Coalition’s Goldstein Defends D.C. War Memorial

Read Coalition board member Ellen Goldstein’s recent Letter to the Editor in The Washington Post about the District of Columbia War Memorial.

District of Columbia War Memorial: A compelling, silent beauty

In her April 19 Metro column, “ ‘Hero among heroes’ deserves his due,” an otherwise commendable and noteworthy essay on Sgt. William A. Butler, Petula Dvorak gave a shabby description of the District’s elegant and graceful World War I memorial as “a dinky little gazebo.” Sacré bleu — clearly she has never paid a visit.

District of Columbia War Memorial (USGS)
District of Columbia War Memorial (USGS)

War memorials in Western countries have evolved over the centuries. Before the Great War, many such memorials commemorated the heroics of individual generals. The Great War, with its mustard gas and poisonous trenches, had a horrific impact on the populations of Britain, France, Belgium and Italy. Entire towns and villages lost a generation of young men. Canada, New Zealand and Australia also lost a significant number of their young men to this catastrophic and tragic conflict. You cannot visit even the tiniest village in France or Britain without finding a memorial, often including the name of each fallen soldier from the Great War, somewhere in the center of the town. The District’s beautiful and elegant Doric temple in West Potomac Park is dedicated not to all of America’s lost sons and daughters from that conflict but only to those 499 fatalities from our village on the Potomac. That is as it should be.

The American Recovery and Revitalization Act restored the District of Columbia War Memorial in 2010. (National Park Service)
The American Recovery and Revitalization Act restored the District of Columbia War Memorial in 2010. (National Park Service)

The D.C. memorial had fallen into sad disrepair, but, with funds from the Obama administration, it was restored in 2010. It now looks beautiful again, so much so that it has become a popular backdrop for bridal photos because of its compelling, silent beauty, in stark contrast to the incoherent architectural mass of the World War II Memorial close by.

When Republicans in Congress wanted to expropriate our D.C. memorial and make it a “national” memorial, wiser heads prevailed, and so a National World War I Memorial in the District will be created near Pershing Park, and our graceful temple to our fallen will remain as it was intended.

Ellen Goldstein, Washington
The writer is a member of the board of the National Mall Coalition.





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