ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — A proposed monument honoring five foreign soldiers who died in the Pasquotank River has become a hot topic in Elizabeth City.
“The purpose of this monument is to honor fallen soldiers, fallen airmen, that died in an accident out here when we trained the Russian aviators,” said City Councilman Billy Caudle.
During a training mission, the plane they were in crashed into the Pasquotank River.
They were in Elizabeth City training as part of Project Zebra, a secret collaboration between the Soviet Union and the U.S. during World War II.
“I view the monument as commemorating fallen aviators and providing closure to those families,” said Caudle.
The $1 million monument, paid for by the Russian government, was approved by the city council last year.
But a 5-3 vote last month brought those plans to a screeching halt.
Caudle says he believes it was more of a political statement than anything.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the headlines which we all read about with Russian government in today’s headlines,” explained Caudle.
Councilman Johnnie Walton says while he is still against the monument, it’s behind him now.
10 On Your Side reached out to several other city councilors and the mayor, who is also reportedly opposed to the monument, but did not hear back.
One local man, Rick Boyd, got wind of the council’s decision.
“As a citizen of Elizabeth City, I’m embarrassed for us because of what’s already happened,” said Boyd.
He says that’s why he took matters into his own hands, starting a petition that’s gathered hundreds of signatures.
“Before it’s all said and done, this monument is going to be installed,” he commented.