View Full Version : World War II Memorial to open this month
04-06-04, 10:50 AM
World War II Memorial to open this month
By Jon Ward
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The National World War II Memorial will be opened to the public later this month, more than a month before hundreds of thousands are expected to converge on the Mall during Memorial Day weekend for its official dedication.
The early opening will allow aging veterans who don't want to wait for the official opening to visit the 7.4-acre site at the center of the Mall. It also will be a precursor to the largest gathering of World War II veterans since the war ended.
"There's been very little attention paid to it up to now," Mike Wallace, co-anchor of the CBS News' "60 Minutes" and a World War II veteran, said in a telephone interview. "Our attention is bound to be elsewhere, isn't it, at the moment, when you think about it."
The May 29 dedication "is just a day or two before we are supposed to be handing over authority to the Iraqis," said Mr. Wallace, who served on a Navy submarine from 1943 to 1946.
The $170 million memorial has been built entirely with private funds in less than three years. Visitors will enter the bronze-and-granite memorial plaza through a 43-foot arch. In the center of the plaza stands a rainbow pool with fountains, and the plaza is ringed by 26 granite pillars. A wall with 4,000 sculpted, gold-plated stars will commemorate the 400,000 American soldiers who died in the war.
"The sweep of the memorial will take your breath away," Alan K. Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming who has supported the efforts to build the memorial, said in a telephone interview. "That's going to stun the American people and the people of the world. It's an absolutely inspirational thing, pure power."
Mr. Simpson was a 10-year-old Boy Scout in 1942, when his Scout master took a group of Scouts to an internment camp for Japanese Americans in Mr. Simpson's hometown of Cody, Wyo. It was there that he met Norman Y. Minetta, now the U.S. secretary of transportation, who had been detained with his family.
Mr. Simpson went on to serve with the Army's 12th Armored Infantry Battalion from 1955 to 1956 during NATO's occupation of Germany.
The formal dedication will be part of a four-day World War II reunion organized by the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. A five-block area between Third and Seventh streets NW will be transformed into an outdoor event with presentations, concerts and interactive displays.
Veterans are looking forward to the memorial's opening with some impatience.
"I think it's 60 years too late. It's about time that the memorial came into being while all the vets are still alive. We're all in our 80s now," said John Dolibois, the only surviving interrogator from the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals. "It's high time and I think it's a great honor that finally those who fought in WWII be recognized."
"There are less and less of us. Every month somebody dies off," he said.
Memorial organizers said they wanted to open the memorial as soon as possible to accommodate aging veterans. The youngest are thought to be 76 years old, and an average of 1,056 World War II veterans die each day, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"To keep the memorial closed for another six weeks might deprive some folks of ever seeing it," said James Deutsch, the Smithsonian's curator for the reunion celebration. "There is a sense of urgency for members of this generation. It's been a long time coming to get a memorial for the WWII generation."
Mr. Deutsch said he talks to veterans daily.
"They are ready and eager to come. Many of them recognize this as the last time that veterans of WWII will gather in these kinds of numbers, and they want to make this a momentous and memorable occasion," he said.
04-17-04, 01:21 PM
Release # 0416-04-1116
Apr. 15, 2004
World War II Memorial to Open Last Week of April
WASHINGTON--By Army Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service
It's been a long time coming -- some 59 years
after the war -- but soon visitors wandering about the National Mall here will
see the new memorial dedicated to the nation's World War II veterans.
Betsy Glick, the memorial's communications director, said the 7.4-acre site
between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial still needs some
"fine-tuning of small items," but that the memorial will be ready for opening
the last week of April.
"We have yet to complete paving the sidewalks leading to the memorial, as well
as some components of the information pavilion and comfort facilities," she
said. However, she added, the few -- mostly travel writers -- who have managed
to get a glimpse of the memorial have been "very pleased" at how beautifully
the monument nestles in with existing elements on the Mall.
