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Impressive WW II memorial drawing a crowd

It's doubtful that any of the dozens of memorials in Washington D.C. has a larger impact on Americans of all ages than the National World War II Memorial, the $174 million testament to "America's Greatest Generation" that is located on the National Mall.

The memorial is scarcely a year old and has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. We spent several hours there in our first visit a few weeks ago and were impressed by the age span and interest shown by crowds browsing among the memorial's many points of interest.

School children, including some obviously working on assignments, were just as interested in reading inscriptions, inspirational tributes and quotations inscribed into the walls around the memorial as the adults were. A good share of the adults were pushing 80 or beyond, the age of most who served in the war.

The memorial, years in the making and long overdue in the eyes of most of the nation's World War II veterans, honors not only the hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost their lives in the world's great conflict but also the millions who fought and returned home.

Also saluted are those who kept America running at home and supported the uniformed members of the armed forces, which numbered 16 million men and women.

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The memorial is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and features a series of 24 sculpture panels on its ceremonial entrance walls. Twelve panels each depict the Atlantic and Pacific theater of operations. Each bronze panel is a raised, sculptured image mostly based on historical photos.

The panels represent the country's transformation into the war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, depicting the all-out mobilization of American's agricultural, industrial, military and human resources.

Fifty-six pillars surround the central plaza, representing all of the states and territories at the time of the war.

Most impressive to us was "The Freedom Wall -- Field of Gold Stars," graced with 4,000 gold stars commemorating the more than 400,000 Americans who lost their lives in the war.

The four corners of the memorial feature quotations from individuals who played a prominent role during World War II -- including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gens. Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and President Harry S. Truman.

Gettysburg casino?

Casinos are springing up all over the U.S., but one that has been proposed at Gettysburg, Pa., is raising protests from some historians and preservationists. The reason? It's too close -- like a cannon-shot away, say historians -- to the battleground at Gettysburg National Military Park.

The project would involve a 42-acre mega-million casino and resort that would be about 1 1/2 miles from the military park, which embraces the battleground where in July 1863 thousands of men gave "the last full measure of devotion," as Abraham Lincoln put it in his famed Gettysburg Address.

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According to the Associated Press, preservationists argue that the project, which also includes a golf range, would be a desecration of the memory and sacrifices of the men who gave their lives in that Civil War battle.

Israel travel up

A recent change in wording in the U.S. State Department's travel warning about Israel was subtle, but one travel marketer said it has made a difference for tourism.

The State Department's new travel warning now does not specifically warn against travel to Israel, notes an official of a luxury Israel hotel chain, and bookings now have increased.

Bob Retzlaff is travel editor of the Post-Bulletin. He can be reached by phone at (507) 285-7704 or by e-mail at retz@postbulletin.com.

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