Spirit of '45' Celebration

Louisville event to honor area's
World War II veterans

August marks the 70th anniversary of
the end of the 'Great War'

(August 2015) – This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known as the “Great War.” While the Japanese surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945, the final treaty signing did not take place until Sept. 2 aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. It is still celebrated each year as Victory in Japan, or VJ Day, although the date changes. This year’s VJ Day is Aug. 15.

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By that time, the Germans had already surrendered earlier on May 8, marking what is today celebrated as Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day. It celebrates the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the destruction of Hitler’s Third Reich.
As each year passes, fewer World War II veterans are alive to be recognized for their service and sacrifice. Most are in their late 80s or early 90s.
To mark the 70th anniversary, an organization known as Spirit of ’45 has been holding events across the country throughout this year. Several events are planned in August in various cities, including one in Louisville, Ky. “Spirit of ’45 – Kentucky” is being planned for the weekend of Aug. 14-16 and will feature a number of events, according to co-chair Dell Courtney of Prospect. Veterans’ organizations across the state will hold all types of observances, from visits to assisted living facilities where veterans live to ceremonies at their own posts or halls. These observances will vary from simple presentations of The Colors and the rending of Taps to discussions and oral history recordings.

Festivities in Louisville, Ky.

• Friday, Aug. 14: Veterans organizations across Kentucky will hold various observances and commemorations.
• Saturday, Aug. 15: Displays, exhibits, children’s activities, special recognition of veterans and more from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Hangar 5, Bowman Field on Taylorsville Rd., Louisville, Ky.
• Saturday, Aug. 15: Canteen Dinner and Dance, 6-10 p.m. at Hangar 5, Bowman Field. Tickets $45 and includes buffet dinner, music by the Don Krekel Orchestra, cash bar, souvenirs.
• Sunday, Aug. 16: Honor Flight Dinner, 5 p.m. at VFW Post 1170 in Middletown, Ky. Free for those World War II veterans too ill to make the trip to Washington, D.C., and a guest. Featuring a video presentation on the June 6, 2015 Honor Flight.
• Information: Contact Dell Courtney, co-chair, at (502) 387-4412 or visit: www.SpiritOf45.org.

In Louisville, festivities will kick off Saturday, Aug. 15, and last from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. A free World War II military display will be open to the public that day at Hangar 5 of Bowman Field, just off Taylorsville Road. It will include displays of vintage aircraft and restored military equipment and vehicles as well as exhibits from local companies that produced equipment and supplies for the war effort. Special recognition of the role women played in the war will be made. There will be children’s activities and an area for veterans and their families to display personal memorabilia. The University of Louisville, Louisville Free Public Library, Frazier History Museum and other historical organizations also will provide exhibits.
An opening and closing ceremony will take place, with special recognition of World War II veterans.

Coming Next Month:
More profiles of local
World War II veterans

From 6-10 p.m. Saturday, there will be the Canteen Dinner and Dance at Hangar 5. Admission is $45 and requires payment in advance. It will include a buffet dinner reminiscent of the late 1940s, with non-alcoholic beverages and music by the Don Krekel Orchestra. There will be a complimentary Donut Station and a cash bar, with commemorative souvenirs available.
On Sunday, Aug. 16, a special Honor Flight Dinner is being planned at 5 p.m. at VFW Post 1170 in Middletown, Ky. The dinner will be free for those area World War II veterans who are unable to make the trip to Washington, D.C., because of ill health. They will be allowed to bring one guest for free as well. The Honor Flight Dinner is sponsored by the Office of the President at the University of Louisville. The evening will include a video produced by Michael Lattin documenting the June 6, 2015, Honor Flight.
Also on Sunday, observances are planned at Kentucky’s seven national and four state veterans cemeteries as well as at other memorials. National cemeteries are located in Louisville (Zachary Taylor and Cave Hill), Nancy-Mill Springs, Lebanon, Danville, Nicholasville (Camp Nelson) and Lexington. State cemeteries are located in Radcliff, Williamstown, Hopkinsville and Greenup County.

