November 12, 2021
Ferry Facts: Honoring Veterans Across the DRBA
Above: Veterans paying respects to the fallen from the Vietnam War during ceremonies when a Moving Wall Display half size of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. traveled across the country including a stop at the Lewes Ferry Terminal in May 2019.
Honoring Veterans Year Round
Yesterday was Veterans Day, a day set aside by the only president to have come from NJ -- Woodrow Wilson -- in November 1919 to honor Armistice Day. That was when Allied Forces and Germany agreed to a cessation of hostilities in WWI, The Great War. The war did not officially end until a treaty was signed seven months later, but Wilson's proclamation designated November 11th as our day of national recognition. It was the time we first hoped we had fought the "war to end all wars." Click here for more on the history of Veterans Day.
Sadly, since that time we all know the hope was not realized. Prior to WWI, the U.S. had engaged in five wars, but since has engaged in six. That's a total of 11 wars which we now recognize veterans for on November 11. See if you can name all 11 wars, and if not, click here for the list.
Veterans Day is just one day of the year, but there are multiple ways you can honor and pay respects to veterans living and deceased in our area on any day. Here are five of them you can do when visiting various DRBA sites.
1. Find the Limestone Wall in New Castle
Since its inception, the DRBA has had a strong affiliation with veterans. The Delaware Memorial Bridge was so named in 1951 to honor those who had made the ultimate sacrifice in WWII even as the Korean War was underway. The then Governors of both Delaware and New Jersey noted that although the bridge was an amazing achievement of the time, it paled in comparison to the sacrifice made by our veterans in the second World War. You can still visit the original commemorative wall plaque if you have an opportunity to visit the DRBA in New Castle. It's on the eastern side of the main building facing the northbound lanes as you walk toward the maintenance buildings.
2. Take a Veterans Memorial Park Tour
In the mid-20th century, the DRBA acquired 40 acres from the Diocese of Wilmington to use the area for clean fill in development of the second span of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Soon thereafter, the land was repurposed as Veterans Memorial Park to honor those who paid the ultimate price from New Jersey and Delaware in both WWII and the Korean War. A centerpiece monument was constructed listing just under 15,000 names of those from both states who died in the two wars.
Last year, for Veterans Day, we published as web page providing a virtual tour of the park. If you missed it, you can still access it on this Veterans Memorial park page. It will give you a monument by monument tour including the newest monument dedicated to Gold Star Families and monuments honoring submariners, purple heart veterans and the Blue Star Memorial Plaque. The park is open year-round during daylight hours and is on the northbound side of the highway across from the New Castle Administration building. For directions and the address of the park, check the web site from the home page of DRBA.net. The Veterans Memorial Park site is next in the lineup for upgrades as part of the DRBA web project currently underway.
3. Visit Cape May Airport
The Airport, started as NAS (Naval Air Station) Rio Grande in 1941, was an original WWII naval air station responsible for training aviators serving on naval vessels. Its name was changed to NAS Wildwood in 1943 to avoid confusion with Rio Grande, TX. The streets at the airport -- Forrestal , Ranger and Hornet -- are all names after naval aircraft carriers, and the street signs pay respects to those great ships. And that's only the start of what's there to see.
If you look above the Flight Deck diner at the airport, you'll see what was the original control tower and training center. Then, behind the diner, you'll see Hangar #1 -- the now Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, one of the largest and most interactive air museums outside of the Smithsonian. On Forrestal Road you'll also see the Forgotten Warriors museum, currently under reconstruction as the Naval Air Station museum considers taking over management of the area dedicated to Vietnam Veterans.
4. Head to the Millville Army Museum
Milllville Executive Airport, a second NJ airport operated by the DRBA, was originally designated as America's First Defense Airport. It was a gunnery school for fighter pilots in WWII and, today, you can feel like you're going back in time when you visit the Millville Army Field Museum on site. Located in Cumberland County, Millville Ariport trained more than 1,500 WWII pilots in advanced training in P-47 Thunderbolt and P-40 Warhawk fighter planes.
5. Acknowledge and Thank Our Ferry Veterans
Throughout the DRBA, we have many employees with Armed Forces backgrounds. For this year's commemorations, CMLF.com published a page honoring a few of the veterans currently serving our Ferry force. If you missed the links to the site, you can find the web page here.
When you see any of these folks, make sure to not just thank them for their prior service, but ask about their experiences. They have served in different branches at different times, and all have different perspectives and stories that humble all of us who enjoy today's freedoms because of their service and all who came before.
Finally, these are just some of the local area and DRBA connections to military history. We currently operate the civilian side of Dover Air Force base, operate Wilmington Airport which was the training ground for WASPS (women air service pilots) in WWII among other stories, but we'll save those stories for next year.