History of the World War II Memorial on River Street

Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 9:33 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The World War II Memorial on River Street has been there for 13 years but there’s a very real chance you’ve never stopped and really taken it in.

It’s a permanent fixture on River Street now, but there was a time, decades ago, that it looked like the Memorial might never come to fruition. It took a group of veterans in the late 2000′s to step up get it off the ground.

“It began in the mid 60′s. George Zettler and Ben Schwalz were Marine Corps World War II veterans. They started the project back then, standing on street corners with boots taking donations. It never went very far,” former president of the Veteran’s Council, Doug Andrews said.

That is until Andrews and several others with the Veteran’s Council got to work. They started seriously planning the memorial in 2007.

Before they could build it, it had to be designed. Eric Meyerhoff, a Savannah architect, pitched the winning concept.

“‘A World Apart’. Meaning, fought global conflict on both halves of the globe, the Earth. What a gigantic effort it would be for any country, but America did it fighting in the European theatre, and the Asian theatre, and successful in both,” Andrews said.

The Memorial itself is all emblematic of the second World War, decorated with purple hearts, ornate grates, and medals built into the structure.

On the inside of the split world, you’ll see rows and rows of hundreds of names.

“These names are the 527 of Chatham County, boys and men, that died in World War II. They are the brothers, uncles, fathers, grandfathers, of all of these guys that helped put this memorial together. 155 World War II guys helped us fund this memorial with fundraising. Sadly, of these 155, there’s only three left standing now,” Andrews said.

The dwindling number of World War II veterans that remain to share their memories of that time was exactly why Andrews and the Veteran’s Council wanted to get the memorial off the ground.

A veteran of Korea, Andrews says that he felt a duty to keep their memory alive.

“Veterans tend to help veterans. There was a time when veterans were not appreciated. Today’s climate for veterans is very strong. Based on what this country’s been through for the past 20 years, so it’s brought home the reality of war and what it’s like and I think that’s helped the public appreciate veteran’s even more,” Andrews said.