Virtual event honors New Mexico military during World War II 75th anniversary

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SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – This week marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese surrender and end of World War II. It was a war New Mexico played a big part in.

“The 2nd of September was the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II,” said Maj. Gen. Ken Nava, Adjutant General of the New Mexico National Guard. “New Mexico, we had a population of 500,000 in the 1939-1940 time frame. About 500,000. Fifty-thousand Americans served in World War II.”

From the Manhattan Project and testing of the atomic bombs to the 1,800 New Mexicans who suffered the Bataan Death March, the state’s military history is rooted in the war. On Friday, local military leaders will be a part of the web-streamed event, Tragedy and Triumph: New Mexico and Apocalypse ’45. Maj. Gen. Nava will speak along with Florian Waitl, the New Mexico National Guard command historian. The event will also feature the director of the new documentary, “Apocalypse ’45”.

“New Mexico just had an incredibly large percentage of people that were involved in the war effort. Lots of families were impacted,” said Nava. “We intend to help tell New Mexico’s military history story. There’s so much to be told and it’s being lost.”

The event is hosted by Santa Fe’s Center for Contemporary Arts and the New Mexico Military Museum. Nava says the documentary doesn’t hide the horrors of war, but those looking to get the immersive history lesson can stream it online for $12.

“It uses combat camera footage and is narrated by actual World War II veterans,” said Nava. “It’s an incredible piece of work.”

Now, decades later, there are fewer World War II veterans still around to tell these crucial stories of our history. Nava says the 75th anniversary is a good time to ask questions and learn about our state’s wartime history.

“I’m very sad about all of the death and carnage that occurred during that war. It was incredibly costly to the entire world and to our country and to the state of New Mexico. I’m very glad that the Japanese and Germans are our allies today and I’m incredibly honored to have known some of these World War II veterans,” said Nava. “There’s discussions about how everybody kind of rallied together, how America really pulled together during that time frame and we certainly could use more of that today.”

The event and panel discussion is free and open to the public, starting at 7 p.m. You can register online ahead of the event. Nava says now is also a good time to plan a trip up to Santa Fe to the New Mexico Military Museum as things open back up, where much of the state’s World War II history, along with other periods of time are preserved.

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