As a child in the 1940s, I attended military displays held on the Washington Monument grounds. They included an event that lasted several days in July 1943 and was held to raise War Bonds. There were at least two displays of captured German and Japanese military equipment held in 1946 and 1947. These events were wide open to the public, meaning anyone who came along.
Washington was different in those days. Anyone could walk to the top of the Capitol dome or the top of the Washington Monument. Anyone could wander into the Pentagon Building from the bus terminal in the basement (itself unthinkable today). Tours were held at the White House. As late as 1970, my Maryland driver's license was a piece of paper without lamination, without a photo, and without an expiration date. The concept of a "photo ID" did not exist. When guards were posted at the entrance to the Department of State on 21st Street in 1965, the move was regarded as temporary, a response to women being attacked in rest rooms inside the building. Metal detectors first appeared at some American airports in 1973.
So, during this very different era when everything was just a little easier to do, did anyone attend one of these military shows on the Washington Monument grounds? How on earth did they dismantle and ressemble a four-engined B-24 Liberator heavy bomber that was displayed on the grass across the street from the Department of Commerce, as part of the Washington Monument event in July 1943? Where are the snapshots from that era?
Does anyone remember seeing a German V-2 rocket, one of the "wunderwaffe" or "wonder weapons" with which Adolf Hitler hoped to reverse the tide of the war? Or a Japanese Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero fighter, respected and dreaded by us Americans? These and many other Axis items were displayed right in the middle of Washington and someone must have taken photos of them. Perhaps someone in your family did?
An iconic member of the Oakton community and a career soldier, George Waple, once told me that tens of thousands of people attended these public events during the war. A former resident of Northern Virginia and Navy aeronautical engineer, Hal Andrews, told me many of these items were scrapped during the postwar years even though they would have made superb museum artifacts. George and Hal are no longer with us, and our prospects for reaching back over the years and reconstructing this piece of history are dimming.
About me: I'm a longtime Oakton resident and author. My latest book is "Mission to Berlin," about B-17 Flying Fortress bomber crews in World War II. I have a small collection of photos of Washington during World War II and am looking for more. Dig out that old photo album and call me!