In 1941 Europe was embattled in a horrific war, but the United States not wishing to go to war in Europe was at peace.
Germany had already conquered Czechoslovakia, Poland, France and made an ally of Italian dictator Mussolini. Fighting was fierce in North Africa and bombing raids on resources and factories in both England and Germany were also taking a toll of civilian lives. Hitler, seeing himself as a conqueror and world ruler with the blitzkrieg tactics his army was setting his sights next on Russia and the United States when their turn came.
Then on Dec 7, the Japanese attacked our base at Pearl Harbor with about 175 aircraft. It caught us completely off guard. They sank many of our Navy's ships, and killed and wounded thousands of military and other personnel. This catapulted us into World War ll.
The loss of life, both civilian and military across Europe was horrendous. Germany was finally forced to surrender on May 8, 1945. That became known as V-E day (Victory in Europe). The celebration on V-E day was tremendous even though Japan had yet to be dealt with. The final blow in the Pacific war with Japan came later in August with the infamous bomb that brought Japan's surrender. History has never seen such a bloody battle end with the victor helping the vanquished recuperate from their wounds. The United States was more the Lady Nightingale than the conquering soldier in the days and months that followed our final victory.
Our chorus does its annual show on the first weekend in May. In 1995 the 50th anniversary of V-E Day, and with V-E Day being so close to our show date, we decided to do a show using songs from World War ll. We scheduled songs like, "Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover," and a host of music identified with wartime.
I was asked to write something as a tribute to our heroes of World War ll. My resulting poem was read from the stage during the show. That's why it contains references to those out beyond the lights, which referred to the audience beyond the footlights. With this May 8 being the 69th anniversary of V-E Day, I thought it appropriate to submit this verse in tribute once again.
A DEDICATION TO THE HEROES OF WORLD WAR ll
By R. Westlund
The first half of the forties,
Were filled with fear and dread.
The whole world fell beneath the spell
Of one who lost his head.
A maniac for power,
He was marching full of wrath
His troops he formed,
And with them stormed,
Through any in his path.
'T was many a saintly soul that fell
Beneath his hobnailed boot from hell.
And decent people stood aghast
At terrors that were often passed,
As things this madman viewed as right.
He didn't care, he had the might.
The call went out across the land
For strong young men to take a stand.
Just stripling youths, apprentice men,
They mostly were who answered then.
For four long years they fought and died,
The best we had, our countries pride.
Oh how we prayed those years ago
That sanity would not be slow,
That bluebirds once again would fly,
O'er Dover's beaches in the sky.
Now, all the sweetness in our lives
We've wallowed in since then,
We've had because the earth
Was saved for us by these good men.
There's twenty here among us now
Who sing with us our song,
Who fought that mighty world at war,
To keep our freedom strong.
I'm sure that out beyond the lights
There's more who fought there too,
So hear our praise our thanks to God,
For valiant men like you.
'Tis pity that the earth is such
That young men have to die,
Or leave their sweethearts
While they're off on missions in the sky.
The least we do in any case,
Is thank them, heroes all,
Who rise to meet the challenge
When they hear their country call.
May God bless America.
Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org