5 Ways to Honor Military Service on Veterans Day in Duluth
By Kyle Chisholm
First… Some Background on Veterans Day
Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day and was first obsevced on November 11, 1919 to commemorate the end of The Great War (prior to being known as World War I) which concluded on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918. The Great War was unlike any previous war with death tolls reaching an unimaginable scale. A Congressional Act approved on May 13, 1938, formalized Armistice Day as a legal holiday: “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.
Although Armistice Day was initially created to honor Americans who fought in The Great War, by the 1950s the U.S. had been involved in several more conflicts: World War II and The Korean War. Efforts were made to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans and on June 1, 1954 the U.S. Congress passed an amendment replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans”. November 11th has been known as Veterans Day ever since.
Honoring Veterans Day in Duluth
1. Veterans Memorial Hall
Veterans Memorial Hall is located in the Great Hall of the Duluth Union Depot and honors St. Louis County veterans. Some of the highlights include exhibits honoring the last survivor of the Union Army who served during the American Civil War, Albert Woolson, World War II veteran and recipient of the Medal of Honor, Mike Colallio, and the ship U.S.S. Duluth, which served in both Vietnam and Somalia. You can learn more about the Veterans Memorial Hall by visiting www.vets-hall.org.
2. Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center
Although not in Duluth… you’ll want to check this one out. You’ve probably travelled across the Bong Bridge to Superior and you might want to learn who the bridge is named after: Richard I. Bong from Poplar, WI. During World War II Bong used his Lockheed P-38 Lightning to shoot down over 40 enemy aircraft in the Pacific Theater of battle, making him an ace of aces.
Despite being invincible in battle, Richard Bong died during a Lockheed test flight crash shortly before the war ended in 1945. If you visit the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior you’ll see artifacts from both the Pacific and European Theaters of battle, view interactive displays, and see the fully restored P-38 named for Richard’s wife Marge.
You can learn more about the Richard I. Bong Museum by visiting www.bvhcenter.org.
3. Commemorative Air Force Lake Superior Squadron Museum
A less well known – yet equally fascinating – museum is the Commemorative Air Force Lake Superior Squadron Museum in Duluth. The museum consists of 6 rooms covering the Pacific Theatre, European Theatre, Flight Simulator Room, Cold War, Local History and aircraft design. If you’re particular interested in World War II artifacts, this museum is for you. What I consider to be the most interesting parts of their museum is an exhibit depicting a typical American living room during the war.
The museum’s most well-known exhibit is the Catalina “flying boat” which was used for ocean reconnaissance during World War II. And while you’re up that way, continue over to the James Oberstar Terminal of the Duluth International Airport and check out the statue of Duluth’s Joe Gomer who was a Tuskegee Airman during WWII.
4. Duluth’s Korean and Vietnam War Memorials
The Northland Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean Veterans Memorial are located along Duluth’s scenic Lakewalk and provide an excellent opportunity to honor the sacrifices made by local and regional veterans during these two conflicts.
The Korean war Memorial was dedicated in August of 2003 to honor the men of B Company 4th Infantry Battalion USMC Marines were called to active duty on August 21, 1950 during the Korean Conflict. B Company sustained over 80 percent casualties, ten KIA’s, and one POW who was held for thirty-three months. This highly decorated unit earned four Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars, two Naval Commendations, and seventy-nine Purple Hearts.
You can read more about their story at www.bcompanymarines.org.
The Northland Vietnam Veterans Memorial – also located along Duluth’s Lakewalk – was dedicated in May of 1992. The granite marker is protected by a unique half-dome barrier overlooking the lake and shielding the engraved memorial wall. This solemn memorial lists the names of service men and women from northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin who were killed in action or were POW/MIA during the conflict.
You can learn more about the Northland Vietnam Veterans Association at www.nvva.us.
5. Thank Someone Who has Served
This is probably the best way to honor the people who have made such difficult sacrifices for our country. Find a service man or women. Find the loved ones of those who have fallen. Talk to them. Learn their story and simply say “thank you”.