Lamar Rutledge is one of many members of what is considered the greatest generation. As the nation prepares to dedicate a memorial in honor of the million who served in WW II, Lamar remembers his time of service as the experience of a lifetime.
"I enjoyed my time in the Navy a lot. The traveling. I really enjoyed the Navy. I mean, besides the battles and situations like that, I really enjoyed it. I loved the Navy," said Rutledge.
Lamar served as a Gunner's Mate on a merchant ship for the U.S. Navy. Their job: to transport supplies and troops from one place to another. But on one trip they never made it to that final destination.
"I guess it was just after 5, after my watch, when we got hit," said Rutledge.
On Christmas Eve 1944, the Alan A. Dale merchant ship was sunk by a one man German sub. The contents: fresh apples and gifts for soldiers at Christmas time. Luckily, the crew made it out alive.
"How fast did it sink? Not that fast. No one got their feet wet," remembers Rutledge. The wreckage of that ship was recovered just last year.
Nearly 60 years after his service, Rutledge remembers exact details of that war. The invasion of Sicily, D-Day and bringing more troops to Normandy to replace the thousands who died. But he says he is not all that excited about the World War II Memorial. He said he feels the money should be going to the veterans.
"You think about all the money that is spent on something like that, and then you think about what these veterans are getting and they are not getting what they should be," said Rutledge.
Rutledge is one of only two crewmen known to still be alive who served on the Alan A. Dale that sank that Christmas Eve, but he is one of the millions who will be remembered and honored this weekend in Washington, D.C.
The National World War II Memorial is funded almost entirely by private contributions, as specified in Public Law 103-32. The campaign received more than $195 million in cash and pledges. Support came from hundreds of thousands of individual Americans, hundreds of corporations and foundations, veterans groups, dozens of civic, fraternal and professional organizations, states and one territory, and students in 1,200 schools across the country.
Donated and pledged funds will be used to cover the total project costs currently estimated at about $175 million. These costs include site selection and design, construction and sculpture, a National Park Service maintenance fee required by the Commemorative Works Act, groundbreaking and dedication ceremonies, fund raising, and the 11-year administrative costs of the project from its inception in 1993 through completion in 2004.
Funds remaining after all project costs have been paid will be held on deposit with the U.S. Treasury in a National WWII Memorial Trust Fund. The funds will be used by the American Battle Monuments Commission solely to benefit the World War II Memorial.