New Jersey opens long-awaited World War II memorial
By Jonathan Tamari
Inquirer Trenton Bureau
Published: Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The Philadelphia Inquirer
|TRENTON - As she sat under clear skies and looked around at the World War II veterans sitting around her, Anita Thorne Keyser thought of her brother, Horace Marvin Thorne, who was known to everyone as "Bud." He would have been about their age.
He was killed fighting at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. A school in their hometown, Middletown, bears his name.
Keyser, wearing her brother's picture on a pin, said the school was an assurance that he wouldn't be forgotten.
Yesterday, after years of delays, New Jersey opened a memorial in Trenton that aims to provide a similarly lasting tribute to everyone who served in World War II.
"Abraham Lincoln said this nation can never do enough to show our gratitude to veterans . . . and I feel the same way," Keyser said.
CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
During the singing of the national anthem at the World War II memorial dedication, Max Yurman (left) of Manchester, N.J., and Robert H. Yancey of Florence show their respect to country and comrades. Planned for years, the memorial is at the site of a small park near the main Statehouse entrance.
The memorial, still not quite complete, opened nearly eight years after planning began, slowed mostly by fund-raising roadblocks. Some of its leading backers have died since the project was envisioned.
They include Stephen Gregg, a Medal of Honor recipient who made the first donation to the memorial, $300, in 2001.
Back then, the project was supposed to be built in Jersey City, but the state budget was tight, the location was moved, and the projected completion date pushed back to 2005. Then it was set for Memorial Day 2006.
Fund-raising remained slow, however. Several speakers yesterday credited Gov. Corzine with finally setting enough money aside to get the memorial on track.
The project is now expected to cost $7.6 million, with $6.5 million coming from the state. Officials are working to raise the rest through donations and have brought in more than $800,000, said retired Col. Stephen Abel, a deputy commissioner for New Jersey veterans affairs.
Al Martis, a Marine veteran who was vice chairman of the memorial commission, used to jab a finger into Abel's chest and ask if he would be alive to see the finished product.
Martis died about three years ago.
"I feel that he is here today," Abel said shortly before the ceremony. "I think he would be quite proud of what we have here today."
In a ceremony that organizers said had drawn more than 2,000 people, including many veterans wearing hats showing their military ties and servicemen and women in dress uniforms, Corzine acknowledged the long wait for a World War II memorial in a state that already has tributes to other wars, including Vietnam and Korea.
"New Jersey rights a wrong" with the dedication, Corzine said. "This is a proud moment and a lasting testament to New Jersey's World War II veterans."
According to his office, an estimated 560,000 New Jerseyans served in the armed forces in World War II, and more than 13,000 died. An estimated 85,000 World War II veterans live in New Jersey.
The memorial centers on a 12-foot-high, one-ton statute of Victory, holding in one hand a laurel wreath - given to victorious warriors in ancient times - and in the other a sword. Beneath her striding feet is a flag of Nazi Germany and the Japanese rising-sun flag.
The statue stands beneath a copper dome supported by granite pillars. Around her are six more pillars, one for each branch of the service and the merchant marine, bearing the names of New Jersey's World War II Medal of Honor recipients from each branch.
On curved walls at the edge of the memorial are images of the war and time lines.
Behind Victory is a statue of a soldier charging forward, and behind him is a sculpture of a rifle with a helmet on top, a battlefield grave marker.
A quote from Gen. George Patton at the base of the rifle reads, "Let me not mourn for the men who have died fighting, but rather let me be glad that such heroes have lived."
The memorial replaced a scrubby park across State Street from the Statehouse's main entrance.
Still to be finished are walls at the back of the memorial, planned to feature cascading water and bas-relief images from the war.
(CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Gov. Corzine helps unveil Victory, holding a laurel wreath and sword. More than 2,000 attended the ceremony in Trenton.
Before the afternoon ceremony, a flag bearing signatures from New Jersey national guardsmen serving abroad hung in front of the statue. Flags from the United States, New Jersey, and branches of the military hung on poles.
As each was raised, the veterans who served in each branch stood and saluted. First the Army. Then the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Corps, Coast Guard and merchant marine.
Two time capsules with mementos donated by veterans and details of the monuments' construction will be buried on the site, to be opened in 2145, the 200th anniversary of the end of the war.
The long wait for the memorial was not lost on the veterans at the ceremony. Several noted that the World War II memorial in Washington also came after others were completed.
And while they waited, many veterans have died.
"So many of us guys didn't get to see it," said Stuart Brandow, a former infantryman who served on the memorial commission and lives in Woodbridge. "They say this is just material things. But they don't realize what it means to a veteran."
Back to News Archive