Victory Park of Manchester, New Hampshire is located between Concord and Amherst,
Pine and Chestnut streets. It was originally part of a larger park called Concord Square or Concord Common and it extended to Vine Street (that portion is now a parking garage).
On March 3, 1928 the City of Manchester decided that the site for the World War Soldiers Memorial was going to be at the location now known as Victory Park, and statue plans were finalized. A monument was to be constructed, and placed to face Chestnut Street. The memorial itself would recognize Manchester heroes, both living and dead of the World War (This would be at first just World War I, because of course the city could not envision in 1928 that there would be another world war).
The city decided that the monument would be made of granite and bronze, and was to be forty feet high. It was designed by local sculptor and New Hampshire native, Lucien Hippolyte Gosselin. A shaft, twenty feet in height was designated to stand on a base eighteen free square. Three steps would lead from a curbing around the base of the monument to the base of the shaft. The shaft was to be surmounted by a large ball representing the world, and on top of the ball a figure of Victory would stand. Four eagles were to be installed at each corner of the shaft and behind each a spotlight would be hidden. The facade of the monument would have a representation of Columbia and on each side of her a figure, one to represent the army and the other the navy. At the rear of the shaft there would be a draped figure mourning.
The figure, according to the first plan, was to hold a book in his hand. A more feasible arrangement put the book upright in front of the statue. The book reads: “In memory of the Manchester men who died in the great war that the world be made safe for democracy–In righteous cause they have won immortal glory and have nobly served their nation and mankind.”
The layout of the park was was designed to have a side walk from Chestnut Street to the
monument. Two steps would lead to the terrace and urns for flowers would be placed on each side. The entire monument including the sidewalks would have a diameter of sixty feet. The ground for the monument was broken on November 12, 1928 by Mayor Arthur E. Moreau, with special memorial services.
On May 30, 1929 the memorial was dedicated in the presence of 15,000 people. General Charles E. Cole, commander of the 52nd Infantry Brigade of the 26th Division in the World War, gave the oration at the dedication. Victory Park is dedicated to all the Manchester veterans and current military personnel who have answered the country’s call to arms.
To see a list of those from Manchester who died during World War One, see “New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Manchester.”
RENE GAGNON MEMORIAL at Victory Park
Along a walkway set apart from and just south of the main Victory Park monument, sits a smaller tribute to Rene Gagnon that was dedicated in 1995. It is made up of a flag pole along with two granite benches flanked by two granite markers with bronze plaque inscriptions. On one of those disks is a quote from Rene Gagnon: “Do not glorify war. There’s nothing glorious about it.”
The large stone marker holds a bronze plaque containing the flag-raising scene on Mt. Suribachi as depicted in the famous World War II photograph by Rosenthal, inscriptions and a bust of Pfc. Gagnon and includes the words: IN HONOR OF RENE GAGNON AND ALL THOSE FROM MANCHESTER
WHO ANSWERED THEIR COUNTRY’S CALL.
The smaller plaque reads:
FOLLOWING THE BLOODY INVASION OF
IWO JIM AND FOUR DAYS OF SAVAGE
COMBAT ON THE ISLAND FORTRESS SIX
HUNDRED MILES FROM JAPAN, FIVE
MARINES, INCLUDING MANCHESTER’S
RENE GAGNON AND A NAVY COPRSMAN,
RAISED THE STARS AND STRIPES AND
BECAME PART OF THE MOST FAMOUS
PHOTO OF WWII
According to the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper of Memorial Day (30 May) 1995, the dedication ceremony took place at the new memorial, with many present including Gagnon ‘s widow, Pauline, and his son,
Rene Jr., and his family. According to the newspaper, Don Duhamel, commander of the Manchester Veterans Council, and Hubert “Hubie” McDonough, Mike Lopez and Ray Caron were greatly responsible for arranging for Rene Gagnon to be remembered in this way.
Speakers and guests included Manchester native and Marine Brig. Gen. Richard F. Vercauteren, (then) Senators Judd Gregg and Robert Dole, U.S. Rep. Bill Zeliff, former Sen. Warren Rudman and Manchester Mayor Raymond Wieczorek, officials of veterans organizations, and many friends, admirers and observers.
Iwo Jima Memorial – Manchester NH (from “New England Travels” blog)
[Editor’s Note: Although originally written in 2006, this post has been updated to correct information in the original article, and to update changes made in 1995]
[Editor’s Note: This article is one of several I have written at the request of Don Pinard, Department of Public Works, Chief of Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Division, City of Manchester, New Hampshire. It is a volunteer project (on my part) to better record and share the stories of the men memorialized by the city’s “Military Squares.” All the information specifically within the body of this project is shared copyright free with the City of Manchester and its representatives, with the exception of photographs provided by family or friends who still retain whatever rights conveyed to them by law.]