Shortly after 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 12, a pair of buglers will blow Echo Taps across the UW’s World War II Memorial Plaza by the flagpole north of “Red Square.” It will be a solemn start for something called “A Day of Celebration.” But the event being celebrated, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, is bittersweet—an occasion for bowed heads as well as raised glasses. A keynote address by former Speaker of the House Tom Foley, ’51, ’57, is the day’s highlight, but a memorial ceremony had to come first.
“We put the flagpole ceremony at the head of the day,” says Carl Walske, ’44, chairman of the organizing committee, “because it didn’t seem appropriate for the survivors to be celebrating without remembering the ones who didn’t come back. There were quite a bunch, you know.”
The gathering will then move from Memorial Plaza to the HUB for a program of WWII-vintage jazz, some socializing, a luncheon and Foley’s address. The day will conclude with a reception at Clark Hall.
Initially, the “Day of Celebration” was going to be merely that. “We started it, above all, to have some fun together,” Walske says. That objective remains, but as planning progressed the committee decided that the anniversary warranted something more substantive as well. The results include not only the flagpole ceremony but a three-month WWII lecture series.
“We thought, ‘Well, we should have some serious talk here, too, not just have a pleasant lunch together,’” says Walske. “And when we began to think about the things that might fit into such a talk, the subject matter became much too voluminous to handle as an event in a day. So we broke off the lecture series, and got some enthusiasm from the professors over in the history department. So that took a life of its own.”
Although the series started in May, there are single tickets left for each of the remaining lectures. UW History Professor Quintard Taylor presents “The War and Race: A Changed America?” on June 14. UW History Professor John Findlay speaks Tuesday, June 28, on “The War and the Transformation of the Pacific Northwest.” On Tuesday, July 12, History Professor Emeritus Otis Pease will discuss “The Meaning of World War II for Americans Who Fought in it.” History Professor Wilton Fowler continues the series on Tuesday, July 26, with “The War as a Diplomatic Revolution for the United States.” All lectures start at 6:30 p.m. in Kane 130.
It’s no exaggeration to call WWII the definitive event of the 20th century, says Walske, who served on a Navy destroyer in 1944–45. In retrospect, virtually everything else appears to be either a prelude or a consequence.
“The ’30s were ominous,” he says, “with the rising threat of the dictatorships, plus the Depression. Then we moved into the war, and we all moved in together. It was a very special experience, and it encompassed everyone, whether they were on a destroyer or home in a factory working. It was a momentous thing, and it lasted quite a while, and after a very bad beginning at Pearl Harbor, we weren’t 100 percent sure how it was all going to come out. So it was something to leave an impression,” he says.
For more information about the WWII Lecture Series or “A Day of Celebration,” visit UWalum.com.