When she asked one veteran from Texas accompanying a reporter what he thought,
he replied, "You got it right."
Two 43-foot arches welcome visitors to a bronze-and-granite memorial plaza. The
arches, she said, serve as north and south entries to the plaza, and within
each arch are four bronze eagles that hold a suspended victory laurel.
A 17-foot granite pillar adorned with bronze oak and wheat wreaths, symbolic of
the nation's industrial and agricultural strength, represents each state and
territory from that period. "The 56 pillars celebrate unprecedented national
unity," Glick explained.
In the center of the pillars stands a rainbow reflecting pool with fountains
and a wall with 4,000 sculpted, gold-plated stars. The stars commemorate the
400,000 American soldiers who died in the war and the 16 million who served and
supported the war effort from home, she added.
The memorial, which cost $170 million to build and will be officially dedicated
May 29 during Memorial Day weekend, culminates an 11-year effort to honor
America's World War II generation.
The four-day celebration begins a 100-day summer-long tribute to the world War
II generation that Glick said is "long overdue."
"We are proud to finally have a place to honor those Americans in the military
and on the home front who took up the struggle to defend freedom and save the
world from tyranny," she said. "The memorial will stand as a symbol of American
national unity, a timeless reminder of the moral strength and awesome power of
a free people united and bonded together in a common and just cause."
Glick said the memorial fund received $194 million; $16 million came from the
government, and $15 million is interest income. She said the rest of the money
came from "hundreds of thousands" of individual donors.
"Corporations, veterans organizations, states, foundations, school children and
others, recognize that a tribute to the World War II generation is long
overdue, and contributed to help build a memorial in their honor," she
Organizers anticipate more than 100,000 visitors for the official dedication.
Glick said the four-day event will be perhaps the largest gathering of World
War II veterans since the war ended.
"There has been strong nationwide interest in attending the dedication
ceremony, particularly by members of the World War II generation," Glick said.
"We received requests for all 117,000 ticketed seats." Due to overwhelming
demand, she said, ticket requests are no longer being accepted.
Glick added that even more people are expected to participate in the four-day
"Tribute to a Generation" May 27-30 near the Smithsonian museums on the
Memorial organizers will cordon off a five-block area between Third and Seventh
streets in northwest Washington to host an array of outdoor events,
presentations, interactive displays and concerts.
The official dedication begins at noon May 30, with gates opening between 9 and
11 a.m. Two hours of pre-ceremony entertainment will include Big Band and Swing
music - the popular musical genre during the war -- and a patriotic finale.
Military bands also will provide entertainment during the event.
Other planned activities include a World War II-themed reunion and exhibition
on the Mall, a service of celebration at the Washington National Cathedral, and
an entertainment salute to World War II veterans from military performing
units. Related activities will take place at cultural venues throughout the
President Bush has been invited to receive the memorial on behalf of the
nation. Former Sen. Bob Dole, who served as the volunteer national chairman of
the memorial fund-raising campaign, also is expected to take part in the
Glick said anyone planning to attend the dedication ceremony who does not have
a ticket should visit the memorial's Web site to find out about alternate
nonticketed viewing areas in the city, or to view the ceremony on television.
World War II Memorial [http://www.wwiimemorial.com]
04-20-04, 04:17 PM
WWII Shrine Is A Reality
April 20, 2004,
The story of how America finally built a memorial to the greatest war in history begins not on a distant battlefield or in the halls of Congress, but at the annual fish fry in Jerusalem Township, Ohio.
It was a cold night in February 1987. Marcy Kaptur had just loaded her plate with Lake Erie perch when a man's voice boomed across the room: "Hey, Congresswoman Kaptur! Why is there no World War II memorial in Washington?" Impossible, thought Kaptur, then a three-term Democrat. Then she had it: What about the big statue of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima?
