Earlier this week, our nation observed Memorial Day, which is set aside to remember those who gave their lives for our country in time of war. Due to the Coronavirus, many Memorial Day events were reduced or cancelled. The current crisis must not stop us from honoring those who served and made the supreme sacrifice. Memorial Day began following the Civil War as a day to decorate the graves of those who died in that war from 1861 to 1865. If one combines battle deaths with other Civil War deaths from both North and South, the awful total comes to 498,332.
The year 2020 has a special significance, because it marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Earlier this month, there were several events around the world to remember Victory in Europe (VE) Day, May 8. In 1945, May 8 was a day of great celebration, because Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to Allied forces on May 7. After six years of war in Europe, the fighting was finally over. On the other side of the world, the war continued in the Pacific until August 14-15, 1945. On August 15, Japan announced its surrender. Due to time zone differences, the surrender of Japan was announced on August 14 in the Americas and Europe. Japan’s formal surrender took place aboard the U.S.S. Missouri on September 2, 1945. Victory in Japan (VJ) Day was celebrated on August 15 in the United States. Some people commemorate September 2 as VJ Day, since that was the date of the formal Japanese surrender.
War veterans will tell you rightly that freedom is not free; it comes at a cost in human life. For example, these are the official figures for American lives lost in World War II: battle deaths, 291,557, and other deaths, 113,842, for a combined total of 405,399. They gave their lives, so that a freer world might emerge after the war. The veterans who survived the war are now over the age of 90, and they deserve our gratitude. Last month, Bayonne’s emergency services honored 98-year-old veteran Alfred Ponterdolph with a drive-by on the occasion of his birthday. Mr. Ponterdolph served for three years on the S.S. Philip, a U.S. Navy destroyer that fought in the Asian-Pacific Theater of Operations.
Let us remember those who gave their lives for our country. Let us also remember to thank our veterans.