Work set to begin on Oregon's WWII memorial

SALEM, Ore. - The onsite construction of Oregon's World War II Memorial will begin Monday on the grounds of the State Capitol in Salem, officials said Thursday.

While no formal ceremony will occur, at 11 a.m. World War II Memorial Foundation board members and President Lou Jaffe, ODVA Director Cameron Smith, and supporters will be observing the start of construction.

A formal dedication ceremony at the memorial is planned this year on June 6, the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy, France on D-Day.

Jaffe said the purpose of the memorial is not only to honor that war's veterans, but to educate young people.

The memorial will honor members of the armed services, and everyone on the home front who demonstrated support through their work in the shipyards, in hospitals, as coast watchers, on the farms and elsewhere.

That includes women who built ships in Portland and schoolchildren who held scrap metal drives and hauled wagons full of tin cans to make their small but significant contributions.

"It was probably our nation's finest hour, coming together in a unified manner. And that's what we're trying to preserve. All will be acknowledged in a series of storyboards that highlight Oregon's involvement in the war on the home front and specific military units," Jaffe said. "The veterans, families and Oregonians who participated in World War II deserve to have a memorial."

Located at the corner of Cottage and Court streets, the memorial will cover a 75 by 75 foot area. At its center will be a 33-foot-high obelisk, referring to Oregon being the 33rd state in the union. A world map will be engraved on the memorial's footprint with markers for major battles and theaters of operation.

Oregon is one of only six states in the U.S. without a World War II memorial to honor its resident veterans. In 2011, then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Oregon Legislature formalized a task force and foundation, authorizing it to build an official memorial in Salem.

The foundation's late-2013 fund raising efforts activated several matching grants that helped the project come closer to its needed goal of raising $1.135 million before construction could begin. Jaffe expressed deep appreciation for the generosity of the Larry and Jeannette Epping Family Fund, the Murdock Charitable Trust, the R.H. Parker/United Foundation, Dick Withnell, and several other major contributors who helped make this endeavor a reality.

"But the largest donation came from the state of Oregon, who provided funding and support," he said. "We are incredibly grateful to them and to the hundreds of private donors, too."

Along the corner of a low wall on the memorial are the engraved names of the Oregon service members who died in or as the result of combat. Two black granite benches will invite visitors to sit and reflect on our nation and state's shared sacrifice during wartime.

With more than 1,200 veterans from that war passing away each day nationally, there has been a strong sense of urgency to build the memorial. Approximately 152,000 Oregonians served in World War II and of those, more than 3,700 gave their lives. There are more than 20,000 Oregonian World War II veterans still living.

For information regarding the memorial's construction, contact project manager Bob Plame, 503-887-6033.

Donations to the memorial are still being accepted at: www.oregonwwiimemorial.com.

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