Brooklyn War Memorial

Brooklyn War Memorial

Brooklyn War Memorial, Wikipedia / Daderot. More Wikipedia photos here.

Why this memorial, why here

After World War I, neighborhoods throughout New York City raised memorials to the fallen, ranging from eagles on pedestals to the Inwood War Memorial and the 107th Infantry Memorial. By my count, there are about 30 memorials for World War I in the 5 boroughs.

Four times as many soldiers died in World War II, but the only memorials in New York City are this one and the East Coast Memorial, which honors 4,596 World War II servicemen lost in the Atlantic. Why so few? Because Robert Moses, the czar of the New York City Parks Department for decades, decided that it would be tidier if each borough had a single large memorial to World War II, rather than many small ones.

Only Brooklyn gathered enough funds for a grand monument. Even that wasn’t completed on the scale of its original design. It stands in Cadman Plaza, near the east end of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The name of the war

One of the lists of "this day in history" on the Net announces that on April 28, 1942, the ongoing conflict was named "World War II" as the result of a Gallup Poll. Gallup's own list of polls that shaped history doesn't mention such a poll, so chances are that's apocryphal.

Much more persuasive is this letter of 9/10/1945, from the secretary of War and the secretary of the Navy, signed by President Harry Truman the following day. The letter cited a 1919 document naming the conflict of 1914-1918 as "the World War," and suggested that:

As a matter of simplicity and to insure uniform terminology, it is recommended that "World War II" be the officially designated name for the present war covering all theaters and the entire period of hostilities. The term "World War II" has been used in at least seven public laws to designate this period of hostilities. Analysis of publications and radio programs indicates that this term has been accepted by common usage.

Further reading