They still remember. People around the world still honor those young Americans who helped secure their liberty by ending the tyranny of Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini. Schoolchildren on Guam sing songs of tribute to the Marines who stormed their beaches in 1944 and freed that island from Japanese occupiers. The youngsters of Normandy wave American flags on June 6 to commemorate D-Day. The good people of Melbourne have not forgotten the U.S. troops who defended Australia by fighting and dying on land, at sea, and in the air in the struggle for Guadalcanal. In my travels to those battlefields, I have seen the locals offer both solemn memorials and spontaneous expressions of gratitude to the visiting veterans, honors received with tears and heartfelt thanks by the elderly soldiers, sailors, Marines, coast guardsmen, merchant mariners, and airmen.
People around the world also remember the evils against which the allies fought. Visiting Manila in 2000, I had the honor of accompanying a group of elderly American veterans known as the Battling Bastards of Bataan, whose determined and courageous but ultimately futile struggle to hold off Japanese invaders ended in a death march to nightmarish prison camps. a Filipino guide accompanying our tour bus had the driver stop at a low statue cut from dark rock, a memorial easily missed on the busy city street. The guide told us this was a monument to all those civilians in his country who died in the war—hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, many of them killed, he said, by Japanese troops. it was a stark reminder of what those American veterans and their allies had been fighting against. Their struggle was a “good war,” not because the combat they engaged in was any les brutal than others, nor because their generation was better than others, but because it was a war that had to be fought, against aggressors who had to be defeated. After vanquishing Nazi Germany and imperial Japan, American helped right those countries and transform them into democratic allies, thereby winning not just the war but the peace….
--Hugh Ambrose, author of The Pacific
Excerpted from Eyewitness to World War II by Neil Kagan and Stephen Hyslop. Copyright © 2012 by Neil Kagan and Stephen Hyslop. Excerpted by permission of National Geographic, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.