by Katie Calvert
It may seem strange that a memorial to the “heroic men and valiant women” (as President Harry S. Truman described them) who served in uniform as well as on the home front during World War II would generate controversy, but it did.
Everyone agreed that
“The Greatest Generation” deserved national recognition; however, disagreements about the memorial’s location, size, and design kept the project in limbo for several years.
A bill to create the monument was first proposed in Congress in 1987, but not be signed into law until 1993.
The disagreements continued after the legislation, but the realization that death was reducing the number of WWII veterans with each passing day ultimately moved the project forward.
Individual and corporate donations brought in almost all of the $197 million raised to build the memorial. The formal groundbreaking was held in 2001 and the U.S. National World War II Memorial was dedicated in 2004.
The monument’s mixture of elements—classical-style bronze eagles and wreaths on modern-looking arches and pillars—defies easy classification for architect Friedrich St. Florian’s design, which was chosen from among 400 submissions in an open competition.
The north and south entrance arches represent the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war. Fifty-six granite pillars that form a semicircle represent the 48 states and territories at the time of war. The Rainbow Pool at the memorial’s center draws visitors to the interior plaza. The plaza’s west side wall is called the Freedom Wall; adorned with 4,048 gold stars (each representing 100 Americans), it commemorates those who died in the war.
Quotes from presidents, generals, and admirals are engraved within the WWII Memorial, and bas-relief panels created by sculptor Raymond Kaskey depict such key battlefront events as the D-Day landings at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge.
Kaskey’s work also depicts symbols of the home front, such as Rosie the Riveter. He and his team also created the bronze sculptures of four eagles holding a laurel wreath in the Atlantic and Pacific arches as well as the bronze star on the memorial's Wall of Valor.
Slideshow—all photos on this page
Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2016 Lee W. Nelson