World War II Reunion
Program Curator, National World War II Reunion
Thursday, May 27, 2004; 11:30 AM
Jim Deutsch, program curator for the National World War II Reunion, was online Thursday, May 27 at 11:30 a.m. ET, to discuss Memorial Day weekend ceremonies, events and entertainment which will take place on the National Mall as part of the dedication of the World War II Memorial.
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A transcript follows.
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Jim Deutsch, welcome to washingtonpost.com. Thank you for taking time out to join us.
You're in charge of the entertainment for the World War II Reunion. What's on tap?
Jim Deutsch: It's more than entertainment. We have music and dance but we also have some narrative sessions. For example, starting at 11:30, right now, we have the Tuskegee Airmen talking about their experiences during WW II.
At 1:00, we have Sen. Bob Dole and Sen. George McGovern together on stage.
It begins today and ends on Sunday.
The Artie Shaw Orchestra will perform Saturday at 4. He was known as the King of Swing. We have the Ink Spots, the Aloha Boys performing Hawaiian swing music. We have ensembles from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Jim Deutsch: I've just come from Reunion Hall which is the gathering place for veterans and their families and almost every chair is filled. We need to put out more chairs and tables.
Give us a couple of details about the Capitol Canteen; is it really a block long?
Jim Deutsch: No, but it is about 220,000 square feet. During WW II there was something called the Hollywood Canteen and the Stage Door Canteen. Anyone in uniform could go inside and you would find Hollywood or Broadway stars serving the men and women in uniform. The Capitol Canteen is patterned after those canteens with music and dance and other entertainment and it's close to the Capitol between 3rd and 4th Sts.
How many people do you expect to be downtown for the celebration this weekend?
Jim Deutsch: We know that there are about 120,000 ticket holders for the dedication events and we have set up a non-ticked viewing area which has seating for 10,000 and standing room for 30,000. That's just the people watching the dedication. So we expect thousands more to be at the reunion. On Saturday there could be 200,000 people along the entire Mall.
I think it's great that World War II veterans are getting overdue recognition; however, as I was jogging down on the Mall last night and seeing the high tech set up, tents, air conditioning units, lights, and thousands of water bottles and chairs I was curious who is footing the bill for this grand weekend?
Jim Deutsch: The American Battle Monuments Commission raised $195 million through private sources and that money was used to build the Memorial and to produce the Dedication Ceremony. The money doesn't come from the American taxpayer.
Doesn't screening everyone through security checkpoints actually increase the security risk by bottle necking the crowd and creating more vulnerable targets? Besides, what's to stop would-be terrorists from standing outside the controlled area and committing their acts? Wouldn't the effect be the same?
Jim Deutsch: Our event, the World War II Reunion, is open to the public. There are no security lines. The Dedication Ceremony will have the security clearances. It's being handled by the Secret Service. President Bush will attend.
My father served in the war, but was unable to come to D.C. for the dedication. He will not talk about the war anyway. But I would like to try and meet anyone who might have served in the same Marine battalion or company as he did. Do you know how I could do so and when would be the best day to try? Thank you for taking my question.
Jim Deutsch: Go to the Web site: National World War II Memorial. We have an electronic message board. (It will stay up for at least the next 100 days.) You can leave a message for any of the units: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, OSS, Manhattan Project.
Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.:
Thanks for your efforts. Its much appreciated by the veterans and their children.
Have you investigated the emergence of Veterans Web sites, created either by the Veterans or their children?
My father and I have created a Web site honoring the 89th Infantry Division, which was the first American Division to liberate a concentration camp (Ohrdruf). It can be viewed at: 89th Infantry Division of World War II
Jim Deutsch: That's exactly what our event is doing which is paying tribute to the WW II generation such as the 89th Division.
Is there a place for memorabilia?
Jim Deutsch: Yes, there are actually two places. One is our tent called Preserving Memories where we have experts from all the military museums who can advise you on ways you can preserve photographs, letters and uniforms, etc. They are there to provide advice. Secondly, the Library of Congress Veterans History Project is collecting memorabilia to preserve a the Library of Congress. They're collecting written memoirs, photographs, documents.
What can younger visitors do?
Jim Deutsch: We have a tent called family activities. Children will be issued a booklet called "Marching Orders," which has a series of hands-on activities to teach them about the Second World War, such as learning how to break codes, learning how to spot planes, learning about rationing and more.
Jim Deutsch: If children finish three or more activities, they earn a medal.
Any mention of the current conflict in Iraq?
Jim Deutsch: I know that some of our speakers will be mentioning it. One of our speakers is Prof. Howard Zinn -- he was a B-24 bombardier in WW II and I am reasonably certain he will make reference to what's happening in Iraq.
Is there any effort to recognize the all people who experienced World War II in one monument anywhere?
I'm thinking of something that would recognize all the lives lost, both military and civilian, on all sides. It seems that most memorials present a political viewpoint of the war while not recognizing its costs in lives and resources.
I believe the numbers would astound most people.
Jim Deutsch: Congress approved the National World War II Memorial and it speaks to the American participation in the war. But I am not aware of any memorial that takes the global perspective.
Are this weekend's activities reflective of the greatest generation?
Jim Deutsch: It is our hope this weekend to pay tribute to the millions of Americans, both on the home front and the battle front who served our country during these most momentous years.
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