Letter from the Editor

On September 3, 1939, Winston Churchill, not yet Prime Minister but returning to the cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty, addressed the House of Commons:

“We are fighting to save the whole world from the pestilence of Nazi tyranny and in defense of all that is most sacred to man. This is no war of domination or imperial aggrandizement or material gain; no war to shut any country out of its sunlight and means of progress. It is a war, viewed in its inherent quality, to establish, on impregnable rocks, the rights of the individual, and it is a war to establish and revive the stature of man.”

World War II was not merely the defining event of the 20th Century; it was nothing short of the ultimate showdown between competing views of the world, and man’s place in it. On one side was the idea that all men were endowed with certain unalienable rights, the ones we today know so well: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This belief, rooted in traditions of English liberty and nurtured by the “American Experiment,” argued the value of the individual, that each man was free to live his life in whichever way he saw fit.

The other view had long been known to mankind, as well. This view held that the individual was secondary to the state, or to his race. The glory of the whole was most important, and the ideas of liberty were an obstacle to this end. This view is incompatible with the democratic ideals we know today, and lends itself to totalitarianism in all its forms, whether they be fascism, National Socialism, or Communism. The first of these competing views was embodied by Winston Churchill, and the Anglo-American alliance. The second, by Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Mussolini’s Italy (as well as Stalin’s Soviet Union, which as proved by the subsequent Cold War, was no friend to individual liberties). While the defeat of the Axis powers might not have ensured the end of all tyranny around the world, had the Allies fallen, freedom as the West knows today would surely have been doomed. Because of this, the importance of World War II in history cannot be stressed enough, a fact that seems to have become even more clear over time.

As time passes, and the realization of the importance of World War II to our history grows, it is imperative that today’s young people be given the opportunity to learn about, and from, the men and women who fought and won the war. Last November, the World War II Veterans Committee brought together some of America’s greatest living veterans to meet with and speak to hundreds of high school and college students, in what was for most of them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Here, these students met men who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima. They met survivors of the horrific Bataan Death March and the Holocaust. They learned from celebrated veterans like the Band of Brothers, Bob Feller, and Jack Valenti, as well as those who served in obscurity in the too-often overlooked China-Burma-India Theater. This is all thanks to the help of thousands of supporters of the World War II Veterans Committee, without whom, this event would not have been possible.

Today’s students will be counted on to not only carry on the legacy of the World War II generation, they will be tomorrow’s leaders. In order to know where we, as Americans, are going, they first need to know where we have been. Even more importantly, they need to understand the values that make us who we are. Most are eager to learn about World War II history, if only we take the time to teach them. The World War II Veterans Committee is dedicated to bringing the legacy of the “Greatest Generation” to the latest generation, and thanks to your support, will continue to do so for years to come.