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story.lead_photo.caption Elvin Bates (left) from Monticello, who served under Gen. George Patton and fought in the Battle of the Bulge and the invasion at Normandy beach, participates in a ceremony Friday at the state Capitol. - Photo by Benjamin Krain

LITTLE ROCK -- A veteran sporting a Navy cap wiped away tears Friday as Taps played inside the state Capitol, marking the end of a ceremony that celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Photo by Benjamin Krain
About 150 Arkansas World War II veterans and their family members are honored Friday at the state Capitol in Little Rock at a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of V-J Day, when Japan’s surrender to Allied forces was announced Aug. 14, 1945.
Photo by Benjamin Krain
World War II veterans and their families pack the state Capitol rotunda Friday for a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II. About 8,000 World War II veterans remain in the state, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

John Eads, 88, sat next to his wife, Beverly, in the overflowing Capitol rotunda. The pair traveled from their home in Greenbrier so Eads -- along with about 150 other Arkansas veterans -- could be honored for his part in the war.

"Every time we hear Taps we both cry," Beverly Eads said. "It brings back memories, but it's so wonderful to get together, to see these men and their courage. It's amazing, just amazing."

Eads enlisted in the Navy at age 17 and served in the South Pacific during the war.

Army veteran Fred Schoonover, who is 94 and was taken to the ceremony from the Little Rock Veterans Affairs hospital, said he spent his time in WWII coding and decoding messages in and out of the China-Burma-India Theater.

Evelyn Ursey, a 90-year-old veteran residing in Little Rock, served stateside, first by working in the supply office of a Navy shipyard in Maine, and then as a Navy medic.

After the ceremony, Ursey -- one of three female WWII veterans in attendance -- swapped stories with other veterans.

"We didn't have a lot of things, because it was all going to the war effort," Ursey remembered. "We had rationed books; the meat was rationed. We didn't have gas money, so we walked everywhere. No one seemed to mind. That's just the way it was. You accepted it."

Friday's event was a commemoration of V-J Day, when Japan's surrender to Allied forces was announced August 14, 1945.

Similar commemorations were held across the nation Friday and will continue through the weekend.

In Pearl Harbor, Ha., on Friday, city officials from Honolulu and Nagoaoka, Japan, gathered with the U.S. Navy for a memorial service, The Associated Press reported. Today, a fireworks display will be held at Pearl Harbor to honor WWII victims and celebrate the peace between the U.S. and Japan that followed the war.

The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 led to the U.S. entering WWII.

Three more events to commemorate V-J Day will be held around Arkansas on Sunday. WWII veterans will be recognized during a ceremony at 9 a.m. at Fort Smith National Cemetery. Wreaths will be laid at the graves of those who served in the war.

Wreath-laying ceremonies also will be held Sunday at the state's veterans cemeteries. An event at the North Little Rock Veterans Cemetery starts at 10 a.m. Another starts at 1 p.m. at the state cemetery located off Arkansas 163 in Birdeye.

Sarah Jones, public affairs officer for the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, said 147 WWII veterans attended Friday's commemoration. About 8,000 WWII veterans remain in the state, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

When asked to stand Friday, the veterans at the state Capitol garnered cheers and a minute of applause from the crowd of hundreds gathered to observe the event.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke to the group, praising their service and sharing his father's WWII experience. Hutchinson said his family's was another "common story" of Americans in the WWII era: His father enlisted in the Navy at age 37 and served in the Aleutian Islands. While he was away, Hutchinson's mother worked at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.

"That was what was unique about WWII -- our whole nation mobilized behind our men and women in service," Hutchinson said. "You mobilized, you engaged, you did your duty, and the result was freedom. The result was victory."

Beatrice Moore, an honorary consul of France in Little Rock, thanked the veterans for their part in the liberation of France.

She told some of the war's history -- from the moment Winston Churchill took the position of Great Britain's prime minister and promised to wage a strong defense against Germany -- to the day in 1945 when it was announced the Allies had won.

Moore's father, 10 at the time, remembered an American soldier teaching him to play baseball the day he learned of the victory, she said.

"Veterans, you were just kids in 1945. But I can tell you, the kids of 1945 in France remember you and love you," Moore said. "What do we celebrate today? We celebrate the struggle of freedom against oppression, the beginning of a new hope.

"God bless America, Vive la France, and long live the spirit of '45."

NW News on 08/15/2015

Print Headline: Event marked anniversary of V-J Day

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