Tom Stangl

A bit lost in the shuffle of the coronavirus world is the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. 

May 8 marked the diamond anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E Day). Victory in Japan (V-J Day) is Aug. 14 and the official end of the war was Sept. 2, 1945 when Japan signed the instrument of surrender on the USS Missouri.

It’s difficult today to grasp the enormity of what transpired in the six years the war raged over nearly every continent on the planet. More than 16 million American men and women served in uniform during the war, more than 400,000 lost their lives.

Many of the men who left to fight were no more than teenagers who went off to help decide the fate of freedom in the world. Pretty heady stuff. The young men who saw combat were changed forever. The soldiers who fought against young boys and old men at the war’s end and liberated prison and concentration camps also saw things that no one should ever have to see.

When documentarian Ken Burns released his 15-hour film about World War II, simply titled “The War,” in 2007, he focused on four communities: Waterbury, Connecticut, Mobile, Alabama, Luverne, Minnesota, and Sacramento, California, finding veterans and residents who lived during the war to bring a uniquely personal and firsthand touch, making history come alive.

My late father served in the Army as a medic during the war, seeing action in the Philippines. He never really spoke much about his experiences during the war. After watching this program, I understood my father better and his reasons for not speaking about what he had seen. His generation felt that they were each doing their part and were raised as humble people. I wish now that I would have been able to get him to tell me more about what he experienced.

Seeing this documentary has made me understand how profoundly the war changed our nation. In addition to uniting us as people in a way that has never been seen before or since, the war planted the seeds of change for our society and our nation’s place in the world.

The civil rights and women’s movements can trace their roots back to the war. It seems strange to us in 2020 to imagine that a wounded African American soldier could get his wounds treated on a hospital ship, but the barber refused to give him a haircut until ordered to do so by the captain of the ship. The shortage of workers during the war led many women to seek jobs that were traditionally done by men. Winning the war with our allies made us a superpower.

To mark the Diamond Anniversary of the end of World War II, we would like to put together a collection of the names and photos of the men and women who served in the armed services during the war. If you have information and photos of a veteran, please consider sharing them with us.

We have constructed an online form where you can give us some information and upload a photo. We will also be working with local veterans groups to collect names so we can celebrate the service of local veterans of the war.

We plan on publishing the section in August and appreciate your help.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

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