"No!" replied Roger Durbin. He had twinkling eyes, a square jaw and a teasing grin -- Norman Rockwell with an attitude. "That's a memorial to one service," he said.
They sat and talked. And that year, Kaptur introduced legislation to create a National World War II Memorial in Washington. It seemed like an idea whose time was overdue.
But when the memorial opens to the public this month, 17 years will have passed since Kaptur's fish fry epiphany -- four times as long as it took to win the war. Only 4 million of the 16 million Americans who fought in the war are still alive, and they are dying at a rate of 1,056 a day.
The memorial, which will be dedicated May 29 during Memorial Day weekend, is on the National Mall, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial -- "the most precious civic real estate in America," according to Nicolaus Mills, author of a book about the memorial due out next month.
The granite and bronze memorial is slightly longer than a football field and has a sunken plaza that contains a pool and fountains. It is lined by 56 columns, one for each U.S. state and territory in 1945. Two arches 43 feet high representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters flank the memorial. Its far wall bears a field of 4,000 gold stars, one for every 100 Americans killed in the war.
The site symbolically establishes World War II as one of three pivotal events in American history -- equal to the nation's founding in the 18th century (represented by the Washington Monument) and its preservation in the 19th century (the Lincoln Memorial).
About 3.5 million visitors a year are expected. But for many World War II veterans, the youngest in their late 70s, their first visit to the memorial will be their last. For many others, the memorial comes too late for any visit at all.
So the fish fry query of 1987 -- why is there no memorial? -- has been replaced by another: Why did it take so long?
Triumph of a good idea
When President Clinton dedicated the site for the World War II memorial in 1995, he thanked Durbin for showing "that an American citizen can have a good idea and take it to the proper authorities and actually get something done."
Durbin was a high school drop-out from the rural village of Berkey, Ohio, who enlisted in 1943 at age 22, leaving behind a wife and young son. For Durbin, a tank mechanic with Gen. George Patton's Third Army, the war was hell. His most vivid memories were intense seasickness while going to Europe and intense cold when he got there. He learned that a dead body would freeze to the ground in two hours.
He never forgot the sight of American soldiers' bodies piled like cordwood at the Battle of the Bulge or the emaciated survivors his unit found at the Nordhausen concentration camp in central Germany.
In a letter home, he said the war was fought by "common people like myself." Others, he said, "don't realize what the men in the service have to go through."
What he went through changed him. "Before your father left, he was happy-go-lucky," an aunt later told Durbin's son, Peter, a retired high school teacher in Berkey. "When he came back, he wasn't the same." One night, when a fire siren went off, Durbin jumped out of bed and rolled underneath it.
Durbin, who became a rural mail carrier, loved children but said he would have no more of his own. He didn't want to bring anyone into the world he'd seen.
When Durbin and his fellow veterans came home in 1945, they weren't concerned with memorializing a war they could never forget. Instead, they favored "living memorials" -- schools, bridges and other ingredients of the future they hoped to build.
But Durbin's attitude began to change on his first visit to Washington in 1961. Although he and his family walked around a capital filled with memorials, there was none to his war. What would he have to show his grandchildren?
Five years later, the family went to Europe for a reunion of Durbin's unit. On a hill overlooking the city of Bastogne in Belgium, site of one of the war's pivotal battles, he found an impressive, star-shaped memorial to the American war dead. If Bastogne could have such a memorial, he wondered, why not Washington?
04-20-04, 04:18 PM
He kept asking that question, in one form or another, until that night in February 1987.
A wait too long?
To many people, 59 years seems like a long wait, especially since the Mall already has memorials to veterans of more recent wars -- Vietnam (built in 1982) and Korea (1995).
The Oklahoma City National Memorial opened just five years after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in 1995. A Sept. 11 memorial already stands outside the Pentagon, and others are on track for the World Trade Center in New York and the Pennsylvania field where United Flight 93 crashed.
