year before and Imperial Japan continued its territorial expansion in the Far East.
America and her Allies banded together, Bush said, to confront the Axis threat and its ideologies of death and oppression.
Bush noted that America entered World War II after a decade-long economic depression and with a standing army that ranked 17th in the world in size. To win the war on two fronts, he said, Americans "had to work and save and ration and sacrifice as never before." Citizens grew victory gardens, he said, and bought war bonds.
American women toiled in factories or joined the military, Bush noted, while African-Americans and Japanese-Americans and others "fought for their country, which wasn't always fair to them." Civil rights advances that followed the end of the war, he noted, "made us a better country."
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood up to the world's dictators, Bush recalled. Roosevelt, he said, "understood the character of the American people," and rejected the Axis powers' contention that they belonged to a master race and therefore were fated to conquer and dominate the world.
The 16 million Americans who put on uniforms to serve in the war, Bush said, "gave the best years of their lives to the greatest mission their country ever accepted."
Bush said U.S. forces fought with courage and bravery and "are remembered for their goodness and decency." More than 400,000 U.S. service members died in the war. The nation is indebted "to an entire generation of Americans," Bush said not only to those who died, but also to those "who fought and worked and grieved and went on."
Those who served America in uniform during World War II "saved their country," Bush said, and "thereby saved the liberty of mankind."