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75 years after the end of World War II, its legacy continues to reverberate

World War II veteran Gil Blum, 94, of

World War II veteran Gil Blum, 94, of Roslyn, right, and Nicholas Casseus, 21, of Amityville stand in front of a tank like the one Blum rode in during the war. On Saturday, the Museum of American Armor and Nassau County observed the 75th anniversary of the war's end at a ceremony at the museum in Old Bethpage. Credit: Howard Simmons

The atomic bomb. The shadow of the Holocaust. The start of the Cold War and the ascent of Russia. The rise of modern suburbia and American industrialization.

Even 75 years after the end of World War II, its legacy continues to reverberate in world affairs, said Rep. Tom Suozzi, listing those developments while speaking at a livestreamed ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of Japan's formal surrender, Sept. 2, 1945.

“It’s such a central part of civilization that we still live with today, the understanding of what transpired in that war,” Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said at the ceremony Saturday, hosted by the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage and Nassau County, as the skies poured rain. 

Joseph S. Saladino, the Oyster Bay town supervisor, read the words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s speech at the surrender of Japan, and connected them to suburbia on Long Island and across the United States.

“ ‘It is my earnest hope and indeed the hope of all mankind that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past,’ ” Saladino said, quoting MacArthur, who led the Allied victory.

Said Saladino: “Thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, a better world did emerge, and freedom was defended, and that better world continued on Long Island, when our veterans came home to populate places like Levittown and throughout the communities here.”

Gil Blum, 94, of Roslyn, whose platoon liberated a concentration camp, recalled the beginning of the end of the war: the U.S. dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima on Aug. 6; on Nagasaki Aug. 9; the announced surrender about a week later. (Sept. 2 was the formal signing.)

“That was the celebration. We were stunned. But it was over. That terrible war ended. We reflected on those that were not going home,” Blum said, describing the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., where there are 4,048 gold stars; each representing 100 American military deaths, meaning more than 400,000 personnel who died or remain missing in action from World War II.

He added: “They weren’t brought up to be soldiers … They were farmers. They were teachers. They were clerks. They were people from all walks of life. They came from all sections of our country. They were civilian military, but they pulled it together.”

Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) credited Blum and men like him with helping “save Western civilization.”

“Because of that, we’re speaking English today,” King said.

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