World War II Memorial unveiled on Veterans Day
Through their passion, optimism, courage, and heroism they took up the struggle during the Second World War and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us:
A Nation conceived in Liberty and Justice
Thus reads the inscription on the new World War II monument unveiled in the Fairfax Street square on Veterans Day. Several hundred people filled the square Sunday to see the memorial and take part in the day's ceremonies.
The crowd included members of
American Legion Post 60, many
World War II veterans – some dressed
in their WWII uniforms, airmen from the 167 Airlift Command in Martinsburg, state, county and local dignitaries, and citizens of Berkeley Springs and Morgan County.
"The work we have done is not so much for those that are here, but for the sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters of those whose names are on the monument," said C. Edward Middlekauff, WWII veteran, Legionnaire and designer of the memorial.
How it came to be
Middlekauff first conceived the idea for a memorial in 1991 after discussions with fellow WWII veterans and women's auxiliary members at American Legion Post 60. He began the long and arduous task of collecting the names to appear on the monument.
A rectangular memorial made of plywood that had many names of county WWII veterans had once stood on the corner of Mercer and Fairfax streets.
From an old photograph of the wooden memorial and using a magnifying glass, Middlekauff was able to decipher approximately 800 names. Some names were nearly illegible, but it was a good start to the list.
Middlekauff realized he would be hard-pressed to finish the list alone. He sought out veterans at the American Legion who were interested in working on the memorial.
Along with Middlekauff, Charles
S. Courtney, William S. Frederick, Robert L. Hawvermale, Richard J. Rohn, Herbert R. Tobias, Jr. and Charles E. Webster formed the Morgan County World War
II Memorial Association. Webster, like Courtney and Middlekauff, is a WWII
The association searched high school yearbooks, graveyard registries, lists from churches, family records and talked to veterans at American Legion hall, in search of names for the list.
"No stone was left unturned," Middlekauff said.
The result was a list of 1,147 names of veterans who served during the war.
Middlekauff did not want the WWII Memorial monument to either dwarf the existing war memorial on the green, or be dwarfed by it, and wanted the bases of both monuments to look the same.
As the plan for the memorial took shape, Middlekauf was able to create an extensive, detailed set of engineering diagrams of each section of the memorial.
The committee then enlisted the help of then State Delegate Charles S. Trump who brought State Senator Walt Helmick into the project.
In May 2006, Helmick came to Berkeley Springs and announced that a $150,000 grant for the project had been awarded to the Morgan County World War II Memorial Association. Many citizens and local businesses also contributed to the cause.
"The committee, Charles (Trump) and
I worked diligently to get money for
the memorial, and it was a significant
contribution," Helmick said Sunday. Helmick said that Governor Joe Manchin was in favor of the project and the state legislature approved the grant.
Ground was broken on the green in front of Magistrate Court June 4, and the foundation poured June 5 - 6.
Granite for the monument came from Vermont, bronze plaques with the names were cast in Pittsburgh and Gordon's Memorials of Pennsylvania completed the assembly of the monument Thursday, November 8.
American Legion Post 60 provided a color guard and Shelly Champion sang the National Anthem.
Robert L. Hawvermale spoke briefly noting that 25% of all eligible males in Morgan County served during the war. He said the monument was "for those individuals who answered the call in our country's greatest need."
"In freedom's darkest hour, they donned the uniform and saved freedom for this country and for the world," Trump said in dedication.
"Our dreams would have been gone forever if not for the names etched on this monument. I am so very proud of having played a small part in this effort," Helmick said.
The monument was unveiled by committee members Courtney and Webster. Courtney told Middlekauff several months ago that he wasn't sure he would live long enough to see the memorial.
"Charley, you made it!" Middlekauff said from the podium after the monument was unveiled.
The ceremony concluded with Champion leading the crowd in two choruses of God Bless America.
A reception was held afterward at American Legion hall.