Thursday, February 5, 2015

9. Governors Visit Gettysburg on Memorial Day 1944

Memorial Day in 1944 was the biggest happening in Gettysburg since Lincoln spoke at the National Cemetery in November of 1863. An estimated crowd of 11,000 including Governors from 37 states attended the annual event.

The most photographed man that day was Thomas E. Dewey, Governor of New York and leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Nancy and I were Seventh Graders, and I was a Boy Scout assigned to a position on the square probably to assist the police in crowd control during the Parade. As the Governors passed by on their way to the National Cemetery, Governor Dewey’s car stopped just in front of where I was standing. 

The window on his car was open and when he extended his hand toward me, I responded with a good firm Boy Scout handshake.

Almost a thousand children from Lincoln, Meade and High Street Schools participated in the Parade that day. Each child carried an armful of flowers which were carefully placed on the headstones in the Cemetery. According to reports, the Governors were visibly impressed. Some called the sight inspiring.

That afternoon, the Governors and a huge crowd attended the formal program in the Cemetery which was broadcast on 200 radio stations across the country

While Governors, school children, residents and visitors observed Memorial Day in Gettysburg, a headline in the local paper the next day reported that British troops were only 17 miles from Rome as World War II continued in Europe.

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