May 30, 1998, was “A Day To Remember” in White County, as citizens proudly dedicated the new War Memorial on the Courthouse Square. Former County Judge Forrest Waller was excited to be chosen as a speaker for the World War II portion of this poignant event. Unfortunately, illness kept him away as the Courthouse bell tolled in salute to veterans on that bright spring morning. White County Historical Society president Eddie Best, a member of the Memorial Committee, requested and received the handwritten notes that Waller had planned to use. Forrest Waller died September 28, 2000. Following is the talk that he never gave.
hen we think of World War II we remember it as a global conflict, because there were 70 nations involved to some degree in the war.
Between World War I and II there was a brief span of peace – 21 years.
During this time, the nations of Germany managed to build a powerful military complex. With that military machine Germany attacked Poland in 1939. Poland had to surrender within a period of a few weeks. Their military forces were no match for the Germans.
During the next two years eight other nations fell to the same fate of Poland. The situation was becoming very alarming. The United States was alarmed. We knew not when or by what incident we would be drawn into this war.
The answer to these concerns came unexpectedly when in the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, without warning the Japanese air force attacked our Pacific fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. The devastation was sickening – the loss of life and a sizeable portion of the fleet. This act on the part of Japan meant war. The following day Congress declared war on Japan. Two days later it declared war on Germany, Italy and the axis powers. Now we were faced with war in Europe and war in the Pacific with Japan.
The drain on the resources of the U.S. were staggering, but I think the spirit of America arose to the occasion as it so often had done in our history. Everyone worked together to win the war – War Bonds were sold in the millions. Those not subject to the military went to the factories. American women entered the work force. It was only in the concerted effort that we were able to meet the demands thrust upon us.
Some of President Lincoln’s words in his famous Gettysburg speech are applicable to us here today. He said, “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but can never forget what the brave men did here.”
Neither will we forget what the brave White County boys did along with their comrades to secure our peace and democracy. Those whose names appear on the Memorial gave their lives. They were not strangers to us. They were our friends, our neighbors.
We are so glad we can honor them on this Memorial service.
God bless every one. God bless America.