`The Fleet's In'
By FRANCIS E. DiBACCO
For the Courier-Post
The Delaware River is the only place for this great World War II warrior. Now that Camden has been chosen, it would be an extra-special location if all of the people whom Tom Brokaw named "The Greatest Generation" were also honored. This could be done by creating a Main Street from the World War II years. "The Fleet's In: Main Street 1945" would have the USS New Jersey as the centerpiece for this living museum.
Williamsburg, Va., is where we all go to get the true feeling of colonial times. Tombstone, Ariz., is the place to get a glimpse of the old Wild West. Camden would provide the quintessential time capsule for the first 45 years of the 20th century.
This could be accomplished by getting all the major corporations from the World War II years -- such as Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, General Electric, Paramount, etc. -- to re-create their businesses from the 1945 era. What corporation would not be anxious to provide a replica of one of their World War II locations? It's the perfect way to say thank you to the people who made their companies what they are today.
Brokaw would make the perfect honorary chairman. NBC -- whose former parent was RCA of Camden fame and Campbell Soup Co. could be official sponsors.
Major functional attractions such as a 1940s-style movie theater with a balcony, a radio station conducting live broadcasts, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, a drugstore, an airplane hangar housing a B-17 bomber, military vehicles, a band concert gazebo, antique and collectibles shops, trolleys, picnic groves, an ice skating pond, a wooden carousel and more would draw thousands.
Everyone across the nation would be able to donate artifacts from the era to be preserved forever. Their names would be placed on the items donated, and they and their relatives could look for them as part of an interactive time capsule.
Seminars on World War II could be conducted by historians, scholars and authors from around the world. Schools would be encouraged to arrange student trips. Groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars would be asked to open an unofficial headquarters at Main Street and hold their annual conventions there.
Senior citizens would always be considered honored guests, since this would be a tribute to them. They would be able to make audio or video recordings of their World War II experiences, whether they stayed on the homefront or were abroad.
Along with tours of the ship, all types of ongoing events could be planned: band concerts, patriotic parades down Main Street, antique car and collectible shows, swing dances at the airplane hangar, fireworks and visits to a World War II museum containing interactive and educational exhibits plus computerized flight and battle simulations.
All Americans who visited would get an inkling of what their courageous relatives experienced during those harrowing war years. They would learn about bond drives, gas rationing stamps, meatless Tuesdays, Gold Star mothers, Decoration Day, air-raid wardens and Kilroy.
Most of those who experienced the hardships of World War II have chosen to keep their struggles to themselves. It is now time for all of us who have benefited from their sacrifices to understand what happened.
The facility would create many jobs. Camden would no longer be a pit stop on the way to Atlantic City, but a point of destination. The taxable revenues generated would be more than adequate to restore this once great city to the prominence it held in 1945.
Let's do whatever possible to preserve the history of the greatest century of the greatest nation. And while we have the opportunity, we should preserve as much as we can of the physical and emotional experiences of the Greatest Generation.
The writer lives in Turnersville