Valley Forge in WWII
Q.I'm interested in what was going at Valley Forge during World War II. Was the site used in any way to rally the people for the patriotic cause? Do you have any information about the commissioning of the USS Valley Forge after the war was over and any information about its history?
Lori Bogle, Fayetteville, Arkansas
A.Dr. John Hart, who was the rector of the Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge and President of the Valley Forge Historical Society attempted to use the Washington Memorial to further his own interpretive program: peace. After the blitzkrieg of Hitler and the occupation of France, Hart totally denounced Hitler and advocated for the U.S. to enter the war. Hart used his position in both roles (historical and religious) to garner support for the war effort. Volunteers from the Red Cross got together to sew and knit for example. He also dedicated an honor roll to members of the armed forces as well as inviting famous people to speak/perform at the Washington Memorial Chapel to gain support. He even published a book entitled: Valley Forge During World War II. It was published in 1944. He even tried to get approval from the government for a cattle raising program at Valley Forge! At one point, Dr. Hart even sent letters to government officials recommending Valley Forge as the site for the new United Nations.
The Valley Forge Park Commission did not use "Valley Forge" in the same way Hart did. They actually favored discouraging organized groups in the Park. However, they did donate some reproduction cannon to the scrap metal drive and allowed some of the acreage to be put under cultivation. Some of the grounds were used for training by some organizations, including the Valley Forge Military Academy and the observation tower was even used as a lookout.
The VFPC did honor a request of an army private to have some ivy sent from Washington's Headquarters to the Philippines so that the soldiers buried there would have a link to Valley Forge.
Following the war, Valley Forge saw some of its largest numbers in crowds to that date. Over the weekend of August 15-16, 1945, over 3500 people visited Washington's Headquarters. Labor Day that same year counted over 8700 visitors.
Park Commissioners attended the commissioning of the USS Valley Forge after the war. Dr. John Hart was invited to give the invocation. The VFPC presented the U.S. Navy with a Revolutionary War cannonball and a piece of iron excavated from the forge site at Valley Forge — a link for the USS Valley Forge to the real Valley Forge.
SAS, Courtesy The Valley Forge Historical Society