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Gala at San Diego Air Museum during 2012 Spirit of '45 Day National Leaders Conference.  Left, aviation legends Bob Hoover and Gen. Robert Cardenas congratulate fellow WWII veteran Chuck Yeager who was honored during the evening with a lifetime achievement award.   Yeager, Hoover and Cardenas made up the three-man team that broke the sound barrier.  More...
 
GM, Ford Motors, Chrysler Corporation, Boeing, Lockheed, and Northrop Grumman honored with first "Arsenal of Democracy" Awards         
General Chuck Yeager receives first Spirit of '45 Individual Lifetime Achievement Award
 
General Chuck Yeager, best known for his historic flight that broke the sound barrier and who flew a P-51 in combat in the skies over Europe during World War II, was honored during the 2012 Spirit of '45 Day National Conference.
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Members of the "Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive!" collaborative also presented “Arsenal of Democracy” awards to six American companies that helped win WWII and that continue to contribute to America’s greatness during the 2012 Spirit of '45 National Leaders Conference that was held in San Diego on the weekend of February 17 - 19, 2012.   

 
Representatives of all six companies were on hand to receive their awards which were announced on the 70th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt's famous "Arsenal of Democracy" radio speech on December 19, 1945.
 
 
 Click here to download the 2012 Spirit of '45 Day National Leaders Conference official program.
 
 

All these companies retooled to a war footing in record time during WWII, producing the planes, trucks, tanks, guns and other equipment that overwhelmed the enemies of democracy.  

 
Together these six companies performed one of the greatest industrial achievements in history, providing the men and women of the Greatest Generation with the tools they needed to achieve victory in the most devastating war of all time.  All six companies depended on tens of thousands of “Rosies,” who replaced men who were called to service, forever changing the role of women in America.
 
All of the award recipients have helped sustain the Western powers during the Cold War and are mainstays of the American economy.  America’s aviation companies continue to lead the world in innovation and are the cornerstones of our national defense. The U.S. auto industry has adapted to overcome challenges and remain a bedrock of American manufacturing industry. 
 

The "Arsenal of Democracy" awards were presented by Spirit of '45 National Spokesman Jerry Coleman and Tom Letterman of the National Parks Service, during a gala dinner hosted by the San Diego Air & Space Museum on the evening of February 18, and sponsored by Lockheed Martin, with additional financial support from U-Haul, HISTORY, National History Day, and private donors.

 
  
“We are delighted to be able to honor these six companies for their service to America,” said Jim Kidrick president of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. “Together, they represent the collective spirit of American manufacturing industry – past, present and future.”    One of the goals of the Spirit of '45 campaign is to encourage more air and space museums to observe National Spirit of '45 Day, especially those with WWII assets. 
 
Click here to read Jerry Coleman's letter to America's air and space museums inviting them to help keep the Spirit of '45 alive. 
 
Attending the awards dinner were several men and women who drove, flew or built the vehicles and airplanes produced by the recipients during WWII, including members of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, the 8th Air Force, Navajo Code Talkers survivors of the battles of the Bulge, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Midway, and women who served in uniform or worked in the defense industry as “Rosies." 
 

“Ford Motor Company is proud of our historic and on-going efforts to support the men and women whose sacrifice and bravery have upheld the principles of democracy and community,” said Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund. “In particular, the stories of the World War II generation offer all of us inspiration and an example for the future.”

 

“The Chrysler Group is proud of the role that the iconic and loyal Jeep® 4x4s and Sherman M4 tank played in our nation’s fight for freedom during World War II,” said Jody Trapasso, Senior Vice President, External Affairs – Chrysler Group LLC.

 
“Over the years, as Chrysler continued to support the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, National Guard and Reserve, we developed numerous military-related programs, ranging from training and employment opportunities to providing financial support to military academies. The Arsenal of Democracy is a symbol of our unwavering commitment to them and we are honored to accept this award on their behalf.”
 
The awards dinner was one of the highlights of the 3-day conference attended by representatives of more than 100 different organizations from 35 states that are working together to promote public awareness and participation in the observance of National Spirit of '45 Day.  
 
The Conference concluded with a closing ceremony in front of the 25ft sculpture by acclaimed artist Seward Johnson depicting the famous "Times Square Kiss," that had been on loan to the Port Authority of San Diego.  
 
The USS Midway, a Founding Member of the "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive!" collaborative, led a campaign to raise more than $1 million in private donations in less than 6 weeks to purchase a new sculpture, which was officially dedicated during the 2013 Conference, and now stands in San Diego's "Greatest Generation Park" as the permanent national symbol of Spirit of '45 Day.