World War II Veterans Honored on ‘Spirit of ’45 Day’ at World War II Memorial (photos)

World War II veterans gathered on Aug. 11 at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. on “Spirit of ’45 Day,” a national day of remembrance that honors the men and women who were the “ordinary heroes” of the World War II generation. The ceremony is the first of more than 100 similar observances across the country, serving as a clarion call for a renewed spirit of civic engagement, volunteerism, service to community and country and national unity, This year’s ceremony at the memorial honored the late Senators Daniel Inouye and Frank Lautenberg, the last WW II veterans to serve in the U.S. Congress.

It has been 68 years since the end of that conflict and the number of living veterans is sadly diminishing. Some notable individuals attending this gathering included the following individuals:

US Air Force Major Jesse M. Baltazar was among the 75,000 Americans and Filipino troops, who surrendered after being overwhelmed when the Japanese on April 9, 1942, invaded Bataan, 300 miles north of Manila. They were force-marched 90 miles north to a prison camp on a dusty road without food or water. Thousands died before reaching the prison camp.

Jerry Wolf was 18 when the B-17 he was flying over Germany was shot down in May 1944. A member of the 390th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, Wolf spent 11 months in captivity.

Terry Tshima was a member of the most decorated 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army composed almost entirely of Japanese Americans.

World War II fighter pilot Jerry Yellin enlisted in the Army Air Corps on Feb. 15, 1942, his 18th birthday. He was in combat in the Pacific Theater and Iwo Jima with the 78th Fighter Squadron and participated in the first land based fighter mission over Japan on April 7, 1945 and the last mission of the war on August 14, 1945. Yellin was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with an Oak Leaf cluster and the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf clusters. He was discharged a Captain in December 1945.

Rear Admiral (Ret.) Bill Thompson, former Naval Chief of Public Information and a founder of the U.S. Navy Memorial.

Keynote speaker General Frederick J. (Fritz) Kroesen, Jr fought in World War II with the 254th Infantry Regiment of the 63rd Infantry Division. Also the veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, he has the rare distinction of having been awarded the Combat Infantry Badge in three conflicts. He went on to earn the rank of 4-star general.

Ken Inouye represented his late father Senator and Congressional Medal of Honor winner Dan Inouye.

Also on hand were three “Rosie the Riveters” representing the American women who worked in factories during World War II, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies. These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who were in the military.

View our photos of the ‘Spirit of ’45’ ceremony at the World War II Memorial by clicking on the photo icons below.

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