Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive Kicks Off Nationwide Commemoration of 70th Anniversary with "Kiss In" in Times Square on August 14

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Hundreds of communities across the country organizing events featuring WWII aircraft flyovers, "Rosie the Riveter" lookalike rallies, swing dances and concerts, and wreath laying ceremonies honoring the men and women of America's "Greatest Generation."

Girl Scouts interviewing WWII veterans during Spirit of '45 Day event in San Diego, CA

It's time for the youth of our nation to continue the work of the Greatest Generation to ensure a more tolerant, inclusive, just, and peaceful world.

Communities across the country will be honoring the legacy of the men and women of America's "Greatest Generation" this weekend by commemorating the 70th anniversary of their greatest day - August 14, 1945 - the day spontaneous celebrations broke out at the news that World War II had ended and the United States almost immediately took on the awesome task of rebuilding the post war world.

The nationwide commemorative effort has been organized by "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive," a grassroots coalition that lobbied Congress in 2010 to unanimously vote for an annual national Spirit of '45 Day honoring the generation that grew up during the Great Depression, defended freedom and democracy in WWII, and then led an unprecedented effort to ensure a better future for both their friends and allies and former foes alike.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine co-sponsored Spirit of ’45 Day with the late U.S. Senators Dan Inouye and Frank Lautenberg, the last two WWII veterans to serve in the United States Senate.

"The 'Spirit of '45' goes beyond courage in battle. It includes America's commitment to restore nations shattered by conflict, whether friend or foe, and to advance the cause of liberty and peace around the world," said Collins, whose father is a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. "It describes the civic engagement, volunteerism and service to community and country that is the hallmark of the Greatest Generation."

Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson has released a public service announcement honoring the memory of her great uncle who was the last man to die in combat in WWII on the day the war ended on August 14, 1945.

America’s governors have issued proclamations in support of a Spirit of '45 70th Anniversary Commemoration Weekend that kick off with with a mass "kiss in" in Times Square on Friday, August 14 at 11 a.m. featuring WWII Navy veterans Ray and Ellie Williams of Georgia who were married on the day after the war ended. Ray served in the Pacific on the aircraft carrier USS Cowpens, aka "The Mighty Moo," that was the first to enter Tokyo Bay after Japan's surrender. Ellie was a member of the WAVES unit that escorted President Franklin Roosevelt's funeral cortege in April 1945.

More than 400 community events have been registered on the Spirit of '45 web site at Highlights of the 70th Anniversary Commemoration Weekend include:

  • "Keep 'em flying!" - The Air Force Association, the Commemorative Air Force, and the EAA Warbirds are inviting all flyable WWII airplanes to take to the skies in their communities in a salute to American airpower. Jerry Yellin, the pilot who flew the last combat mission of WWII on August 14, 1945, will lead off by flying in a P51 over Washington, DC.
  • "Anchors aweigh!" - The aircraft carriers USS Midway in San Diego and the Intrepid Air & Space Museum in New York will be hosting special events during the Weekend as will the Battleship Iowa in San Pedro, CA, Battleship Cove in Massachusetts, and Battleship New Jersey in Camden, NJ.
  • "Gotta swing!" - Several groups are holding swing dances and concerts featuring the hits of the ‘40s, including the Medical Musical Group that will be performing the songs made famous by the Glenn Miller orchestrate and the Andrews Sisters on Sunday evening in Washington, DC.
  • Posing as a Rosie! - The National Park Service is planning to set a Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of Rosie the Riveter lookalikes at a rally in Richmond, CA that will be attended by Elinor Otto, 95, “America’s longest working Rosie” who will unveil a new Seward Johnson sculpture of the iconic “Rosie Pose.”
  • Sharing stories - Senior living residences and care givers are organizing intergenerational programs bringing youth together with members of the WWII generation to record their first hand memories of the events of 1945. The Rhode Island Veterans Hospice Partnership is hosting more than 20 events during the Weekend and Atria Senior Living is having open houses in all of its communities in 35 states.
  • International wreath laying Tribute - The Weekend will conclude with an around the world wreath laying that will begin with ceremonies at the American cemeteries in the Philippines, Europe and North Africa on Sunday, August 16. The tribute will begin on the East Coast with ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National WWII Memorial and other locations from Maine to Florida, before continuing on across the country to end in Hawaii at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. All VA national and state cemeteries will be participating in what is being called the "longest wreath laying ceremony in history."

“I commend Spirit of ’45 for ensuring America does not forget these ‘ordinary heroes’ who not only fought the war but rebuilt our nation and much of the world in the war’s aftermath," wrote U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

The commemoration effort will continue into the fall with a cross country convoy of WWII vehicles that will leave from Washington, DC on Saturday, September 19, and drive more than 3,000 miles across 12 states to arrive in San Diego, CA on October 18. The convoy will represent the homecoming of the millions of service men who returned to their families and communities in the latter half of 1945, and will pay tribute to the legacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower and America's Ground Forces during WWII.

In November, hundreds of youth will march in Veterans Day parades around the country, carrying poster sized photos of WWII veterans from their families and communities, to signal the beginning of the passing of the torch from the Greatest Generation to a new generation of youth leaders for the 21st century.

"President Roosevelt's 'Four Freedoms' that guided the WWII generation are still very relevant to America and the global community of nations," said Warren Hegg, Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive national coordinator. "It's time now for the youth of our country to pick up where their grand parents and great grandparents left off, and to use their skills and energy to continue their efforts to ensure a a more tolerant, inclusive, just and peaceful world."

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