Rose Parade Keeping the Spirit of '45 Alive by Showcasing Inspiring Stories of America's Greatest Generation

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Louis Zamperini, hero of "Unbroken," and legendary Japanese American WWII veterans honored with floats

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This may be the last time America can come together to say 'Thank you!' to the men and women of the WWII generation who did so much to assure a better future for their children and their children's children.

The countdown to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II begins on New Years Day when floats honoring famous members of America's 'greatest generation' will be featured in the 126th Tournament of Roses Parade. The parade begins at 8:00 a.m. PST

The theme for this year's Rose Parade is "Inspiring Stories," - a tribute to those who have loved unconditionally, persevered courageously, endured patiently, and accomplished much on behalf of others.

"We were thinking about an inspirational theme, a theme where we would actually lift people’s lives up.” said Richard Chinen, chairman and president of the Tournament of Roses.

Chinen said this year's Rose Parade theme was inspired by the life of Louis Zamperini which was documented in the best selling book "Unbroken," by Pulitzer Prize winning author Laura Hillebrand. A movie based on the book and directed by Angelina Jolie opened nationwide on Christmas Day. Zamperini ran in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and later survived 47 days in shark infested waters during WWII when his plane crashed in the Pacific, followed by two years of intense brutality in a Japanese POW camp.

Zamperini was chosen to be the grand marshal for the 2015 Rose Parade last May but died on July 2 and will be only the second individual to be posthumously honored as the grand marshal in the history of the parade. He will be represented by his family who will ride in the grand marshall's car behind a riderless white horse, and in front of a float depicting the challenges Zamperini overcame during his life that was produced by the Torrance Rose Bowl Association.

Also honored in this year's parade are Japanese American WWII veterans who fought in Europe as members of the legendary 442nd Regimental Combat Unit and 100th Infantry Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service that is credited with having helped shorten the war in the Pacific by two years. Together, they became the most highly decorated units, by size and length of service, in the history of the U.S. Army, and received numerous decorations, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. Their float, bearing their motto "Go For Broke," was entered by the City of Alhambra, CA.

"I was deeply inspired by the stories of these young men who sacrificed so much for our country, despite the fact that many of their families were in internment camps simply because of their Japanese ancestry," said Gary Yamauchi, mayor of Alhambra. "We hope our example will encourage other cities and towns in America to make sure that future generations will remember the heroes of WWII from their communities."

The Rose Bowl WWII floats will be the first in a series of events and activities that are planned for this year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.

"The Rose Parade and the cities of Alhambra and Torrance have done a great service by focusing attention on the importance of preserving the inspiring stories of the men and women of the WWII generation ," said Warren Hegg, national programs director of "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive," a nonprofit grassroots coalition of organizations that are planning 70th anniversary events and activities this year.

The group will be meeting in San Diego in February to finalize marketing and media strategies for events honoring the contributions of America's airpower, ground forces, seaborne services and Home Front during WWII.

"This year may be the last time families and communities throughout America can come together to say 'Thank you!' to the men and women who were the ordinary heroes who did so much to assure a better future for their children and their children's children," said Hegg.

The centerpiece of the year's activities will be a 70th Anniversary Commemoration on the weekend of August 14 - 16, that will include a mass "Kiss in" in Times Square, flyovers by WWII aircraft, events featuring '40's style music and entertainment, oral history interviews, and wreath laying ceremonies at multiple locations around the world. A cross country convoy of WWII vehicles that is being promoted as the "longest Veterans Day Parade in history" is planned for the fall.

"We want everyone to say, 'Here we come, 2015!'" said Chinen.

For more information about the Rose Parade, visit

For more information about the City of Alhambra's "Go For Broke" float visit

For more information about the Torrance Rose Parade Association float, visit

For more information about the Spirit of '45 70th Anniversary Commemoration visit

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