Veterans Day is celebrated each November 11th to honor the service of military veterans. We decided to learn more by visiting the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center.
The Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on the 28th of June 1919 officially ended the Great War, or World War I. But even months before then fighting had ceased between the Allied and Axis Powers on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” Hence, the 11th of November 1918 is highly regarded for having seen the cessation of all hostilities thanks to an armistice. One year later in November 1919 President Woodrow Wilson recognized November 11th as Armistice Day. By 1938 a federal Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) designated November 11th as a legal federal holiday dedicated to world peace. Then in 1954, in the aftermath of the Korean War, the name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to remember veterans everywhere.
Interestingly enough, the 1968 Congress wanted to have three-day weekend holidays for federal employees. The Uniform Holidays Bill was thereby passed to ensure three-day weekends for Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day — with the holiday being observed on a Monday. Under the Uniform Holidays Bill, folks had to observe Veterans Day during the last Monday of October. But confusion arose on the 25th of October 1971 because a number of states preferred observing Veterans Day during the original date rather than make the change. As a result, in 20th September 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed an act that would reinstate the original date for Veterans Day; the act stated that the move would take place in 1978 and return the holiday’s observance to November 11th. Many historians thereby make note that from 1971 to 1977 Veterans Day was formerly observed on a Monday.
The Veterans Museum and Memorial Center has a large collection of US Navy and US Marine Corps memorabilia because it is located in San Diego County, which has a strong naval and marine presence.
If we were to rank all the states based on which had the highest population of military veterans in the nation, California is in first place, as of Fiscal Year 2015, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Second place would go to Texas, then Florida at third, and Washington state in fourth.
Here’s a closer look of the US Navy diving helmet on display at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center. The Veterans Museum and Memorial Center is located in Balboa Park. During World War II, Balboa Park was taken over by the US Navy. It was a practice in WWII for the US government to commandeer resorts, hotels, and large areas to provide housing, medical care, and training grounds for military personnel. In Coronado, California the Hotel del Coronado, for instance, was taken over and designated as a “wartime casualty station.” Similarly, in the Golden State’s city of Monterey, the Hotel Del Monte was taken over for pre-flight school of aviators before eventually becoming Hermann Hall of the Naval Postgraduate School. And, for an example from the Atlantic coast, in St. Pete Beach in Florida, the U.S. Army seized the historic Don CeSar Hotel for use as a hospital and Army Air Force convalescent center before being converted into a Veteran’s Administration regional office. The same took place at the Coral Gables Biltmore Hotel in Florida, where it, too, became a convalescent hospital for the US military.
The Veterans Museum and Memorial Center, meanwhile, was founded in 1989 as a place to commemorate and honor the sacrifices made by American servicemembers. The Veterans Museum and Memorial Center is both a museum and meeting venue for military-related events. The site was a former naval hospital chapel, which accounts for the presence of various stained glass windows.
As of the 4th of August 2001, United States Senate Resolution 143 designated the entire week that November 11th falls on as “National Veterans Awareness Week,” to help remember the efforts and contributions of military veterans.
Did you know that of the 43 American Presidents, 31 of them were military veterans? Twelve of the American Presidents so far have likewise been Generals. Of these illustrious twelve, three held the highest military rank of their era: George Washington, Ulysses Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower.
Here’s a view (see below) of the USS Missouri display at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center. The USS Missouri was the site where Japan signed the documents for their official surrender back in the 2nd of September 1945. Japan was represented by Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and witnessed by diplomat Toshikazu Kase. Also onboard for the ceremony were Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allies.
Speaking of Fleet Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur, both held the rank of five-stars. The five-star rank was established in 1944, during WWII. Only four US Navy admirals received the five-star rank: William Leahy on 15 December 1944, Ernest King on 17 December 1944, Chester Nimitz on 19 December 1944, and William Halsey Jr on 11 December 1945. Five US Army generals have received the five-star rank: George Marshall on 16 December 1944, Douglas MacArthur on 18 December 1944, Dwight Eisenhower on 20 December 1944, Henry “Hap” Arnold on 21 December 1944, and Omar Bradley on 20 September 1950. The US Air Force was not created until 1947; up until then it was part of the US Army, operating as the US Army Air Forces. General Hap Arnold was in charge of the US Army Air Forces during WWII; he retired in 1946. In 1949 Congress re-designated Hap Arnold’s rank as General of the Air Force thus retroactively categorizing him as a five-star for the US Air Force. Did you know that five-stars receive full active duty pay for life? The last five-star general was Omar Bradley, and when General Bradley passed away in 1981, the five-star rank was discontinued. The photo below is of the Korean War exhibit at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center. The Korean War saw General Omar Bradley (who was also Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time and accordingly the chief military policy maker in Washington DC) convince President Harry Truman to dismiss General Douglas MacArthur from the Korean theater. MacArthur was relieved of command in 1951, but the Korean War would rage on until 1953.
The Veterans Museum and Memorial Center has a library that houses more than a thousand military-related volumes. Many are encouraged to visit the library, where they are free to perform research inhouse, since checkouts are not possible at this time.
There are at least five military murals gracing the walls of the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center. Maritime artist Richard de Rosset is credited with their depictions of war.
The Veterans Museum and Memorial Center is funded through grants, memberships, and donations. Many military veterans and their families likewise donate memorabilia, documents, and artifacts to the museum’s ever-growing collection.
The photo above features a quote from President Reagan, and can be found in front of the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center. The etymology of the term veteran reveals that it came into use around 1495-1505. What’s more, the word has roots from the Latin veteranus which means “old, aged, that has been long in use,” then from vetus “advanced in years, of a former time” as it applies to soldiers, as well as the plural noun vetores “men of old, forefathers.” By the 1590s the French had the word vétéran for “old, experienced soldier.”
The B-24 bronze sculpture at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center is by R. Henderson and stands via plinth atop a reflecting pool. The B-24 heavy bomber is known as the Liberator. The aircraft was designed and manufactured in large numbers by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego. In fact, the B-24 is not only the most produced heavy bomber in history but also the most produced American military aircraft of all time — with a total of about 19,000 made in all. No wonder therefore that the sculpture points in the direction of the former Consolidated Aircraft facility with its many aircraft manufacturing plants near San Diego’s Lindbergh Field. In 1943, Consolidated merged with Vultee Aircraft to become Convair.
We learned a lot at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center. We, in turn, recommend a visit to a veterans museum near you to help you reflect on the endeavors made by all military veterans past and present.