For an hour or so on Tuesday, Aug. 16, it will feel a little like V-J Day again at the Old State Capitol.
The Baton Rouge Spirit of ‘45 program, which begins at 11 a.m., is one of many scheduled around the country to mark the 66th anniversary of Japan’s surrender on Aug. 14, 1945, which brought World War II to an end. That surrender touched off euphoric celebrations, including New York City’s Times Square, remembered best by the Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic photo of a sailor kissing nurse Edith Shain.
In Baton Rouge, the tumult took place on Third Street, which begins just outside the Old State Capitol’s northern entrance.
“Cowbells were rung out of car windows,” reported the Morning Advocate on Aug. 15, 1945. “Red, white and blue streamers flew gaily from car fenders. Two teen-agers stood on a street corner and banged cake pans with forks. ? Forty teen-age boys formed a conga line and sprinted down the street.”
Tuesday’s commemoration won’t be quite so boisterous, but the expected audience isn’t as young as it was back then.
On the celebratory side, the Baton Rouge Music Club Chorus, directed by Marjorie Blocker, will perform 20 songs popular during the war era, including “Sentimental Journey,” “White Cliffs of Dover,” “Lili Marlene,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “God Bless America.”
Speakers include Walter Mlynarski, veterans outreach director for the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, and Cindy Bishop of Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, which is a national supporter of Spirit of ‘45. Jan McCurdy of Baton Rouge, whose son, Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan McCurdy, was killed in Iraq in 2006, will read a tribute to the fallen.
Master of Ceremonies Maury Drummond, executive director of the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial, will present medals to individuals who have helped keep the “Spirit of ‘45” alive.
Buglers John Wilbert and Blane Palazzo will play “Taps,” and Kent Howard will play bagpipes.
This is the second year the “Spirit of ‘45” event has been held in Baton Rouge to commemorate the sacrifices made in fighting history’s most destructive war. An estimated 50 million people were killed in the war from 1939-’45.
“At the end of World War II, the kiss in Times Square symbolized the unity in the country at that time,” Drummond said. “Everyone was so jubilant that we had defeated the Nazis and the Japanese and the Italians in World War II. It was tempered, of course, with the sacrifice that was made. The country was together.
“We’re trying to keep that spirit in the country alive for future generations, not only remembering the sacrifices of these people in World War II, but remember that spirit that they had and continue that.”