But the monuments built for the Vietnam War, Oklahoma City and Sept. 11 are considered "healing" memorials, designed to deal with immediate loss or sorrow. Memorials directed at future generations take more time, and most of America's great memorials have been long in coming.
In Gettysburg, Pa., for instance, most of the Civil War memorials weren't built until three decades after the battle. The generation that fought the Civil War had begun to die off, just as the World War II generation has now.
Complaints about bureaucratic delays in building the monument miss the point that, in a democracy, everyone gets a say. "You should have to run a gantlet," says Mills, the author who teaches American studies at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
It took six years for Congress to pass Kaptur's bills authorizing the memorial and start-up funding. Then came the review process.
Congress, concerned with "memorial sprawl," in 1986 had made it more difficult to build on the Mall, the 2-mile-long greensward that runs from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. The World War II memorial would need approval by six federal and local agencies, which would hold 22 public hearings and deliberate another eight years.
The first controversy was over the site. Proponents said the war's importance demanded the prominent location. Placing it elsewhere -- off the Mall's central axis, like the Vietnam and Korea memorials -- would symbolically lump it with smaller wars.
Opponents said the Mall's open space was part of its design and fostered assemblies such as the civil rights marches of the 1960s. They also charged that a memorial would interrupt the vista between the Washington and Lincoln monuments.
"The Mall is the urban equivalent of the Grand Canyon," said Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's delegate in Congress. "There should never be anything in the middle of the Grand Canyon."
In 1997 a panel selected a design by architect Friedrich St. Florian that used a sunken plaza to preserve the vista between the Lincoln and Washington monuments.
Historian Stephen Ambrose said the plan had "a strength veterans will love." But it was also attacked for being too big, too bland, and, with its neo-classical arches and columns, too reminiscent of Nazi architecture. Norton called it "a Hitler monstrosity."
'Dying like flies'
Roger Durbin supported the project. He testified before Congress, visited the White House and dined with top brass at the Pentagon. When he was presented with a flag flown at the site dedication ceremony, he said he wanted to be buried with it.
But as the process ground on through redesigns, he repeatedly warned in speeches and letters that time was running out for World War II veterans: "We're dying like flies." He found it hard to finish a speech without breaking down.
But relatives and friends say he planned to live until the year 2000, when the memorial was supposed to be dedicated.
He never let up. He made officials of the American Battle Monuments Commission, which was constructing the memorial, sorry they ever gave him their toll-free phone number. When his granddaughter, Melissa Growden, was appointed to the memorial advisory board, he was no easier on her.
"His frustration became so great that he became agitated, almost obsessive," says Growden, an architectural historian who lives in Toledo, Ohio. "There were times we'd shake our heads and walk away. All he could think about was that memorial."
He wasn't the only one. "People kept asking, 'What's wrong? Why can't we get this done?' " says Kaptur, the congresswoman.
One reason was money: The project would require $100 million, and Congress provided only $5 million. In 1997, former senator Bob Dole, an injured World War II veteran, was enlisted as co-chairman of the effort. Dole was leery: "I'd been raising money all my life, and I was tired of it." And even Dole, a former presidential nominee, had never raised that much.
One executive told Dole that a contribution to the memorial "doesn't fit into our company's plans." Dole says he bristled: "I told him World War II didn't fit into my plans, or the plans of 16 million other people."
But when he called actor Tom Hanks, star of Saving Private Ryan, he got a different response.
"I had my whole spiel written out," Dole recalls. "I was about three words into it when he says, 'I'm your man. What do you want me to do?' "
Hanks became the campaign's spokesman in 1998. His refrain -- "It's time to say thank you" -- became the theme. After he plugged the memorial's 800-number on a People's Choice awards show in 1999, calls jumped that week from 500 to 45,000.
Eventually, the cost of the project rose to $175 million, and $195 million would be raised from 500,000 contributors. They ranged from Wal-Mart and FedEx to 10-year-old Zane Fayos of Fayetteville, N.Y., who gave $195 -- everything in his bank account. "These guys pretty much saved a lot of people's lives," he explained.
