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Americans Remember World War II Victory in Europe 60 Years Ago


Sunday, May 8, marks the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, when Allied forces announced the surrender of Germany and the end of the World War II in Europe, a conflict that cost tens of millions of lives. VOA's Adam Phillips gathered some remembrances of that conflict from visitors to the new National World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.

Washington's blue skies and springtime blossoms offer a poignant contrast to the solemnity of the memorial. The large granite plaza commemorates the sacrifices made during World War II, and honors the generation that won it. Garland Lloyd, one of several hundred tourists wandering among the memorial's granite pillars and soaring fountains, seems both moved and impressed.

"It's just amazing that the nation has seen fit to build this memorial to those who fought to win freedom for all of us," he says. "It just brings you almost to tears to see it." Mr. Lloyd, who is from Bedford Virginia, felt the loss of those soldiers personally. "The people from Bedford, Virginia, lost so many soldiers in one community," he says. "It's just very emotional and very touching to see this."

James Renschler of North Dakota is old and somewhat gray today. But he was a young soldier fighting in Okinawa, Japan, on May 8th, 1945, when the Allied victory in Europe was declared. "We took heavy losses over there. It was brutal," he says, '"but it was something that we thought we had to do at the time. That was our responsibility."

When asked whether he still thinks about those years, Mr. Renschler lowers his voice and looks away. "Well, I don't even like to talk about it. I don't think you ever get over that kind of stuff when you are doing killing. You never get over that part."

Norma Craig was a girl in rural North Carolina during World War II, yet she continues to be deeply moved by her memory of the era. "It's sort of sad for me to think about being so young and innocent and having such a horrible thing going on in the world at the same time," she says. "The boys that fought in the war, I feel for them very much. And this memorial here is for them."

When asked whether the many young people in attendance today had a sense of the magnitude of the war, she says, "They may to a certain degree, but they'll never feel it like we do, our generation," shs says. "They'll never feel it like we do."

That certainly seems to be case for some teenagers from the western state of Montana, who are visiting the nation's capital with their high school class. They are mostly unfamiliar with World War II and its meanings - historical and emotional.

"I don't know anything about it," one girl comments. "I know some stuff, but I can't think of stuff just off the top of my head!" All of the teenagers know World War II was a big war, and one boy says he believes it was fought for a good cause.

However, there are other young people at the Memorial who have a more visceral sense of the suffering caused by World War II. Jake, 12, from Canfield, Ohio, stands by the fountains inside the Memorial's Plaza, seemingly lost in thought, then says: "I think it's absolutely beautiful. The fountains kind of mean something. They represent, to me, the battles at sea. They are kind of dramatic, but they gave us something beautiful, like freedom. It makes me feel a little sad just to know so many people died, but happy at the same time to be free."