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Bringing the past back to Knoxville

With 5000 miles between Europe and the United States, World War II is rarely on our minds. But through the Normandy Scholars program, I learned about the war’s legacy — both abroad and at home.

The war changed billions of lives and altered dozens on dozens of cultures forever.

In the cities we visited for the Normandy Scholars program, WWII memorials seemed constant and ubiquitous. These cities, deeply and personally affected by the violence of WWII, memorialized their legacies — or aspects of their legacies — in stone, in stained-glass, and in museums.

America, where WWII monuments are few and far apart compared to many European countries, changed too. One concrete example lives in downtown Knoxville: the East Tennessee Veterans’ Memorial, a series of stone slabs commemorating the local veterans of various conflicts. For many Knoxvillians and UT students, the memorial is hidden in plain site; I, for one, had no idea of its existence until I took this course.

That’s not the only way our country changed. From WWII-themed video games to countless nonfiction works to the legacy of pre-second-wave feminism, the United States’ culture still commemorates and builds on what happened from 1940 to 1945.