Congress steps in
After the memorial design had cleared final review in 2000, a procedural irregularity was discovered that promised to send it back to square one. Congress, however, had seen enough. In five days in May, without one hearing, it approved the memorial and barred administrative or judicial review.
Now, veterans are dropping by for a look, although a chain-link fence still surrounds the memorial. And the debate continues.
Joe Vaghi and George Idelson both fought in Europe. They were wounded and earned medals.
To Vaghi, 83, of Kensington, Md., the memorial is powerful beyond words. Standing before the wall of stars, he thinks of a guy in his Navy unit who told him before the Normandy invasion, "I don't think I'm gonna make it." He didn't.
To Idelson, 79, of Washington, the memorial is boastful, sterile and funereal. "I feel like I'm looking at my gravestone," he says. Reaching back across the years, he delivers the GI's ultimate rebuke: "This is a memorial a general would love."
One veteran who will not visit the memorial is Durbin.
He died of pancreatic cancer in February 2000 at age 79. The flag from the 1995 site dedication covered his coffin.
Kaptur says Durbin realized his dream. "He wanted this for his grandchildren, and not just for his grandchildren," she says. "He wanted it for America's grandchildren."
04-25-04, 12:55 PM
World War II Memorial Information Update
The following information is provided to update you with the latest on
the dedication of the National World War II Memorial and to assist you in
responding to the many inquiries we know you are receiving particularly in
regards to tickets for the dedication ceremony. Please share this
information with your members and any other interested parties as soon as
RE: National World War II Memorial Dedication
To Veterans Service Organizations:
Thank you for your continued interest in the Dedication of the National
World War II Memorial this May 29th in Washington, D.C., and for helping
the American Battle Monuments Commission keep your members informed.
The public interest in attending the dedication ceremony has been
extraordinary. With 3 ½ million living WWII veterans, we knew the demand
would exceed our capacity to accommodate all who want to attend the
ceremony. Our first priority has always been the members of the generation
who served on the battlefront and the home front. To this end, we are
pleased that overall, 60 percent of the 117,000 ticketed seats available
will go to members of the WWII generation. Our seating sections span the
Mall and include the MCI Center, and members of the WWII generation have
been given the majority of the seats in each section.
Individuals who requested tickets should have received notification
indicating how many tickets have been reserved for them. Constituents with
questions regarding their ticket orders should be directed to our ticket
hot line at 1-800-297-1421.
For those who will be in Washington over Memorial Day Weekend without
tickets for the dedication, we are establishing a non-ticketed viewing area
on the Mall that should accommodate about 10,000 individuals in seats and
another 30,000 standing room attendees. This area will be between 10th and
14th Streets, adjacent to the Smithsonians WWII Reunion described below.
We encourage you to alert your members to ways the American people can
experience this historic event from just about anywhere in the country.
Here are the highlights:
Local Events of Celebration
Veteran Service Organizations across the country are organizing events to
honor the WWII generation that will include viewing a specially-produced
live satellite feed of the ceremony. In some cases the communities are
planning large-scale events to honor local heroes.
Live Televised Coverage
The History Channel and C-SPAN have both agreed to carry the dedication
ceremony live from start to finish beginning at 2:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday,
May 29, 2004. We also expect extensive news coverage of the events and
special Memorial Day Weekend coverage focusing on the National World War II
Other Options for Those without Tickets
The memorial should open to the public in mid-April 2004 and remain open
through Friday, May 28th, so visitors may enjoy an early visit to the new
memorial prior to the dedication weekend events. The memorial will be
closed on Saturday, May 29th until at least one hour after the conclusion
of the Dedication Ceremony, then reopen and remain open throughout the summer.
