World War II was the defining event that transformed Maryland, America and the world. Almost every social change that has taken place since the 1940s is linked to that long struggle:
* Suburbanization and the explosive growth of colleges started soon after Johnny came marching home and took advantage of GI benefits.
* The development of equal rights movements for African Americans and women had its roots in social changes that occurred during the war.
* Post-war years also saw the civilian application of many military inventions that paved the road first to transistors, then to the computer era.
About 288,000 Marylanders participated in World War II; 6,454 lost their lives. But all Marylanders were affected by the war. Tens of thousands of civilians sweated in shipyards or aircraft factories, producing material that was sent to all corners of the world. And many of those who were too young to work remember such aspects of the war as shoe, lumber and tire rationing.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. There is no shortage of commemorations here and abroad. Recently, former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, himself a World War II veteran, and his successor, Parris N. Glendening, attended the dedication of the site where Maryland's tribute to the war effort will be built.
The site is near the balustraded bluff -- known as the Overlook -- on Route 450, east of the Severn River and the U.S. Naval Academy. If all goes as planned, a new monument will be built there by June 1997, said retired Brig. Gen. John F. Burk Jr., chairman of the memorial commission.
"The Maryland World War II Memorial will be a continuous reminder of the men and women who fought for the principles of freedom during the five years of the war," General Burk said, explaining that it would honor soldiers as well as "recognize the vital efforts of Maryland's industries and civilian forces."
The commission is seeking a $300,000 planning grant from the General Assembly so that a design competition can be held for a monument estimated to cost $3 million. But like the war effort itself, completion of this worthy project must involve not only the government, but all Marylanders.