The Southwestern Pennsylvania World War II Memorial Opens on Pittsburgh’s North Shore

troops 2 troopsBy: Paula Green

             World War II began in 1939, and for the first two years of the conflict the United States remained neutral.   Our country was drawn into the battle on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed our naval station in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  President Roosevelt declared it as “a date which will live in infamy.”   After much outrage, the U.S. declared war on Japan the next day.
        16.1 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II, over 400,000 of them died in combat.   According to the Dept. of Veterans Services approximately 4,000 of those individuals that perished were from Western Pennsylvania.
        The war finally came to a dramatic end on May 8, 1945, when Adolf Hitler committed suicide.  News quickly spread about his death and the guns fell silent. Winston Churchill the then prime minister announced Victory in Europe.
       Although it ended 68 years ago, it is a time in our history that we’ll never forget.  Those who gallantly fought in this raging battle will now be finally honored in the Pittsburgh region. 
       The long-awaited Southwestern Pennsylvania World War II Memorial will be unveiled at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 6.  It is located on the banks of the NorthShoreRiverfrontPark on a portion of the Great Lawn called the Bosque.
       This initiative began eight years ago with a national design competition, in which WashingtonD.C. based artist Larry Kirkland and Design Workshop were chosen to spearhead the project.  The outdoor elliptical-shaped memorial utilizes glass and granite panels that describe the magnitude of the conflict.  The images emphasis both the Pacific and European campaigns and tell the narrative story of the war.
      “The granite is from India, and the images on the panels were produced in Portland, Ore.  It has been many years in the making, but we are excited for its dedication,” said Wexford resident, Howard Pfeifer, who served in the Merchant Marines.
       As visitors enter the heart of the memorial they will observe a large pole-mounted flag.  The interior is devoted to local history, while the exterior describes the story of the war around the world.   The memorial also spotlights the part our region played in the combat and it focuses on the sacrifices of local veterans. 
        Two of our area natives received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, for their actions during World War II.  Both awards carried an additional level of distinction: Technical Sergeant Charles E. “Commando” Kelly of Pittsburgh’s North Side was the first enlisted man to be cited for service on the European Continent, while First Sergeant Leonard Funk, from Braddock Hills, was the war’s most decorated U.S. paratrooper.
       These are just two of the many local heroes that fought in World War II, be sure to visit the newly dedicated memorial and honor their valor.