Emma Weisner, a sophomore at , was recently named one of The National WWII Museum’s “Salute to Freedom” award winners and will be one of 51 students nationwide to travel to New Orleans to participate in the Grand Opening of the Museum’s new US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center in January.
The contest, made possible by the Museum’s partnership with the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest, called on qualifying students to submit an application and respond to two essay questions. Winners were chosen based on their knowledge of the past and its connection to the future, as well as their knowledge of their state’s role in World War II. Winners were announced during the National History Day awards ceremony, held June 14 in College Park, Maryland.
Here is Weisner's full essay:
Families in Minnesota were greatly impacted by WWII. Often times, the women and children who stayed home in great historical wars are unfairly overlooked, but in Minnesota the lives of women were greatly affected by the war effort.
In the Ordnance Plant of Minnesota, 60% of workers during WWII were women, as was true of many other Minnesota workplaces. Women also worked in the shipyards of Northern Minnesota, the streetcars of the Twin Cities, and farms on the infamous Minnesota planes in place of men who had gone to fight.
Also during WWII, the United States Air Force created many training airfields in Minnesota, used to train Air Force units before they departed for the battlefield. Over 326,000 Minnesota soldiers served honorably in WWII, and ten veterans received a prestigious Congressional Medal of Honor, a truly remarkable award for courageous service to the country.
I believe it is very important that Minnesota recognize and honor the Minnesotan heroes of WWII. A beautiful memorial was dedicated in 2007, and veterans received medallions to commend them for their service. A wonderful way for Minnesotan students to honor veterans would be to visit the vets at service centers on Veteran’s Day. Minnesota public schools could take the day for a field trip, where students would learn about WWII, and contribute to a veteran’s life.
Another way to honor Minnesota’s contribution would be to clearly mark former WWII airfields as historical sights. This way, visitors could learn more about how Minnesotan history is intertwined with WWII history. Finally, I believe that Minnesota veteran’s war stories should be written down. These stories are vital to our understanding of history. A volunteer program could be organized for Minnesotans to go into the homes of veterans and take down their stories. This would be a truly transformational experience for both the veterans and the volunteers, and would help to remember and honor the great service Minnesotan veterans provided for our country.
The contribution of Minnesota to WWII should be celebrated and studied more widely throughout the state to ensure remembrance in future generations.