world war ii memorial
My favorite part of war history, if a person should have a favorite part, would be World War II. It was the war my dad, Allen Spencer fought in, and maybe that is why I am so interested in it and in the B-17 Flying Fortress, from which he fought and returned home. The men and women who fought in World War II are called the Greatest Generation, and maybe because my dad was a part of that, I am partial to that part of history. I find it a bit strange that while the Vietnam Memorial Fund, Inc (VVMF) was incorporated as a non-profit organization to establish a memorial to veterans of the Vietnam War, on April 27, 1979, four years after the Fall of Saigon, but the World War II Memorial didn’t open until April 29, 2004, in Washington DC. Of course, I think it was cool that it opened on my birthday, but it really was a long overdue recognition for the 16 million US 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 can be seen to the east, and Arlington Cemetery is just across the Potomac River to the west. It really is a beautiful setting and shows the proper honor to these men and women of the Greatest Generation.
The 16 million men and women who served in the armed forces of the US are honored at the World War II Memorial, as well as the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home. The memorial was built using granite and bronze. It features fountains between arches to symbolize hostilities in Europe and the Far East. The arches are bordered 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. It also features an Announcement Stone that states that the memorial is to honor 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.”
The project was funded with more than $164 million dollars in private donations, and an additional $16 million donated by the federal government. Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, who was severely wounded in the war, and actor Tom Hanks were among its most vocal supporters. The really sad part is that only a fraction of the 16 million Americans who actually served in the would ever see it…my dad included. While he was alive in 2004, that was not a trip he got to take before his passing in 2007. Four million World War II veterans were still living at the time the memorial was finally opened, but more than 1,100 dying every day, according to government records. I find that to be so sad.
Roger Durbin of Berkey, Ohio, who served under General George S Patton, inspired the memorial. Durbin was at a fish fry near Toledo in February 1987, when he asked US Representative Marcy Kaptur why there was no memorial on the Mall to honor World War II veterans. It was a question that should have been asked and answered long ago. Nevertheless, Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat, 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, without ever actually seeing his hard work come to fruition. While he didn’t live to see his project come to life, I and so many other children of World War II veterans and lost loved ones, will be forever thankful to him for finally making sure our loved ones were properly honored. The monument was formally dedicated May 29, 2004, by US President George W Bush, but I am pleased that it actually opened on my birthday in 2004. My birthday, because it was just two days after my dad’s birthday, has always been a special time that we shared. Of course, I was due and supposed to arrive on Dad’s birthday, but I’ve always said I was a little stubborn, so I held out. Nevertheless, we usually celebrated our days together, so I feel like his memorial opening on my birthday was really very cool.