Let the day of infamy live also in memory

December 06, 1996|By William Donald Schaefer

TOMORROW IS the anniversary of ''the day that will live in infamy.'' On December 7, 1941, the Japanese, in a sneak attack, bombed Pearl Harbor and World War II aggressively came to America's doorstep.

Does the day that lives in infamy also live in the memory of Marylanders? Did you know that 6,454 Marylanders lost their lives to combat deaths, disease and brutal treatment as prisoners? While Maryland has memorials for Vietnam and Korea, there is none for World War II -- the last great war that demonstrated a unity of effort on the part of our citizens.

The 1996 Maryland General Assembly provided $2.5 million to build such a memorial. The only unmet requirement is that $300,000 must be raised privately to complete the memorial. Recently, I heard one representative of a corporation say when asked to contribute to our World War II memorial, ''Not interested, that was a long time ago.''

The long line of World War II veterans is becoming shorter. Should we forget that Maryland's participation stands out in many ways? Our National Guard -- the 29th Division -- was the only Guard unit to participate in the Normandy Invasion. Since I was serving as an administrator of a hospital for war casualties in England, I was not actually in Normandy on D-Day. I saw the thousands of sick and maimed as they were transported to our hospital.

Fifty years later, I stood on Normandy Beach, looked out over the water and wondered: how could our men, of all services, have made that landing on that fateful day? Should we forget that sacrifice?

Maryland's war effort was critical. The Japanese secret code was broken here in Maryland. Thousands of soldiers trained at Bainbridge, Fort Meade, Aberdeen, Holabird and Patuxent. Maryland's industry was critical. At Bethlehem Steel, Westinghouse and Glenn L. Martin, thousands and thousands of workers contributed to the war effort.

Help in needed

Now, Maryland can show its commitment again by contributing to build this memorial. Everything is ready, including the design and the site. Now, your help is needed.

As the newly retired governor of Maryland, I remember standing with Governor Glendening in the rain and sleet in January 1995 at the dedication of the site in Annapolis. Looking across the new bridge over the Severn River, I thought there was no more fitting place for Maryland's World War II Memorial than one with a panoramic view of the state capital and the United States Naval Academy. As a World War II vet, I was sad, but proud. Sad, because so many gave their lives for our way of life. Proud, because Maryland hadn't forgotten.

''Please don't forget.'' These were the words of Mayor Alfred Hopkins of Annapolis, also a World War II veteran, at a Veterans Day ceremony there last month. This memorial will ensure, for generations yet unborn, that we didn't forget our friends, neighbors, sons and daughters, parents and grandparents, who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in freedom. ''Lest we forget!''

William Donald Schaefer is honorary chairman of Maryland's World War II Memorial Commission. Contributions can be made to ''World War II Memorial'' and sent to: Veterans Commission, State of Maryland, Room 110, 31 Hopkins Plaza, Baltimore, Md. 21201.

Pub Date: 12/06/96

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