community what is community

By Rex Bowman The 2.5 million-member American Legion expressed its displeasure Thursday with the placement of a bust of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, saying the site now has the “notorious distinction of probably having the only bust or statue of Stalin in America.”

At its annual convention in Milwaukee, roughly 3,000 delegates adopted a resolution telling the National D-Day Memorial Foundation the bust is inappropriate. The foundation’s decision to place the bust at the memorial in June, the legion said, flies “in the face of history which has seen countries tearing down—not erecting—statues of Stalin.”

The legion warned that the continued presence of the bust could dampen visitation to the memorial and curtail the number of people willing to volunteer at the site. About 75,000 people annually visit the cash-strapped memorial.

The Indianapolis-based legion’s decision to weigh in on the issue gives national scope and potentially renewed energy to the protest that flared up this spring but seemed to languish over the summer. In July, the 59,000-member Virginia chapter of the American Legion came out against the bust, and veterans have picketed the memorial itself.

The private, D-Day foundation maintains the bust, along with busts of other world leaders from World War II such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, is necessary to tell the full story of the June 6, 1944, Allied invasion of Normandy. A plaque attached to the Stalin bust honors “the tens of millions who died under Stalin’s rule.”

Robin Reed, the foundation’s president since late June, declined to comment on the American Legion’s criticism. Reed noted, though, that he is nearly finished with his promised review of the Stalin bust and its future at the memorial.

In its resolution, the American Legion said the bust should go because it can be interpreted as “granting Stalin a place of honor,” and “showing insensitivity toward Polish, Czech, and Slovak Allies whose countries were enslaved by Stalin after the war.”

Two other organizations also have recently condemned the bust: the Central and East European Coalition, and the North Korea Freedom Coalition.