Veteran Group is Waging Battle to Block World War II Memorial (Wall Street Journal)

By Rudy Kleysteuber, Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON – A veterans group is launching a television campaign to protest the construction of a World War II memorial on the National Mall, concerned that it would destroy a priceless open space in the nation’s capital.
The ads, which will begin today, the anniversary of D-Day, will run on CNN, MSNBC and other national networks.

They feature ex-Army Cpl. John Graves, a decorated infantryman, standing on the proposed site, speaking sternly to the camera: “Some people want to pave over our National Mall … to build a grandiose World War II memorial. Destroying our National Mall should not be our legacy.”

The ad was created pro bono for the groups, Veterans to Save the mall, by Washington-based Planet Vox, which helps public-interest groups communicate via electronic media.

Complaints against the monument center on its location and scale: the memorial itself would be larger than a football field, occupying a 7.4 acre site located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It would have towers reaching four stories above ground and would partially block a major pedestrian thoroughfare between monuments. “the Mall is itself a memorial, ” said Charles I. Cassell, an architect and vice president of the District of Columbia reservation League, a historic preservation group. “A memorial is not designed to be added to,” said Mr. Cassell, who is involved in the effort to have the memorial built elsewhere.

By opposing the site on the mall, the veterans are taking on former Sen. Bob Dole, who is co-chairman of the effort to build he monument. Actor Tom Hanks – who starred in the World War II hit “Saving Private Ryan” – volunteered his time to support the project in a series of public service announcements that ran in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

Neither the fund raising nor the approval processes for the memorial are complete, but grounbreaking is schedule for Veterans Day this year. Although design changes can be made even after construction begins, a site change would be almost impossible without an act of Congress.

Opponents of the site have suggested a further review of six sites that were originally identified by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the federal agency that oversees overseas memorials and national cemeteries. Bur supporters of the current site say that none of those are adequate to commemorate World War II.

“You have the Washington Monument and the Revolutionary War period represented, and the Lincoln Memorial with the Civil War,” said Charles Atherton, secretary of the commission of Fine Arts, a District government body that rejected other location alternatives. “It seemed to us that the 20th century ought to be represented on the mall by a memorial to the Second World War.”

Mr. Cassell disagreed, saying that although George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were wartime presidents, the monuments weren’t placed there to commemorate their war efforts. He also argued that the proposed memorial would interfere with political demonstrations on the Mall.

The criticisms aren’t new to the monuments commission. “Almost annually , for the last five years, the same arguments are repeatedly made, and the commissions continue to overwhelmingly support the site and the design,” said Mike Conley, associate executive director of the National World War II Memorial Project.

 

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