Today In History: 29 April 2004 World War II Monument Opens in Washington, D.C.
On April 29, 2004, the World war II Memorial opens in Washington,D.C to thousands of visitors, providing overdue recognition for the 16 million U.S. men and women who served in the war. The memorial is located on 7.4 acres on the former site of the Rainbow Pool at the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
The Capitol dome is seen to the east, and Arlington Cemetery is just across the Potomac River to the west.
The granite and bronze monument features fountains between arches symbolizing hostilities in Europe and the Far East.
The arches are flanked by semicircles of pillars, one each for the states, territories and the District of Columbia. Beyond the pool is a curved wall of 4,000 gold stars, one for every 100 Americans killed in the war.
An Announcement Stone proclaims that the memorial honors those “Americans who took up the struggle during the Second World War and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us: A nation conceived in liberty and justice.”
Though the federal government donated $16 million to the memorial fund, it took more than $164 million in private donations to get it built. Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who was severely wounded in the war, and actor Tom Hanks were among its most vocal supporters. Only a fraction of the 16 million Americans who served in the war would ever see it.
The monument was formally dedicated May 29, 2004, by U.S. President George W.Bush.
Four million World War II veterans were living at the time, with more than 1,100 dying every day, according to government records.
The memorial was inspired by Roger Durbin of Berkey, Ohio, who served under Gen. George S. Patton. At a fish fry near Toledo in February 1987, he asked U.S. Rep.
Marcy Kaptur why there was no memorial on the Mall to honor World War II veterans. Kaptur, a Democrat from Ohio, soon introduced legislation to build one, starting a process that would stumble along through 17 years of legislative, legal and artistic entanglements. Durbin died of pancreatic cancer in 2000.
Designing the memorial
A nationwide design competition drew 400 submissions from architects from around the country. Friedrich St. Florian’s initial design was selected in 1997. St. Florian’s design evokes a classical monument. Under each of the two memorial arches, the Pacific and Atlantic baldacchinos, four eagles carry an oak laurel wreath. Each of the 56 pillars bear wreaths of oak symbolizing military and industrial strength, and of wheat, symbolizing agricultural production.
Over the next four years, St. Florian’s design was altered during the review and approval process required of proposed memorials in Washington, D.C. Ambassador Haydn Williams guided the design development for ABMC.
Source: history.com & Wikipedia