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They did their duty--they saved the world

By Bill Berlow

Sunday, November 9, 1997



They're aging now. Many are already gone, faded into history with a quiet humility typical of their generation. They're the men and women who answered America's call from 1941 to 1945, when the atrocities of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan threatened to ravage world civilization. Once they were heroes.
At the time, they didn't understand the significance of their contribution. They were just doing what they were told, doing what was expected of them.. "They're modest almost to the point of being diffident,"said Bill Oldson, a Florida State University historian and director of the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience.

"I think it's a generational characteristic." Many who have come after them neither understand nor appreciate their sacrifices--partly because of the veterans' own reluctance to share their experiences. That's a history lesson Oldson and others are trying hard to teach. "This is the one war this century that really mattered," he said. "If the Kaiser had won World War I, all it would have meant changing of some frontiers. If the Germans and Japanese had won World II, the consequences would have been horrific."

The 99th Pursuit Squadron

On January 16, 1941, the War Department announced the formation of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, an African-American unit, and of the Tuskegee Institute training program.
On March 7, 1942, the first graduating class of the Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Tuskegee Field included Col. (later Gen.) Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., who became the commanding officer of the 99th Fighter Squadron and later the 332d Fighter Group.
These units were unique in United States military history because all the personnel were
African American.

101st Airborne Division

One of the units that spearheaded the Allied assault on D-day and continued to serve throughout the
European Campaign
Nicknamed the "Screaming Eagles" for their division insignia, they parachuted into Normandy prior to the amphibious landing on June 6, 1944.


You can write the memorial at:
National World War II Memorial
2300 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 501
Arlington, Virginia 22201

Or call: 1-800-639-4WW2
Or e-mail:
custsvc@wwii mem

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