New Assault on WWII Memorial (USA Today)

By Brian Sharp, USA Today

WASHINGTON – A new battle has erupted over the proposed World War II memorial, which critics say would infringe on views of other major monuments on the National Mall.

The memorial, championed by former senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole and actor Tom Hanks, has been a source of controversy since federal officials decided to place it directly between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

As the latest design begins its final approval process Thursday, opponents are using the National Park Service’s own documents as ammunition.

“They suppressed the information that said they should do a deep investigation into this memorial,” said Judy Scott Feldman, chairwoman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall.

The memorial is to wrap around the Rainbow Pool, which is at the east edge of the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The Rainbow Pool was finished in 1923, a year after the completion of the Lincoln Memorial. Feldman says that the pool is part of the Lincoln Memorial and that the Park Service suppressed its report from August 1999 that said the proposed site is on Lincoln Memorial grounds. The report, she says, proves that the WWII memorial would put one memorial on top of another.

Supporters of the WWII project say the pool and Lincoln Memorial are separate. The report did not reach the agencies in charge of approving the design until this week – and only then after being hand-delivered by Feldman.

“I guess I just didn’t place that much importance on it,” says John Parsons, associate regional director for the Park Service. “As I say, it isn’t new information.” Officials with the federal agencies involved seemed largely unswayed. “I don’t think this changes anything,” says J. Carter Brown, chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, which reviews the design Thursday.

If approved by Brown’s commission, the memorial’s design then would need the approval of the National Capital Planning Commission before ground could be broken. Organizers of the $100 million memorial want to break ground in November. Plans for the 7.4-acre site call for two 47-foot-high arches and 56 stone pillars, one for each state and U.S. territory at the time of the war. A recent revision, to be debated today, calls for a curved wall of gold stars, with one star for every 100 fallen soldiers.

Brown, who says he witnessed similar fights over the Vietnam and Franklin Roosevelt memorials during his 29 years on the commission, doesn’t plan to postpone action on the WWII memorial.

“It’s high time we got this thing built,” Brown says. Feldman promises a lawsuit if plans are not halted. Fundraising for the memorial began about four years ago. Dole, who was seriously wounded in the war, became its national fundraising chairman in 1997. Hanks has been involved since starring in the film Saving Private Ryan. So far, $92 million of the $100 million needed has been raised.

For Jacki Burkhardt of Charles County, Md., whose stepfather fought in World War II, the report changes nothing. “I think it is OK,” Burkhardt, 41, says of locating the proposed memorial on the Mall, where she was touring with her mother on Wednesday. “Lincoln was about liberty and freedom for people who were oppressed. So was World War II,” she says.