MT. ZION – When Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, USAF Ret., took the podium to address the crowd at the fifth annual Memorial Day dedication ceremony at Mt. Zion Historic Park on Saturday afternoon, he asked attendees to imagine that it was currently May of 1942.
"The world was enflamed. There are those, I'm sure, who believed the world was over. Hitler owns Europe. He's been attacking London. Only through the courage of a few brave Brit fighter pilots has London even survived. You know the Battle of Britain. In Japan, Imperial Japan is on the march through China. Our soldiers are barely repelling attacks in the Philippines. They'll face the Bataan Death March. Many of them will be tortured and will die. And off the coast of American cities on the east coast, we're watching German submarines sink our own ships. We're in trouble," Wright said.
Wright explained that during World War II from 1942 through 1945, the United States was able to generate a force of 1.25 million airmen who were stationed overseas. Additionally, he indicated that the U.S. had around 80,000 aircraft in the war, which were responsible for destroying more than twice as many of the enemies' aircraft. He added that 50,000 airmen were killed in the conflict, which saw a loss of over 413,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard between 1942 and 1945.
In discussing the importance of air power to the Allied victory in World War II, Wright referenced a famous quote by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"As we prevail in the war over Europe, our president had it right. Hitler tried to build a fortress around Europe, but he forgot to put a roof on it - and that's air power," Wright said.
Wright's remarks came during a dedication ceremony for 26 pavers honoring area veterans and active members of service whose careers related to air power.
The 26 individuals honored were Robert P. Anderson, Robert Barr, Lucian Benevich, Thomas Bricen, William A. Burke, Mario Cadori, Gary R. Chase, Albert Filano, John B. Gardner, Ralph M. Geer, James Glaxner Jr., Rex V. Gray, Clark R. Ingram, Thomas Levenduski, Duane Liptak Jr., Steven F. Luchuck, John M. Mirtich, Joseph D. Rebo, Michael G. Rebo, Victor A. Reed, Thomas V. Smith, Eugene B. Taggart Jr., Robert C. Van Lew, William B. Winslow, Harold Calvin Woodring and Floyd A. Woodring.