Smithsonian WWII Reunion, May 2730, 2004
Coinciding with the dedication ceremony will be the "Tribute to a
Generation: National World War II Reunion," a major four-day event produced
by the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folk life and Cultural
Heritage.. Admission is free and tickets are not required. The Reunion will
take place on the National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets. Highlights
* Reunion Hall: A Central Gathering Place for All
Veterans and their families are encouraged to socialize, relax, and get
acquainted with others and reconnect with their service colleagues.
* Wartime Stories: Voices of a Generation
Come in for a chat with prominent World War II veterans and war workers.
Narrative sessions, and interviews on a variety of topics will be featured
in this pavilion.
* Veterans History Project Pavilion
The Library of Congress Veterans History Project will present interviews,
speakers, and exhibits that showcase first-hand accounts collected from men
and women, civilian and military, who served during the war. Information
and workshops on how to write, record, and preserve personal histories will
* Preserving Memories
Experts from museums and archives will advise veterans and their families
on how to preserve documents and material culture of WWII, such as letters,
scrapbooks, diaries, maps, photographs, memorabilia, medals, uniforms, etc.
Weapons will not be permitted.
* Building the WWII Memorial
Members of the architectural, engineering, landscape, and construction
teams will discuss their roles in creating the WWII Memorial. This pavilion
will also feature an exhibition by the City Museum of Washington on the
planning and building of the memorial.
* Veterans Services
Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal agencies
and other veteran service organizations will assist veterans and their
families. Information on veterans resources and benefits will be available.
* Family Activities: Passing I t On
Families of all ages are invited to move from station to station, engaging
in hands-on activities relating to the World War II period.
* Homecoming Stage & Capitol Canteen Stage
Share the sights and sounds of dance and music from the World War II era
(big band, swing, boogie-woogie, military music, and more) in these two
* Military Equipment Display
Throughout the Reunion site will be displays of military artifacts and
equipment relating to World War II.
For more information on the National WWII Reunion please visit:
America Celebrates the Greatest Generation 100-Day Summer Tribute
Your members also can make plans to visit Washington, D.C. and the memorial
throughout the summer to take part in a citywide, summer-long celebration
called America Celebrates the Greatest Generation. The celebration will
kick-off Memorial Day weekend and continue through Labor Day weekend.
More than 80 WWII-themed exhibitions, performances, and walking tours, as
well as hotel packages, are planned throughout the region unprecedented
100-day collaboration among the regions cultural, historic and hospitality
venues. Scheduled events include:
* The Associated Presss Images of World War II at Union Station
* Corcoran Gallerys Americas Four Freedoms on loan from THE Norman Rockwell
* Spies Among Us at The International Spy Museum
* Images of Memory: WWII Combat Art at the Marine Corps Museum & Historical
For more information on America Celebrates the Greatest Generation events
produced by the American Experience Foundation in partnership with the
Washington, DC Convention & Tourism Corporation and Cultural Tourism DC,
please visit: www.americasgreatestgeneration.com
Remembering Our Nations Heroes
We also would like to remind you that individuals wishing to honor members
of the WWII generation can do so by enrolling them in the WWII Registry at
www.wwiimemorial.com. The Registry database will be accessible at the
National WWII Memorial site.
For more information regarding the dedication events, please visit
www.wwiimemorial.com. Thank you for your continued support of our efforts
to bring the National WWII Memorial to the American people.
John P. Herrling
Major General, USA (Retired)
Bob Patrick, Director
National World War II Memorial Dedication
American Battle Monuments Commission
2300 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 501
Arlington, VA 22201
Tel (703) 696-3121 FAX (703) 588-1560
04-29-04, 10:54 PM
National World War II Memorial is opened to the public
By Michael Kilian, Chicago Tribune
Pacific edition, Friday, April 30, 2004
WASHINGTON — Former Marine Master Sgt. William Abernathy, who spent 22 years in the military and fought the Japanese in the Pacific, savored the sight of the majestic new World War II memorial that opened to the public Thursday, taking its place between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
"I'm glad it happened before I passed on," said Abernathy, 91. "I think the memorial's wonderful. I like everything about it."
