Honor a Hero

Prior to America’s entry into the Second World War, American merchant ships carried needed supplies that supported the Allies in their desperate struggle against the Axis powers.

Although German aircraft and submarines attacked American merchant ships when they entered war zones, the ships could not defend themselves because they were prevented from doing so by the U.S. Neutrality Act of 1936.As losses mounted, Congress was eventually pressured to amend the Neutrality Act and it did so on November 17, 1941 to allow the U. S. Navy to arm America’s merchant ships.

All this barely three weeks before Pearl Harbor.This is November, a month in which we pay some of the honor due to all those incredible Americans who fought in our second World War, many young kids who didn’t hesitate a second to rise to the challenge of defending their country.

The fact so many people who were born after or who only have memories of the time after the war ended in 1945 and life changed forever for so many, know little of this major war is almost as sad as the fact so few students are learning about it, or for that matter, even the Korean or Vietnam wars, in their classrooms or required reading in high school.

A very wise and well-educated man, an American citizen born and raised in a country in Europe, was speaking to me about it the other day, recalling his own stories of life in his own country made safe only because it was American troops who came in and defended it. We spoke about D. Day, and he challenged me to ask teenagers what they know about D-Day, and what do they think happened that day.

I have not yet done that.

However, it put me in mind of one of Paul Zigo’s books, “The Longest Walk,” a book telling the story not only of D.-Day the start of an agonizing 40 days, but the time between June 6 and the capture of St. Lo in France.

Zigo, a retired army officer, is probably the most well informed and most generously giving of historical information of anyone in Monmouth County if not the state of New Jersey.

Paul and the WWII Era Studies Institute are snyonymous.

The Institute is dedicated to stimulating and fostering the study of the historical, political, social, economic and military aspects of World War II to provide a better understanding of the impact of the war on world history as well as to help future generations avoid armed conflict in the resolution of global problems.

The institute is a resource open to all. It educates the community about key events of WW II, the political and military leaders who waged the war and made peace, and those who served on the battlefield as well as on the home front. The ultimate goal of the Institute is to utilize the lessons learned from World War II to prevent the recurrence of global armed conflict in a world of sovereign states with divergent interests, wants and needs.

Another major source of American history in the 20th century is Triumphant Spirit, a cable television series that features stories of a generation that fought and won the Second World War. The series was produced by Brookdale Community College and directed by Brian Hemstreet.

Those interviews can be seen on the Library of Congress page and YouTube

It’s also important to remember how our merchant marines joined in the war effort and served valiantly throughout that era.

For more information on the Merchant Marine, the US military forces, both men and women, and the heroics and anguish that won the war, visit WWII Era Studies Institute.


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