26,000 veterans proudly march in 'Nation's Parade' Reinvigorated N.Y. event among hundreds in U.S.


NEW YORK -- With 500,000 cheering, flag-waving spectators lining the route, tens of thousands of proud American warriors marched out of the past yesterday to the sound of thundering drums and Glenn Miller swing in the city's largest Veterans Day parade in years.

Planes roared overhead, tanks rumbled by, cannon boomed salutes and church bells pealed across the city as huge crowds watched 26,000 marchers -- led by Medal of Honor winners and veterans of many conflicts -- in the "Nation's Parade," the official culmination of four years of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of World War II.

Around the country, there were wreath-layings, religious services, hometown parades and other ceremonies to commemorate Veterans Day with solemnity and jubilation.

In Los Angeles, federal and California officials paid particular tribute to Japanese-American veterans in several commemorations leading up to Veterans Day.

In New York, the parade -- with many older veterans, melodies from the 1940s as well as traditional march music, and vintage tanks, jeeps and other ordnance from World War II -- had an old-fashioned feel, harking back to a time when people remembered those who served at Bataan and Corregidor, Inchon and Pleiku.

"The significance of this day is not here, but all over our country in the cemeteries where the coffins are," said Thomas Gorman, an Army tank crewman in World War II.

"You never forget. They're the ones who paid for our freedom. All the years pass and you never get over it."

His eyes filled with tears as he said: "You see good friends die, and you ask, 'Why am I here?' "

Ray Janoff, 68, one of the youngest of two dozen veterans marching under the banner of the 88th Infantry, stepped under an awning at the Pierre Hotel, across from the reviewing stand at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, for a brief rest and reminiscence.

He joined the Army in 1943, when he was 16, he said. Before he was 17, he had joined in the invasion of Italy and the liberation of Rome. He suffered a shrapnel wound of the knee on Feb. 6, 1945.

He had a few pictures, of himself with a young Italian girl, of Red Cross women who brought coffee and doughnuts to troops at the front. He said he wouldn't have missed the parade for anything.

"It's an honor," he said simply, proudly.

Zeke Zarchi, 80, a trumpet player, a member of the original Glenn Miller Band that served in Europe from 1942 to 1945, was with the band when Miller disappeared on a flight over the English Channel in December 1944.

"We have a lot to remember," he said as the band played a medley that included "In the Mood," "Moonlight Serenade" and "Pennsylvania 6-5000."

The organizers had expressed hopes for nearly a million spectators, but there was no disappointment when the police put the crowd at more than 500,000 for a parade that had not drawn substantial followings for decades and was always overshadowed by the St. Patrick's Day Parade and other ethnic celebrations.

First staged after World War I as an Armistice Day affair, the parade reached a peak of popularity after World War II.

But it had since declined and was all but moribund in recent years, a casualty of public apathy and aging marchers.

But this year, riding interest surrounding the World War II anniversary, it was revitalized by combining many parades from around the region, and a wave of publicity in recent days brought out huge crowds.

The line of march included 3,000 who had participated in World War II and 23,000 other veterans, including members of groups as diverse as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans.

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