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Greatest Generation Day Committee recognizes 75th anniversary of WWII's end amid pandemic

Posted at 7:03 AM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 07:03:30-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — This week, the Greatest Generation Day Committee is observing the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II through a socially distanced display and virtual events in Grand Rapids.

The war ended on September 2, 1945, with the signing of the Instrument of Surrender by Japan aboard the U.S. Navy battleship USS Missouri.

To recognize the anniversary, a portrait display was unveiled Sunday on the front lawn of The Village of Heather Hill in Grand Rapids.

Portraits of 75 veterans are placed across the lawn with American flags on each.

Each portrait shares the name of the veteran, the branch he or she served in, and a few details about their service.

"It's a sacred spaces," said Margaret Howard, The Greatest Generation Day Committee. "You walk around, you envision these men and women -- some on the battlefield, some in the air, some here in the United States -- working behind the scenes. This war was a global effort and certainly a united American effort. When you walk amongst these pictures, you cannot help but feel these stories come to life. It is just, it's humbling. It's a sacred space."

Organizers say the 75th anniversary is crucial to recognize, because we are losing WWII veterans every single day.

"This anniversary is so significant. For some veterans it may be the first time they are thanked," said Howard. "And we know for some of our veterans it may be the last time they are thanked. It is that important. I encourage people to come out."

The portrait display will remain open Monday, August 31, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

You can drive by or park your car and walk through the lawn display.

The Greatest Generation Day Committee has also worked closely with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum to put on virtual anniversary events that will take place on Sept. 1 and Sept. 2.

"Really the mastermind behind all of this was Joel Westphal, the deputy director of the Ford Museum," said Howard. "Joel knew that this was a significant day in history that could not be overlooked."

Organizers say the events were supposed to be much grander in downtown Grand Rapids, but they had to be downsized and to be made safe for community members to participate.

"It absolutely was going to look much different. It was going to be a three-day celebration. We anticipated thousands of people participating live and in person," said Howard. "Due to the pandemic, we have changed things dramatically but still not losing the essence of recognizing and honoring these veterans."

Here are the events taking place:

TUESDAY, SEPT. 1, 2020 – 6:30 p.m.

  • “In Memoriam Remembrance and Bell Ringing”
  • Talk by Jim DeFelice: Hear master storyteller, NY Times Bestselling author Jim DeFelice, known for his vivid, raw, and powerful portrayals of modern American military heroes, as he honors those who gave their lives during the Second World War.
  • Attend Virtually by watching on Facebook Live on the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation or Museum.
  • Join representatives from Allied Nations as they honor and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during WWII.


  • B17, C47, B25 World War II Plane Flyover - 6:00 PM View along the Grand River (various bridges in downtown Grand Rapids)
  • Guest Speaker: Chris Wallace, Author of "Countdown 1945" -7:00 p.m.
  • Attend Virtually by watching on Facebook Live on the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation or Museum.

For more information, click here.