‘We're Going Home': WWII Vets Recall End of War on 75th Anniversary

"Everybody was so excited because all it meant to every one of us who were overseas -- We're going home"

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The USS Midway Museum honored "the Greatest Generation" on Friday with a small ceremony to commemorate the end of World War II, 75 years ago.

During the anniversary ceremony, held on the museum's outdoor flight deck, three WWII Navy veterans shared stories about their service and recalled the moment they heard the war was over.

It was announced on Aug. 14, 1945, that Japan had surrendered to the Allies -- several months after Nazi Germany had surrendered -- effectively bringing a lengthy and devastating war to an end.

"Everybody was so excited because all it meant to every one of us who were overseas -- We're going home," said WWII Vet Al Hansen, who was at a captured Japanese airfield on an island in the Philippines when he heard the news.

Just in time for the Fourth of July, the USS Midway Museum will partially reopen.

It would be another year before Hansen could finally return home.

Hansen joined the Navy at 16 years old with papers his mom had signed saying he was old enough to enlist. He feels it's important to share his history with the younger generation.

"'I've had young people say, 'What? World War II? That's unbelievable,'" Hansen said. "We lost pretty close to a half a million young men and women so that we could stand here and discuss 75 years ago."

More than 400,000 American service members made the ultimate sacrifice during the four years America was involved in the war.

With few living WWII Veterans left, the USS Midway Museum's ceremony sought to highlight the stories of those still with us, like Hansen, Jack Scott and Don Hubbard.

The three veterans -- now in their 90s -- boarded the flight deck Friday morning for the ceremony, which included a color guard ceremony and a performance of the National Anthem before closing with a wreath-laying ceremony. Hansen and Hubbard were both naval aviators and Scott supported the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, another turning point in the war.

The short commemorative event lasted 30 minutes, and museum staff ensured the few guests in attendance adhered to social distancing and face mask rules.

The museum joined with Honor Flight San Diego, a non-profit group dedicated to providing cross-country trips for veterans to visit war memorials, to host the ceremony on Friday and another swingin' event on Thursday in honor of Pearl Harbor survivor Stu Henley.

The USS Midway Museum urges community members to participate in the commemoration this month with several other pandemic-adherent events. For example, community members can honor a WWII veteran on the museum's digital honor wall. To learn what else the museum has in store, visit here.

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