There were no speeches, brass bands, ribbon-cutting or ceremony to mark Thursday's event. Those are reserved for the controversial monument's official dedication on Memorial Day weekend, when expected guests include President Bush, three of his predecessors, Washington and Pentagon officials and more than 100,000 World War II veterans and their families.
On Thursday, the gates in the construction fence at the $160 million granite-and-bronze memorial were opened without fanfare to admit ordinary people. The project's overseers had given Washington VIPs and journalists private tours of the 7.4-acre site and decided the public deserved an early look as well, especially those who served in uniform.
Comparatively few were on hand for the 9:30 a.m. opening, but crowds increased until the circular memorial was full of people. Many were tourists or schoolchildren. But others, conspicuous with their grizzled faces and caps bearing military patches, were veterans who served six decades ago in the war.
They were greeted by a central fountain and a surrounding sunken plaza ringed by 56 granite pillars, representing the unity of U.S. states and territories during the war. Each pillar bears a sculpted wreath and is 17 feet high.
A curved "Freedom Wall" with 4,000 sculpted gold stars commemorates the more than 400,000 Americans killed. The gold star was the symbol of the death of a family member in the war.
At the northern and southern ends of the circle loom two 43-foot towers, each with four enormous American bald eagles and a wreath. The towers, which also serve as entrance archways, symbolize the Pacific and European theaters of the war.
"It's beautiful," said retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. George Lynch, 81, who served in Europe. "We have been waiting for this a long time — ever since Bob Dole asked everyone to send in 20 bucks so we could have a memorial."
Former Sen. Dole, R-Kan., a much-decorated and severely wounded World War II veteran, served as national chairman of the project's fund-raising campaign and was a driving force in the 11-year effort to build the memorial after Congress approved it in 1993. In enlisting support for the memorial, Dole noted that World War II veterans have been dying at the rate of 1,100 a day. According to the Veterans Affairs Department, fewer than 5 million of the 16 million men and women who served in World War II are still alive.
"If we wait three years, four years, five years, there will not be anyone left," Dole said in 2000.
Retired Army Master Sgt. Ed Stites, 73, who fought in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, called the World War II monument "one of the most inspiring memorials I have ever seen."
"It honors those who gave their lives and those who served and are still living," Stites said. "It testifies to the victories of World War II. I think people from many nations that were involved in the war will want to see it."
The new memorial comes years after the Korean War and Vietnam Memorials were placed on the Mall. The three monuments are strikingly different in style.
The Korean War monument, located just southeast of the Lincoln Memorial, includes life-size statues of a squad of soldiers in rain ponchos moving out across a rice paddy.
The Vietnam installation, just northeast of the Lincoln Memorial, is famous for its black marble wall inscribed with the names of the war dead.
The World War II memorial sits at the east end of the National Mall's Reflecting Pool, directly between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.
It originally was to have been located in a grove of trees called Constitution Gardens, 150 yards to the south. When an official complained that this would destroy the character of the gardens, the late J. Carter Brown, chairman of the federal Fine Arts Commission, proposed the present location.
That prompted years of controversy. Led by the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, foes of the project objected that it marred the open sweep of the Mall and intruded on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial.
They also complained that the National Park Service violated federal laws and regulations by pushing through the project without undertaking the proper environmental impact studies.
Others complained that architect Friedrich St. Florian's original design was too massive and resembled the neoclassical Fascist style used by German architect Albert Speer for Nazi monuments and buildings.
Numerous lawsuits were filed to block the World War II project, but none succeeded. Some 22 public hearings were held, many marked by angry debate.
Finally, in 2001, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, a World War II veteran, introduced legislation that virtually exempted the memorial project from any law, federal regulation or judicial review. It was approved overwhelmingly.
