The design for a memorial to the roughly 150 men from Hoboken who died in World War II was unveiled Thursday night at Hoboken High School.
The memorial, which was conceived by Hoboken’s American Legion Post 107 and designed by architectural firm Dean Marchetto & Associates, is slated to be built on the Hudson riverfront. The design features rows of bronze rifles topped with helmets, representing the men who lost their lives. Each statue is to be set in a granite block engraved with each soldier’s name, with sand filling the spaces in between, meant to evoke the image of soldiers landing on a foreign beach.
Marchetto said that his design was inspired in part by the World War II memorial in Normandy, France, and that he sought the help of his uncle, a veteran who had landed there. “He spent time with me going over his experience in France and actually helped me with the M1 rifle identification,” Marchetto said recently.
First in Hoboken
Hoboken presently does not have a memorial to its World War II victims.
“Some of the family members who lost their loved ones brought to our attention that they wondered why nothing was ever done,” said Tom Kennedy, commander of Post 107, recently. The veterans approached state Sen. Bernard Kenny (D-Hoboken) in 2003 about receiving state funding for the memorial. Kenny obtained $250,000 for the project.
“We’ve been slow to recognize the World War II veterans,” Kenny said recently. “It’s our job now to recognize that generation.”
Kennedy noted that more funds would still be required to bring the memorial to completion.
The veterans and Mayor David Roberts, who has taken a central role in moving the memorial project forward, said they are bracing themselves for opposition. Roberts said at Thursday’s ceremony that some residents have complained about the memorial’s possible placement along the waterfront’s walkway, but he said the site is an appropriate one.
“Couldn’t we just walk a couple of steps to pay tribute to those who left Hoboken and never came back?” he said.
Past efforts to create a World War II memorial in Hoboken have met with failure. The brick foundation for a monument was built in front of City Hall years ago, but a memorial was never put up.
“We don’t know who started it and we don’t know why it ended,” Kennedy said. “But nothing was ever done.”
The Wallace brothers
The story of the Wallace family – a Hoboken family that lost three brothers in the war in two years – has brought attention to the demand for a World War II memorial.
The Wallace School at the corner of 11th and Willow was named for the brothers. Daniel, William and Myron Wallace were Navy pilots, and each died when his plane went down. The bodies of two of the brothers were never recovered.
The Wallace family was large in Hoboken. The brothers’ uncle William had 10 children. “Everywhere you went, someone would say, ‘Well, aren’t you one of the Wallace girls?’ ” said Francis Ziegler, a Highlands resident whose mother was a cousin of the Wallace brothers. Ziegler lived in Hoboken along with the brothers before they joined the service.
“I can almost remember seeing them,” she said. “They were all very good-looking, handsome young men.”
Ziegler noted that the losses her family suffered were typical of other families in town. “That’s part of the memory of this horrendous war,” Ziegler said. “A lot of people were hit in Hoboken.”
Members of the Wallace family were present at Thursday’s ceremony to witness the memorial’s unveiling.
Many lost, more not yet counted
Kennedy noted that the roughly 150 men from Hoboken who died in World War II constituted a huge loss for such a small town.
“I don’t think that in the entire country, there’s one city the size of Hoboken that lost that many men,” he said.
In fact, other men from Hoboken who died in the war may have been overlooked. Kennedy said a group of veterans from Post 107 are planning a trip to a veterans’ center in Bernardsville, where they will compare their list with records there.
Christopher Zinsli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.