From the Executive Director features news and reflections on the work of PHMC by its chief administrator.

The fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II is being observed throughout the Commonwealth with a remarkable array of public events. from a large butter sculpture depicting the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima displayed at this year’s Farm Show in January to a special exhibit devoted to wartime efforts on the home front installed in our own Mobile Museum, Pennsylvanians are being given the opportunity to rediscover an extraordi­nary period in our not-so-distant past.

A volunteer committee supported by the staffs of the Adjutant General’s office and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), among others, has coordinated commemorative exhibits, memorial programs, battle reenactments, and thematic conferences. The committee has also lent encourage­ment and support to communities that have developed their own local projects.

Among the most moving ceremonies I attended this year concerned the Battle of the Bulge. It was during this climactic battle that the Keystone State’s troops saw extensive action and suffered their heaviest casualties. Conducted in the state House of Representatives, the ceremony – replete with speeches, music, prayers, and pageantry – commanded the respect and admiration for World War II veterans by all fortunate to attend. For the veterans who were present, the occasion was clearly an unforgettable milestone.

This year the PHMC will begin work on a World War II memorial at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg, Centre County. The memorial will complement the Twenty-Eighth Division Shrine erected to honor officers who served during World War I. The new memorial will bear the names of all Division members who died in battle during the second World War.

The commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of World War II will conclude in November with a conference at Valley Forge. There exists even the possibility that on Armistice Day (since 1954 called Veterans Day) bells throughout the Commonwealth will toll as a final tribute to those – both on the front line and on the home front – who made victory a reality. I certainly endorse this idea. In a state where military history plays such a prominent role, there should be an appropriate expression of gratitude and remembrance.

The virtues of courage, patriotism, and sacrifice are too often overlooked as forces which have helped shape history. The enduring stories that are being told and retold during this anniversary year remind us of a period in our history when those virtues were made abundant during a critical time, when individuals united for a single purpose, and when the efforts of each citizen – whether at home or abroad­ – made a difference in the outcome. Historians might forever debate the causes and consequences of events, but no one can deny the significance of this period, particularly its indelible impact on ordinary, everyday lives.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director