Podcast: A Tribute to Galveston Island's Heroes through the 20th-Century

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Podcast Transcript

In honor of all American veterans.

Galveston Island is no stranger to wars, battles, and military operations, from the United States Navy driving the pirate Jean Lafitte off the island in 1820 to battles of the Texas Revolution and the American Civil War. As we look back over the past two centuries, the island holds tales of resilience, sacrifice, and honor that echo through our history. During the 20th century, Galveston has been home to military forts, air bases, naval shipbuilders, and a navy base, and plenty of gun emplacements to protect Galveston Bay and Galveston Island, like Fort San Jacinto on the extreme east end of the island, and under the San Luis Hotel, where massive gun batteries can still be seen.

Today, our focus is on the American veterans who have called Galveston Island and Galveston County home. Many of which left to serve their country and never returned. A tribute to the brave men and women who've donned the uniform, faced adversity, and fought for our country.

Many of them never made it back home to Galveston Island. I will share with you a few locations and monuments where you can pay your respects to those who didn't make it back home during the American wars of the 20th century.

Let's start with World War I.

World War I, also known as the Great War, was a global conflict that lasted from July 1914 to November 1918. The countries of France, Russia, and the United Kingdom were fighting the aggressors Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Italy. The United States joined the conflict in 1917 due to Germany's unfettered aggression at sea, sinking any vessel that wasn't allied with Germany, as well as the interception of the Zimmermann Telegram, an encoded telegram sent from Germany to Mexico urging Mexico to start a war with the United States. That encoded telegram was actually relayed to Mexico from Galveston. The United States was involved in World War I from April 1917 to November 1918, and during that time, over 4 million Americans served in the armed forces over 116,000 Americans lost their lives, not only due to combat but the harsh conditions of trench warfare. During World War I, 75 Galvestonians lost their lives. 74 men and one woman. A monument was dedicated to those who lost their lives. In 1927, that monument can be found on the seawall between 27th and 28th Street on the extreme south side of Menard Park.

World War II.

The Second World War occurred between 1939 and 1945. Another global conflict that involved the majority of the world's nations. There were two opposing alliances. Known as the Axis and the Allies. The Allies consisted of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, and Poland. The Axis powers comprised Germany, Italy, Japan, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Finland, loosely associated. World War II was significant for the United States, as America was at war on two fronts: Japan in the South Pacific and Germany in Europe. The United States joined World War II in December of 1941 after Japan bombed a naval base known as Pearl Harbor, located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

World War II had more than twice the amount of American casualties over World War I. Over 16 million Americans served in the armed forces during World War II, with over 416,000 American casualties throughout the four-year conflict. At Broadway and 23rd Street intersect, you can find a monument dedicated to those who lost their lives during World War II from Galveston County. Well over 300 names of Galveston County residents who lost their lives during World War II are listed on this monument.

The following two conflicts were direct results of the Cold War. The Cold War was a geopolitical and ideological standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union, emerging in the aftermath of World War II. The "Cold War," the word "cold," reflects the absence of large-scale direct warfare but signifies the persistent tensions and proxy wars between the two world superpowers.

The Korean War.

The Korean War occurred between 1950 and 1953. A conflict between North Korea, supported by China and the Soviet Union, against South Korea, backed by the United States.

The Korean War is also known as the Forgotten War, as it was in the middle of two major conflicts, World War II and the Vietnam War. Although nearly 6 million Americans served during the Korean War, over 36,000 Americans lost their lives during the Korean War. Galveston has a Korean War Memorial, dedicated to the 51 men of Galveston County killed during the conflict located on 20th Street between Mechanic and Market street.

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War occurred between 1955 and 1975. It was a prolonged conflict between North Vietnam, backed by the communist forces of the Soviet Union, and China against South Vietnam, which was supported by the anti-communist allies, primarily the United States. The war originated from the struggle for control over Vietnam and the ideological divide between communism and anti-communism during the Cold War. Nearly 9 million Americans served in the armed forces during the Vietnam conflict, with nearly 58,000 losing their lives during that war.

A Vietnam War memorial can be found at the Moody Gardens Hotel. On Hope Boulevard and Jones Drive, the memorial honors 25 Galveston County residents who lost their lives during the Vietnam conflict.

Galveston's largest and most interactive war memorials is on Pelican Island at Seawolf Park at the Galveston Naval Museum, where you'll find the USS Cavalla, a World War II submarine, and the USS Stewart, a World War II destroyer escort. Both are surviving relics of the most significant American war of the 20th century. Right in between those vessels at Seawolf Park is a veteran memorial.

You can tour and explore these vessels and experience, even for a little bit, what it was like to live aboard a war vessel.

Desert Storm and Desert Shield. The last of the 20th-century American conflicts. Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Occurred between 1990 and 1991. Two closely related military operations conducted by a coalition of nations led by the United States in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. During my research, I could not find an official war memorial in Galveston for Desert Storm and Desert Shield, which is why I think it's important to thank someone who served in the United States military for their service next time you come across them.

As we conclude, I extend my deepest gratitude to the brave men and women who have served and sacrificed for our nation. To the veterans who donned the uniform of one of the United States military branches in the face of adversity and fought for the freedom we enjoy today.

I urge you to go out and explore the monuments and locations. That honors Galveston's rich military history and the brave men and women from Galveston County who never returned home. We were reminded that these stories of resilience, sacrifice, and honor are etched into the very fabric of our nation. These monuments stand not only as a tribute to those who didn't return home but as testaments to the enduring spirit of those who served.

Here on Galveston Island, as we walk in the footsteps of history, we are confronted with the profound impact of military action on the course of our past. In the quiet contemplation of the World War I monument at Menard Park, The names of those who were lost during World War II engraved at the intersection of Broadway and 23rd Street or the Korean War Memorial on 20th Street. We are reminded that history is not just a distant tale.

Venturing into Seawolf Park, where the USS Cavalla and USS Stewart proudly stand. The Veteran Memorial at Seawolf Park invites us to reflect on the sacrifices made aboard these vessels during the most significant American war of the 20th century.

As we express our gratitude to all American veterans, I invite you to commemorate their service. To all of those American veterans out there, those who fought for our country, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice, thank you for your service.

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J.R. Shaw Creator & Host of Galveston Unscripted

J.R. Shaw is the creator and host of Galveston Unscripted Podcast & audio tour. Shaw recognizes that history is nuanced and learning it can be powerful. He's made it his mission to reduce the friction between true history and anyone who is willing to listen! J.R. Shaw focuses on telling the full story through podcasting and social media with the goal of making learning accurate history easy and entertaining for all who seek it.

J.R. grew up along the Texas Gulf Coast, where he learned to love talking with anyone about anything! He started Galveston Unscripted after he realized how much he loved talking to people about their stories related to Galveston Island and Texas History. "So much of our history is lost when we don't have the opportunity to hear from those who lived it or have second-hand knowledge."