State plans to dedicate World War II memorial
by Tom Hester/The Star-Ledger
Published: Tuesday November 11, 2008, 6:05 AM
Standing at the edge of the construction site of New Jersey's World War II Memorial at Veterans Park in Trenton, Allan Corless watched his crew of four dozen workers.
"Everybody is very proud," said Corless, the on-site manager for Neshaminy Contractors of Feasterville, Pa. "Everybody knows somebody who is a World War II veteran."
Since the project broke ground in January, the rumble of construction has been a background soundtrack for outdoor rallies and news conferences at the Statehouse directly across the street. Workers have often labored nights and weekends to stay on schedule.
JIM PATHE/The Star-Ledger
The sculpture of the Lone Soldier moves forward to meet the enemy, his M-1 rifle at the ready, at the New Jersey World War II Memorial at Veterans Park in Trenton.
Today -- Veterans Day -- a large crowd of World War II veterans is expected to turn out to dedicate the state's official World War II memorial.
There to welcome them will be the centerpiece of the memorial, a dramatic 12-foot, one-ton bronze sculpture of Lady Victory, which stands atop a 5-foot pedestal.
Designed to capture the courage and grace of the World War II generation, Lady Victory wields a sword in her left hand and holds high a wreath of peace in her right. As she strides forward, her left foot crushes the swastika flag of Nazi Germany while her right trods upon the rising sun flag of Imperial Japan.
Behind Lady Victory stands another sculpture, the Lone Soldier, a bronze life-size figure designed to represent any soldier, Marine, sailor or airman. The helmeted figure moves forward to meet the enemy, his M-1 rifle at the ready. Also featured is the symbol of the fallen warrior: a sculpture of a bronze rifle planted by its bayonet in the dirt, a helmet resting atop the butt.
The sculptures are the work of Jay Warren of Rogue River, Ore., who had a studio in Hamilton for a decade. He has provided a number of works for New Jersey memorials, including the sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. in Newark City Hall and the First Football Game monument at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway.
"That's the kind of figure I always wanted to do," Warren said of Lady Victory. "It's like the figures they did at the turn of the last century. I think the veterans can identify with it, and they will identify with the Lone Soldier. It's going to be a beautiful memorial, and to have my piece as the centerpiece means a lot to me."
Larry Pistilli of Norristown, Pa., Neshaminy's superintendent of carpenters, said his father was an Army war veteran.
"A lot of people nowadays don't remember World War II. They don't learn it in school," he said as he walked among the workers. "The nice thing about this is people get to learn something. We had people dying for their country, and nobody knows why."
Encircling Lady Victory are markers recognizing the five armed forces and the Merchant Marine in which New Jersey men and women served. Each marker bears the seal of the service and the names of the 16 New Jerseyans who won the Medal of Honor in World War II. At the entrance to the memorial, the flags of the five services and the Merchant Marine will wave.
Two 12-foot-high, 40-foot-long curved walls, one dedicated to the war in Europe, the other to the war in the Pacific, will mark the north and south sides of the memorial. Each will depict a timeline of important events from 1939 to 1945.
The European wall features a montage of photos of New Jersey servicemen, Princeton's Albert Einstein and his letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that warned of the enemy's potential to develop the atomic bomb, marching Nazis, a Coast Guardsman and his German shepherd patrolling the Jersey Shore, South Jersey farmers packing vegetables for the troops, Rosie the Riveter assembling aircraft in Trenton, and actor Charles Chaplin mocking Adolf Hitler. The Pacific wall will not be ready for the dedication.
"This is the story of the total war effort," said retired Army Col. Stephen G. Abel, state deputy commissioner for veterans affairs, who has guided the project since 2000. Abel said two time capsules will be buried on the site to be opened in 2145, the 200th anniversary of the end of the war.
The memorial is made predominantly of granite from Minnesota. It has cost $7.4 million to build, $6.5 million from the state and the rest from donations. Private donations have lagged far behind what organizers initially anticipated, and Abel said another $250,000 is needed to complete the site. New Jersey already has a Vietnam War memorial in Holmdel and a Korean War memorial in Atlantic City.
State officials estimate more than 90,000 World War II veterans live in New Jersey.
Jack McGreevey, 80, a World War II and Korean War Marine veteran and father of former Gov. James E. McGreevey, is chairman of the memorial commission. He said he took on the role in memory of his brother, also named James E. McGreevey, a decorated Marine who died at 19 in 1945 in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
"Because of my brother lost in World War II, I'm thankful they brought this to completion," McGreevey said.
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