Photo provided

Cap. (ret.) Jerry Yellin of Fairfield, Iowa, salutes the flag during the National Anthem prior to this year's Indy 500 race in Indianapolis.

“We want to make these events family friendly and all inclusive for World War II veterans and their families,” Courtney said. “We hope the public will take time to participate and help us honor these veterans.”
In addition to the Louisville events, the Spirit of ‘45 70th Anniversary Commemo-ration Weekend will kick off at noon Friday, Aug. 14, in Manhattan’s Times Square in New York with a mass re-enactment of the famous kiss that became the symbol of hope, love and freedom around the world – and the Spirit of ‘45. Kick off announcements will be made simultaneously in front of the monumental “Kiss” sculptures at noon in Sarasota, Fla., and in San Diego at 9 a.m. PST, and later that day at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Mass., the Battleship Iowa in Los Angeles, and the Battleship Missouri in Pearl Harbor.
Jeff Thoke, a Trimble County, Ky., resident who works as the Main Street Manager and Economic Development Coordinator for New Castle, Ky., three years ago began researching and locating World War II veterans living the Kentuckiana region. In an effort to honor these veterans, he organized the Patriotic Festival, held in May in New Castle, complete with a parade. In the first year, he was able to find and get 10 veterans to participate. Last year, that number grew to 13. This year, the Patriotic Festival honored 23 World War II veterans.

Photo provided

New Yorkers celebrate
V-E Day in this classic photo from the time.

“It was incredible and very cool to have all of these veterans take part,” Thoke said. “They are dying at an alarming rate, so we must do our part to show our gratitude while we can.”
Thoke is now serving on the planning committee for Spirit of ’45 – Kentucky. His own father, Robert Thoke, was a World War II veteran, serving as a co-pilot aboard B-17 Bombers and B-29 Bombers. He says organizing the Patriotic Festival each year “is something I can do in remembrance of my father. He would now be 92 years old.”
With his research, Thoke has become a resource for others seeking veterans from Henry, Trimble, Oldham, Shelby and other areas, including Madison, Ind. For his part, Thoke has been able to accompany a few local veterans to Washington, D.C., as part of the national Honor Flight program. An Honor Flight is conducted by nonprofit organizations dedicated to transporting to Washington, D.C., as many United States military veterans as possible to see the memorials of their respective wars they fought, and at no cost to the veterans.
Many events already have taken place this year to commemorate the 70th anniversary. For instance, on May 24, Capt. (ret.) Jerry Yellin, 91, of Fairfield, Iowa, was invited by Grant Thompson, founder and chairman of Indy Honor Flight, to join 10 recent Honor Flight veterans to be present for the playing of the National Anthem prior to the start of the Indianapolis 500. It was an emotional moment for the veterans, who stood trackside before a crowd of nearly 300,000. Yellin has the distinction of having flown the final combat mission of World War II on Aug. 14, 1945, and is a national spokesman for “Keep the Spirit of ‘45.”
Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, an Oldham County, Ky., native and chancellor of the University of Richmond (Va.), served as grand marshal at the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C.
He is a World War II Marine veteran of the Battle of Okinawa, honored the Gold Star Families of America by riding his motorcycle 6,000 miles from Quantico, VA to Camp Pendleton, Calif., and back to Washington, D.C., where he appeared in the National Memorial Day Parade leading the Spirit of ‘45 float with hundreds of youth volunteers carrying photos of the more than 400,000 who made the ultimate sacrifice. Heilman was honored two years ago as a “Champion of Oldham County History” by the Oldham County Historical Society.
As a special tribute to some of our area World War II veterans, RoundAbout presents this special commemorate edition by featuring their profiles. Thoke also agreed to write about his experiences of locating and interacting with these veterans of that Great War.
Many of us have friends, relatives and family members who served in World War II. But few of those loved ones are still alive today to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of that “Great War.” Through these efforts, it is hoped that the memories of their service and sacrifice will long endure.

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