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Spirit of '45 Day

Spirit of '45 Day honors the legacy of the men and women of the Greatest Generation, who overcame the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and built a lasting peace that gave the generations that followed a brighter future. It takes place on the second Sunday of August, near the anniversary of the date that marked the end of World War II: August 14, 1945. It was on that date—which can be viewed as the greatest day of the Greatest Generation—that President Harry S. Truman announced that Japan had surrendered and that celebrations broke out around the world at news of the war's end.

Spirit of '45 Day is observed in hundreds of communities across America. Events and activities are held at public parks, community centers, memorials, and museums. Events have been held at Major League Baseball games and at Times Square. State veterans homes and senior living communities have hosted open houses. Wreath-laying ceremonies, known as "Tribute to America's Greatest Generation," are held in cemeteries in the United States, especially in VA national cemeteries, and in cemeteries around the world where US soldiers have their final resting place. Spirit of '45, an alliance of organizations and individuals that is behind the day, promotes public awareness of the day and participation in it. The group has sponsored a National Leaders Conference and a National Unity Tour on the day. They have also held celebrations marking milestone anniversaries of the end of the war, such as on the 70th anniversary of its conclusion.

The beginnings of the holiday go back to 2008. On August 14, 2008, Spirit of '45 held a symposium in California that was attended by history and heritage organizations that took part in a workshop on how to support each other's missions. Out of this came an idea for a new day dedicated to the achievements of the World War II generation. Edith Shain, one of the women who claimed to be in the famous V-J Day in Times Square photo, was there and suggested the idea for the day. The following year, Shain and Stories of Service national spokesman and movie star Ernest Borgnine were honorary grand marshals at the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C. Following the parade, they attended a rally at the National World War II Memorial where they talked about the need for a holiday that honored the achievements of the men and women of their generation.

With the support from individuals and organizations, Spirit of '45 lobbied Congress, and a resolution for Spirit of '45 Day was passed unanimously in 2010. The resolution was introduced by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), whose father was a World War II veteran who had fought in the Battle of the Bulge. The resolution was supported by Senators Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the last two World War II veterans serving in the Senate. The day was co-sponsored by more than 75 members of the House of Representatives. Many state and local officials have since issued supporting proclamations for the day.

At its outset, the day presented an opportunity to say thanks to members of the Greatest Generation. But as time passed and the generation passed away, the day has shifted to preserving the memory of what the Greatest Generation faced and accomplished, and serves "as an annual call for re-dedication to their can-do spirit of courage, self-sacrifice and national unity, to help America face and solve its current and future challenges." With Spirit of '45 Day, the spirit of a generation lives on, inspiring new generations to lead lives of purpose.

How to Observe Spirit of '45 Day

The following are some ideas of ways to take part in the day:

  • Attend a Spirit of '45 Day event. Public parks, community centers, and memorials are some of the places where events are held. Events are also held at museums. There are many museums dedicated to World War II in the United States and around the world, the National WWII Museum in New Orleans being one of the most prominent. Wreath-laying ceremonies are held at cemeteries, and events are often held at Major League Baseball games and in Times Square.
  • Check out the Spirit of '45 website for information and resources about the day. The Spirit of '45 has sponsored events such as the National Leaders Conference and National Unity Tour. You could also check out the Spirit of '45 Facebook page.
  • Request a proclamation of support for the day from your mayor or city council.
  • Watch a film like Honor Flight, A Rendezvous With Destiny, or The War.
  • Listen to the August 14, 1945, Command Performance and read David Brooks' Op Ed that addresses it.
  • Read, watch, or listen to oral histories from members of the Greatest Generation. You could watch an oral history interview of Daniel Inouye, one of the Senators and World War II veterans who co-sponsored the Congressional resolution for Spirit of '45 Day.
  • Read The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw.

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