Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial kicks off state tour

Tour to increase exposure and fundraising for memorial to be built in Royal Oak

By: Robert Guttersohn | Royal Oak Review | Published March 19, 2014

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — William Golling, the president of Golling Chrysler dealership, had five relatives fight in World War II.

“Talk about a generation that lost its innocence very quickly,” he said. “The whole country was in the war effort. You wonder if we could ever do that again.”

So when he came across an advertisement for war-era Jeeps sitting in a field in Colorado, it was a natural homage to his ancestors to go after one and have it restored.

“When I got it, it was white,” Golling said. “It was used for parades, but it had been sitting in a field for years.”

Five years later, the 1942 Army green Willys Jeep now sits on the floor of his dealership in pristine condition, and as of March 6, it helped kick off the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial Tour of Duty — an effort by organizers to widen statewide knowledge of their efforts to build the state’s official war memorial.

“It’s just our way to broaden the exposure throughout the state,” said Debi Hollis, the president of the memorial organization. “It’s a statewide memorial. It’s not a Royal Oak memorial or a Detroit memorial. And so our best way to get people to understand that is getting it around the state.”

For the Michigan Tour of Duty, organizers are sending around the state this year a to-scale maquette of one of six statues that eventually will be part of the memorial. The maquette is of a soldier sitting in a foxhole reading a letter from home. Near the mini-statue will be information on how the respective city contributed to the war effort.

The effort to get the memorial built dates back more than a year.

The state Legislature approved a resolution in February 2013 deeming the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial the official state memorial for the war, but the Legislature allocated no public funds for the project.

Further, the Royal Oak City Commission approved the site plan for the memorial last year.

What remains is raising the $3 million needed for construction and the $1 million to set up the memorial’s trust fund for future maintenance.

The memorial’s six statues will honor not only those who fought in the war but also the Michigan labor effort that supported it.

Once the maquette, which organizers refer to as Joe, leaves the Golling dealership, its next stop  on its tour of duty will be Muskegon Community College later in March.

The college is hosting its annual World War II lecture series March 24, and the maquette will be on display there.

Then, it will be at the History Center of Traverse City throughout the middle of the summer, during the Fourth of July and the National Cherry Festival.

Organizers said they are working out additional dates for the rest of the summer in all parts of Michigan.

Memorial bricks of varying sizes can be purchased for $100-$500. Those interested in donating to the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial can do so by calling (248) 421-9900 or by visiting www.michiganww2memorial.org.