"We want to be there when this memorial is opened," Stevens said.
Still, at Brown's urging, St. Florian dramatically simplified and reduced the scale of his design, producing a much less intrusive memorial. Some opponents complain that it now looks too funereal with its wreaths and coffinlike pillars, but most other observers seem to disagree.
After the site was opened Thursday, a group of schoolgirls sang patriotic songs in the south tower, children played around the fountain and adults took photos and videos seemingly everywhere.
"I hope guys like us get a chance to come here and see this," said Marine Corps veteran Lynch. "I think it fairly represents what was accomplished and achieved in that war. Now it won't be forgotten."
Joe Gromelski / ©S&S
Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. George Lynch, third from left, and former Marine Master Sgt. William Abernathy, fourth from left, pose with a group of young visitors to the National World War II Memorial on Thursday, the first day the site was open to the public.
04-30-04, 12:05 PM
A memorial to World War II sacrifice
By JENNIFER C. KERR
The National World War II Memorial, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., opened to the public Thursday. The memorial, which sits between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, features a curved wall with gold stars representing the more than 400,000 Americans who died in the war. The $174 million memorial was almost two decades in the making. See story below.
'Beautiful' WWII Memorial opens on National Mall
WASHINGTON - Gray-haired war veterans sat in quiet reflection. Tourists came by to quietly say thanks. Schoolchildren on field trips crowded around asking for autographs. Decades in the planning, the National World War II Memorial opened to the public Thursday.
Under brilliant spring sunshine, visitors of all ages streamed in to look at Washington's newest memorial and to pay their respects to those who served during one of the country's most difficult and triumphant periods.
The memorial, which sits prominently between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, was long overdue but worth the wait, some veterans said.
"It is beautiful," declared George Lynch, an 81-year-old former Marine from Washington. "To see this memorial after all these years is absolutely marvelous." He was accompanied by another World War II Marine, William Abernathy, 91, also of Washington.
"So many people have stopped both Abby and me and said thank you," Lynch said. "I can hardly talk about this without my eyes watering up. It really touches you."
The granite-and-bronze monument features waterfalls, fountains, and a curved wall bedecked with gold stars representing the more than 400,000 who gave their lives in the war. It has two hulking 43-foot arches at each end, one marked Atlantic and the other Pacific. They symbolize the two theaters of the war. Fifty-six smaller granite pillars adorned with two bronze wreaths form the oval shape of the memorial and encircle a sunken plaza and pool. Each pillar is engraved with the name of a state or territory from that period.
While the formal dedication ceremony is a month away, project organizers raced to put the finishing touches on the memorial so the ever-dwindling number of World War II veterans could come to see it as soon as possible.
World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 1,056 a day, the Veterans Affairs Department estimates. Fewer than 4 million of the 16 million who served will be alive at the time of the May 29 dedication. Fred Smith of Rockville, Md., who served in the Army Air Forces, said the memorial is a grand tribute. "There are an awful lot of guys who I knew that are gone now, but they would have loved this," he said.
Another veteran, Henry Wilayto, said the size of the memorial - which stretches the length of a football field - was especially fitting.
"I think it's far more than I thought they were going to do," said Wilayto, a former Army staff sergeant from Concord, Mass. "I thought it would be a real small one, but they've gone completely into the depths that they should have."
The $174 million memorial was almost two decades in the making.
Legislation was introduced in 1987 by Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, who was prompted by an encounter with World War II veteran Roger Durbin. In front of a crowd at a political event, Durbin asked Kaptur why there was no World War II memorial. Together, they worked to get legislation passed so the memorial could be built.
Congress gave its approval in 1993, but that was followed by court challenges from critics who contended that the monument would clutter the Mall and interfere with sweeping vistas long enjoyed by visitors. Construction began in late 2001.
The dedication next month is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people.
Durbin died four months before ground was broken, but family members and friends will attend.