Newsline , Society

COVID-19 and the Value of World War II Remembrance

Posted on Thursday, March 26, 2020
by Connor Martin

COVID-19One of the dynamics of the COVID-19 outbreak is the wall-to-wall reporting, discussion and analysis of everything related to the virus. This is entirely understandable given the extraordinary concerns at hand; its rapid sweep across the globe, its health toll, economic impact, and influence on life. Undoubtedly, this non-stop coverage will continue for the foreseeable future.

In addition to the way the virus has disrupted and derailed so many things for so many people – work-life balance, careers and jobs, travel and retirement – it also threatens to overshadow everything else of meaning and value.  Unfortunately, this includes the upcoming anniversaries of the end of the Second World War.  May 8th and August 15th mark the 75th anniversaries of the end of World War II in Europe (V-E Day) and the Pacific (V-J Day), respectively. Along the way, several other dates on the calendar will pass, each one symbolizing the valor of Americans at war as well as the horror of that expansive conflict – from the invasion of Okinawa on April 1st, to the liberation of the death camps, to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and August 9th.

While the importance of recognizing these anniversaries may pale in comparison to the day-to-day needs and stress impacting real Americans, taking a few moments to remember the contributions of our World War II generation is important for a number of reasons.  First off, this will be the last major anniversary year to appreciate the history of the war while the generation who fought it remains alive.  Veterans of WWII and civilians who contributed to the war effort are passing away in great numbers every day – and the chances to engage with them, give thanks for their service, and understand their experiences are fading fast.

Most importantly, taking a few moments to reflect on the war and its conclusion may be quite timely now, particularly as the nation endures the anxiety and the agony brought about by the coronavirus.   In fact, many Americans could probably take solace and confidence in the example set by the Word War II generation, as well as those too young to serve in uniform but who lived through that time.  These were a hardy people, who not only lived through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, but who then sacrificed for nearly four long, costly and bloody years to defeat the appalling evil of the Axis Powers.  And now with the rest of us, they are having to endure yet another trying ordeal.

They are part of a generation that, despite enduring such hardship for so long, never doubted the resolve of America and who ultimately rallied to fight and win.  It was also generation who had to make do – and to do without.  Remember that during the war, the federal government instituted a nationwide rationing program for nearly everything in common use – from sugar, lard, cheese, and butter, to gasoline, metals, rubber, coal, and silk.  Americans who lived during World War II – and who are still alive today – can certainly tell us about life without the most basic of goods.  In fact, my father has retained his government-issued ration book with several sheets of unused stamps as a reminder of what life was like when one simply couldn’t obtain every convenience or commodity of modern life.

In recognizing these upcoming anniversaries, we can also take comfort in the fact that America can answer any challenge thrown our way.  During the war, America went from a largely isolationist nation with a vastly underequipped, undermanned and undertrained military to an indomitable superpower in a half-decade.  The numbers of what we mass-produced are simply staggering.  For example, at its peak monthly production in August 1944, the Willow Run bomber factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan produced 428 B-24 Liberator bombers – and for a two day period between April 24 and April 26, 1944, Willow Run completed 100 bombers; in other words, Willow Run was building two airplanes every hour for those two days.  The story of the Liberty ships is equally astounding; at peak production, the average time it took to complete an entire ship from the keel up was 42 days, slightly over a month to build an entire ship!   And the numbers of everything else – tanks, trucks, jeeps, fieldpieces, submarines, surface ships, landing craft, airplanes, ordnance and ammo, uniforms, firearms and other materiel – nearly defy belief.

The real power of a free people and a free economy is the unconstrained ability to innovate, to re-imagine and to re-create – and it was this freedom that fundamentally allowed America to quickly retool for the war effort.  Our inherent cultural ability to flex and adjust – to adapt, to improvise and overcome – is the real backbone of resilience, and it is what we are witnessing once again to address the pandemic and push on with life.  It is part of what makes us exceptional.

America has faced an existentially threatening crisis before and it became our finest hour.  And in remembering and celebrating the end of WWII, we can learn and take heart from the generation who saved the world from global tyranny.  They’ve shown us the way – and with fortitude, patience, selflessness, and community, we can get through anything.

So, over the course of the next several weeks, as we self-quarantine and cope with a difficult new way of life, when time for escape from the bad news permits – take a moment to observe the 75th anniversaries of WWII’s end, and learn from the last of these tough and indefatigable people.  Read their histories, watch their interviews, listen to their stories, appreciate their accomplishments and remember their sacrifice.

For our own inspiration, context and strength, it would be time well-spent.

Connor Martin is a former active duty US Marine, and a security policy analyst and defense consultant in Washington, D.C.

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Donna Christensen
Donna Christensen
4 years ago

Everyone, or entity, which so avidly strives to control, will eventually defeat their own purpose. A timely example is the way in which the confirmed Democrats continue their insane thrust to defeat our current President, will eventually receive that which they hoped to produce in their perceived enemy! Proven fact! Think about it!

4 years ago

The CURE is becoming worse than the Disease. The Constitution is being tampled because the fake news is pushing panic and fear and it concerns me that no one is seeing that so many of our civil rights are being discarded….this is more scary to me than this virus. The easiest way to control this virus is to have every American in a N95 mask….the infected cannot continue to infect others, and the uninfected cannot get it from the infected. Then everyone is mandated to wear their mask outside their homes or be fined. What we are doing right now is not going to work….it will slow it down to some degree, but more people will become infected and making people stay at home and closing business will result in more businesses dying than people. Use some of that 2 Trillion Dollars that America does not have to spend on getting every American a mask and stop this madness.

Wanda Townsend The Copper Clinic
Wanda Townsend The Copper Clinic
4 years ago

We are Artisans in Colorado. We created the “CK” cold killer, During WWII, they used copper to treat the soldiers and their wounds. We created the “CK” for a person to use to stop the cold virus, since copper kills 99.9 percent of germs on contact.

4 years ago

Gosh, this article brings back so many memories. I remember my mother visiting our local Piggly Wiggly market on Punchbowl St in Honolulu and being handed a wrapped package from the butcher. We didn’t know what treasure we had until getting home to open our weekly ration of meat. It was always a surprise, carefully selected from what was available and shared with other families. We felt very lucky.

To a six-year old, the air raid drills where we were required to leave our homes and go to the neighborhood shelter were so frightening. We didn’t know if it was for real or a drill until getting to the shelter. The sirens went off one night after my Dad came home late from his shift at Pearl Harbor. He was tired and didn’t want to evacuate because he knew it was a drill. So he told my Mom to take me and my baby sister into the closet and hide. When the authorities showed up and banged on the door during their verification check, my sister started to cry. Mom, trying to shush her up, put her hand over her mouth. Fortunately it worked and the authorities moved on to check the next house. It wasn’t until well into adulthood that I finally began to lose the raw fear I felt every time I heard a siren.

An older blonde women laughing in the kitchen with a grey haired man.
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