The image I took here, a year and a half ago when I was visiting Washington, DC, is just a portion of the much larger World War II Memorial, in the same way that this particular pavilion, the Atlantic, formed only half of a sprawling conflict.
This past Friday marked V-E (Victory in Europe) Day, when citizens of the United States and its transatlantic ally, Great Britain, celebrated the long-awaited defeat of the Nazi regime. Few if any people in the West could have imagined that resistance in Japan would crumble only three months hence, but even the defeat of Hitler and Mussolini was a colossal achievement.
Altogether, 16 million served in the U.S. military during WWII. Approximately 400,000 never came home. This was the so-called “Good War,” the one with a clear military objective and an unambiguous ending.
Even the young service personnel who managed to make it home, however, left their innocence in places such as Normandy Beach, Anzio, Tunisia, Remagen Bridge and other sites recalled in the Atlantic Pavilion. No memorial, no matter how gloriously achieved, can ever convey the magnitude of that loss.