Design Panel Approves WWII Memorial for National Mall Site (The Boston Globe)

By Jennifer Walsh, The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON – The final design for a national World War II memorial was unanimously approved yesterday by the federal Commission of Fine Arts, despite outcries against the proposed site on the National Mall.

The 7.5-acre site, at the end of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, came under fire from critics who said the memorial would obstruct the view between the two national symbols and ruin the original spacious layout that symbolizes the country’s philosophy of openness and freedom.

“Obstructing a great American vista meant to clear the mind and evoke our oldest traditions tramples on our heritage, casts doubt on our understanding of the link between the past and the future, and makes a mockery of our guardianship of the nation’s priceless treasures,” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s nonvoting delegate in the House of Representatives.

Yesterday’s vote was one of the last hurdles for the memorial, which was approved by Congress in 1998 but has gone through several design changes and possible locations. A final approval is still needed from the National Capital Planning Commission in September.

One of the leading supporters of the memorial, former senator Robert J. Dole of Kansas, told the commission that the structure is more than a tribute to the veterans who now because of age are dying at a rate of about 1,000 a day.

“It’s a reminder that someday, sometime in your life, your child’s life, your grandchild’s life, they maybe called upon to make a sacrifice for their country, and that’s what it’s all about,” said the 1996 Re publican presidential candidate and finance chairman for the memorial.

Dole, who was wounded in World War II, has raised more than $90 million from veterans groups, corporations, and private citizens in the past year for the $100 million project.

Tom Hanks, star of the war movie “Saving Private Ryan,” is campaigning to help fund the memorial, while employees of Wal-Mart donated $14.5 million.

The memorial, designed by Friedrich St. Florian of Rhode Island, would feature a lowered plaza surrounding the Rainbow Pool, 56 pillars (one for each state and territory) and two 41-foot arches (for the Atlantic and Pacific military theaters). A Freedom Wall features 4,000 gold stars – one for every 100 Americans killed in the war.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for Veterans Day, Nov. 11, and construction could be completed for dedication ceremonies on Memorial Day 2008.

“When finished, the memorial will be a place for commemoration and the celebration of the American spirit and national unity,” said F. Haydn Williams, a member of the American Battle Monuments Commission, which selected the site after the fine arts commission rejected several other locations.

Eden Rafshoon, one of the commissioners, said the current location was chosen because “any lesser site would diminish the significance of World War II on our country.” But veterans are divided on the issue.

“I do not want a part of my legacy to be part of the defacing of the Mall,” said Charles Cassell, who has been speaking out against the location. Holden Jack, who was an infantryman in the war, said he wants to be able to touch the memorial. “It’s an addition to this Mall in recognition of a generation that saved the world,” he said.