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February 12, 2005

Where is 'so help us God' on the WWII Memorial?

The newly dedicated World War II Memorial in Washington has been well publicized. It seems to have attracted more than the usual amount of criticism for various reasons. Of course, I haven't seen it, except in news photos, so I cannot render an opinion, but I thought you might be interested in the following bit of information that has been making the Internet rounds. Here it is. You be the judge.

I don't care if you are an unbeliever, one should not change the words of history. Today I went to visit the new World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. I got an unexpected history lesson. Since I'm a baby boomer, I was one of the youngest in the crowd. Most were the age of my parents, veterans of "the greatest war" with their families. It was a beautiful day, and people were smiling and happy to be there. On the Pacific side of the memorial, a group gathered to read the words President Roosevelt used to announce the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a day which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked." One woman read the words aloud. "With confidence in our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph." But as she read she was suddenly angry. "Wait a minute," she said. "They left out the most important part. Roosevelt said, 'so help us God'." "You're probably right," her husband said. "We're not supposed to say things like that now." "I know I'm right," she insisted. "I remember the speech." The two shook their heads and walked away. Listening to their conversation, I thought to myself, "Well, it has been 50 years. She has probably forgotten." But she was right. I went home and pulled out the book my book club was reading. It's Flags of Our Fathers, by James Bradley.

It's all about Iwo Jima. I haven't gotten too far in the book. It's tough to read because it's a graphic description of the battles in the Pacific. But right there it was on page 58. Roosevelt's speech to the nation. It ends " help us God." The people who edited out that part of Roosevelt's speech when they engraved it on the memorial could have fooled me.

I was born after the war. But they couldn't fool the people who were there. Roosevelt's words are engraved on their hearts. Who gave them the right to change the words of history?

Personally, and this is just me speaking, I think anyone who is old enough to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt's speech the next day will remember his closing comment and it should have been included on the memorial. Does this oversight make you angry?