A proposed monument in Elizabeth City to honor five foreign soldiers who died on American soil during World War II has become a divisive issue.
Back in 2017, the Elizabeth City city council voted unanimously to allow the Russian government to erect a statue and put it in Elizabeth City. The $1 million statue, to be paid for by Russia, was to honor several Soviet Union pilots, and one Canadian, who lost their lives while training in Elizabeth City during World War II.
The crew was in Elizabeth City as part of Project Zebra, a secret collaborative effort between the Soviet Union and the United States during the war. Soviet pilots came to America to be trained to shoot and destroy German and Japanese submarines.
During a training mission, one of the planes crashed in the Pasquotank River, killing five of the crew members on board.
“I view it as a World War II monument that is memorializing fallen soldiers,” said Councilman Billy Caudle, one of those in favor of the monument.
Councilman Caudle, along with two other council members, Jeannie Young and Ricky King, all voted in favor of moving forward with the monument.
Despite unanimous approval by the council in 2017, Councilman Darius Horton and four others voted no.
“There was just a lot of grey areas with our relationship with Russia,” Horton said. “Things that are going on with the presidential election, and things of that nature.”
Councilman Horton said the constituents he represents overwhelming oppose the monument. He believes now is not the time to erect a monument to honor Russia or their soldiers.
However Councilwoman Young believes allowing the proposed monument will give the families of the fallen foreign soldiers some closure.
“We need to be great stewards of our community and our nation. We need to mindful that the things that are happening now should not affect this monument being placed,” she said.
Some city residents, like Rick Boyd, have started a petition asking for people to encourage the city council to approve the monument.
“It’s not just an Northeastern North Carolina thing. It’s not just a North Carolina thing as a whole thing. It’s a country, worldwide idol,” he said.
So far, more than 900 people have signed the petition.
There is no timeline on if, or when, the city council revisits the issue.