Latest Exhibit “A Salute to Lexington’s Greatest Generation” Opens Saturday

Latest Exhibit “A Salute to Lexington’s Greatest Generation” Opens Saturday

wwii exhibit

LexHistory Salutes Kentucky’s Greatest Generation
Exhibit to Commemorate 70th Anniversary of World War II’s End to Open at Library
January 31, 2015 – March 29, 2015

Lexington, KY – To commemorate the 70th anniversary of World War II’s end, LexHistory will remount A Salute to Lexington’s Greatest Generation: World War II on the War and Home Fronts for a two month engagement at Central Library’s gallery space. Prior to the closing of the Old Fayette County Courthouse, this exhibit opened on the eve of Pearl Harbor’s 70th anniversary. Salute will run Saturday, January 31, 2015 to Sunday, March 29, 2015 and will be a stop on the March LexArts Hop. The exhibit will be open during library hours and is free and open to the public.

Learn how everyday Americans helped with the war effort, with rationing, victory gardens, war industries, and more. What was it like for soldiers to live through the intensity of battle and the long stretches of boredom away from home? What opportunities were there for women on the home front and abroad? On display will be the spoils of war that our soldiers, sailors, and airmen brought back home. The exhibit will also feature a Wall of Honor listing the names of those Kentuckians that gave their all to protect America and liberate the world.

Lee Overstreet 022


Left: Longtime Lexington History Museum volunteer Lieutenant Virginia Lee Overstreet (1920-2012)served as an assistant recruiting officer of the Atlanta office of the WAAC (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corp).

Right: Lee observing the exhibit before the closing of the Old Fayette County Courthouse. She passed away in 2012.

“We hope to show how this event really defined a generation, how people coped and how their outlook changed, all coming out of this period of war,” said Debra Watkins, who is curating the exhibit. “The whole country was at war. You were doing scrap drives; you were buying war bonds; you were donating to the Red Cross. Every single American was involved.”

The Lexington History Museum opened in 2003 as the city’s only free historic site with the mission to engage all citizens of Lexington and the State of Kentucky in their history. Currently a museum without walls, LexHistory continues to engage the public through dynamic programming, lectures, walking tours, and online offerings such as WikiLex and The Athens of the West blog. 2014 was the organization’s best year, serving over 17,000 through outreach, school programs, and events.

LexHistory is a new and markedly different chapter for the former Lexington History Museum. Administrative offices are located in The Square in Lexington, Kentucky. For more information, visit
Debra Watkins, Director
(859) 907-9585 (office)


This Day in History — February 23

The picture is sealed into our collective memory: brave men raising the American flag at Iwo Jima. Just five days into the Battle of Iwo Jima, U.S. Marines planted the flag atop Mount Suribachi.  The photograph by Joe Rosenthal would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Photography and is one of the most recognizable photographs from World War II, if not all time.

By the fifth day of the battle on February 23, 1945, Mount Suribachi was effectively cut off from the rest of the island. Marines raised the flag at Iwo Jima to secure U.S. claim, as the tactic for the war in the Pacific was that of island-hopping. In February, it had come to Iwo Jima. Earlier in the day a small flag was placed upon the mountain, but later in the day a large flag was found which was deemed more appropriate. A group of six men, though only five are seen in the famous picture, was sent to place the new flag. One of these men, Franklin Sousley, who was only nineteen at the time of the battle, was a Kentuckian.

Franklin Sousley was born September 19, 1925 in the small farming community of Hilltop. When he was a child, his father died of diabetes, which left him to be the man of the house. He was very close to his mother, lightening her spirits with his easy going personality. Upon graduating from Fleming County High School in 1943, he moved to Dayton, Ohio to seek work. Sousley enlisted at seventeen and set sail for the Pacific on his eighteenth birthday. Franklin chose to be a U.S. Marine and after extensive training, he became a member of U.S. 5th Marine Division landing force on Iwo Jima.

The battle continued for over a month. Word had come back that Sousley may be part of a War Bond tour that was being planned back in the States after Rosenthal’s photograph had become so popular. It would have meant going home to see his mom and traveling the country as an example of the importance of purchasing war bonds. Sadly, he was killed in action on March 21, 1945, just five days before the end of the battle. He was the last of the Iwo Jima flag-raisers to die on the island. Three survived and went on to be part of the war bond tour. Originally buried on Iwo Jima, his body was reinterred on May 8, 1947, in Elizaville Cemetery.

He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation with One Star, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one battle star, World War II Victory Medal. He was a Private First Class.

Letters to his mother from, a site commemorating the battle and the legacy of the men who served:

————July 1944, Letter from Training Camp:
“Mother, you said you were sick. I want you to stay in out of that field and look real pretty when I come home. You can grow a crop of tobacco every summer, but I sure as hell can’t grow another mother like you.”

————Feb. 27, 1945 Letter from Iwo Jima:
“My regiment took the hill with our company on the front line. The hill was hard, and I sure never expected war to be like it was those first 4 days. Mother, you can never imagine how a battlefield looks. It sure looks horrible. Look for my picture because I helped put up the flag. Please don’t worry and write.”

Semper Fi, Franklin Sousley. 1925-1945