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Nassau County begins year of WWII 75th anniversary events

Olivia Guillen, her brother Matthew, wearing a helmet,

Olivia Guillen, her brother Matthew, wearing a helmet, and sister Isabella stand with World War II re-enactors at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City during the announcement Friday of a yearlong commemoration of the 75th anniversary of end of World War II. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Amid rolling tanks at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Nassau County on Friday kicked off a yearlong series of events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

“This year is an opportunity for all Americans to salute the servicemen and women of the Greatest Generation who answered the call of duty, but also to revisit important lessons of World War II,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at a news conference that featured the World War II tanks, which paraded in front of the museum in Garden City.

“The events surrounding World War II defined geopolitical borders around the world, demonstrated genocidal actions of a regime that remains the embodiment of evil, and introduced technology that brought us to the moon and civilization to the edge of the nuclear abyss,” she said.

World War II ended in the European theater on May 8, 1945, when Germany surrendered on what is known as V-E Day. It ended in  the Pacific theater on Aug. 14, 1945, when Japan agreed to an armistice following the dropping of atomic bombs by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki about a week earlier. That's known as V-J Day.

The events commemorating the end of the war are being coordinated among Nassau County, the Cradle of Aviation Museum, the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage, and the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Glen Cove.

The observances will include interactive events, retrospectives, tributes, films, talks, re-enactments including tanks, and educational programs.

For V-E Day, for instance, the aviation museum will host an event featuring music from a period Big Band, swing dancing, and an armor parade with tanks.

Steven Markowitz, chairman of the Holocaust center, said, “Memories are fading about both what our country and our allies achieved in saving the world from Nazi tyranny as well as the horrors and extent of the Holocaust.”

"One of the key lessons when we teach about the present-day dangers of anti-Semitism and other manifestations of hate is that the Holocaust happened because people, institutions and nations forgot history and were silent and indifferent in the face of hate," he said.

With the recent rise in anti-Semitism, he said it is more important than ever to remember the lessons of the Holocaust and the leadership role of the United States in World War II.

Curran noted that Long Island played an important role in the war, manufacturing aircraft and missiles.

Andy Parton, president of the aviation museum, said the events at the various locations will “serve as a lasting salute to the Greatest Generation.”