50 Years ago the world was celebrating the one year anniversary of the end of World War II as well as honoring the returning Veterans who fought for freedom. Campbell county joined in the festivities by throwing a week long party known as the welcome Home Celebration. The Historical Society is in possession of a copy of the Souvenir program which says the event as sponsored by the American Legion - James Wallace Costigan Post number 11 in conjunction with the cities of Newport, Cold Spring, Woodlawn, and Highland Heights. The souvenir program says over 6000 known Campbell Countians served their country with Honor and distinction during the war. The program goes on to explain how lists of names were taken from records of the Campbell County Draft Board and from Newspapers to make an as complete as possible list of Campbell Countians in World War II. Thousands of names are listed including 174 casualties from the list of the dead.
The program appears to have gone as follows based on information from both the program and newspaper reports of the time:
Sunday August 11th - Memorial Services were to be held in all places of worship for our departed Heroes.
Monday August 12th - A Celebration at the Newport Municipal Stadium was scheduled featuring addresses by Mayor Oscar Hesch, Judge Ray L. Murphy, Judge Odis Bertelsman, and a performance by the James Wallace Costigan Post 11 Drum Corps Band. A late addition to the list of speakers was Democratic Senator Alben W. Barkley who was destined to be elected Vice-President under Harry S. Truman Two years later. Barkley’s speech was said to have described the War’s History and the courage of service men and women who defended the nation’s cause on the battlefields of the World. Part of the talk appears to have been influenced by the fast approaching 1946 elections as several Republicans were reportedly angered by statements made that evening. The evening ended with fireworks, music and dancing.
The Newspapers were reporting a special Monday registration for all veterans who had not signed up for Wednesday’s scheduled parade.Anyone who signed up was to get a free program and a badge enabling him to participate in social events scheduled on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Tuesday August 13th - A midway carnival on Monmouth Street between Sixth Street and Tenth Street began. Entertainment included 3 orchestras and public dancing The Wednesday Ky Post said more then 10,000 people took part in Tuesdays activities.
Wednesday August 14th - This was the one year anniversary of Japan’s surrender in 1945. Local soldiers were scheduled for a military parade followed by a continuation of the midway carnival. The Grand Marshal of the Parade was William H. Lawler, The Father of Sgt. Harry Lawler who was post humously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for Heroism. Sgt. Lawler was listed as a top war hero of Campbell County and his name was used as part of the Lawler-Hanlon post, VFW Newport.
The Grand Marshal was escorted in the parade by 189 Gold Star Fathers while 159 Gold Star mothers rode in automobiles. The Parade included the Newport Fire department, City, County, and School Officials. 2500 veterans marched including World War I and Spanish America War veterans. The Thursday papers reported that it was the biggest parade in Newport history. Thousands of GI’s were cheered with continuous rounds of applause. The parade included 20 bands and was broken into eight divisions of marchers. The Times-Star reported: “as the Parade passed the reviewing stand at the American Legion Home, 22 East 6th Street, wild cheers filled the air as the marchers tramped over captured German, Japanese, and Italian flags which were tacked down on the streets.”
Thursday, Friday and Saturday included Social Events at the Eagles, Knights of Columbus, Sixth ward Boosters, and American Legion homes each afternoon and evening.