World War II Memorial is under fire again

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 6, 2000

Features Editor


Nov. 11, 2000 a ground breaking ceremony was held for the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. and a construction permit was issued in January by the National Park Service.

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However, the approval of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), one of the agencies required by law to approved the Memorial, was called into question because the former NCPC chairman continued to serve on the commission after the expiration of his term.

Members of the World War II Memorial Society and its supporters held their collective breath until May 22, 2001 when the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation that validated the NCPC’s past approval of the World War II Memorial.

On Memorial Day, President George W. Bush signed legislation clearing the way for the memorial’s construction.

Supporters of the World War II Monument had just taken a good, deep, long breath when, on Monday, opponents of the proposed National World War II Memorial filed a request for a restraining order to try to block its construction.

The proposed memorial has generated some controversy because critics say the design will mar the clean, open space of the National Mall.

However, Rachel Rodgers, whose husband, the late Harold Rodgers, was a veteran of WWII, said the Memorial will enhance, not mar, the Mall.

Rodgers is a charter member of the WWII Memorial Society and she joined because the thought such a memorial was long over due.

"This memorial should have been built years ago before so many of the veterans died," she said. "It would have been good for them to know that they will always be remembered for their contributions and sacrifices."

Rodgers said according to information made available to members of the WWII Memorial Society, opponents of the memorial, who claim it will obstruct and impeded the National Mall, are mistaken.

"The view from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument is unimpeded," Rodgers said. "Two-thirds of the site will be landscaping and water and complement the park-like setting. The Mall will easily accommodate large public gatherings when the Memorial is completed and the design is timeless. It complements the style of architecture in the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, the White House and the Capitol. So, there is no reason at all why we should not construct this memorial to the veterans of World War II. Like they say, ‘The World War II generation deserves nothing less.’"

Vincent Allen, a WWII veteran of five major battles, couldn’t agree more.

"Any time a country remembers its veterans, it is appreciated," he said. "There aren’t many of us left, only about five million. I saw so many young men go into battle and not return. They are certainly deserving of a memorial. I would say that even if I weren’t a veteran, even if I hadn’t seen more than 900 replacements for one company be shuttled into battle, even if I had not been at the Battle of the Bulge. The veterans are entitled to this memorial."

Kenneth Walker, commander of

VFW Post 4942 in Troy, said the Memorial would be appreciated and that the VFW National will match any contributions made to it.

"My deepest memory of World War II is not of combat," Walker said.

"What I remember most is a morning before I joined the Army. I was walking my mail route and a Western Union boy passed me on his bicycle. People didn’t get telegrams unless they were from the war department. I saw the boy hand that mother the envelope and I’ll never forget hearing her wailing. That was a common a sound during the war. This memorial should be and will be for a generation who knew the pain and heartbreak of a world at war."

Another veteran of the war, sees the Memorial in a different way.

Billy Gibson, who was twice wounded and only saw five consecutive days out of combat from September 1944 until January 1945, said his opinion might not be a popular one, but he believes he has earned the right to express it.

"I believe it would be a greater tribute to the veterans of World War II if the $170 million was spent on education rather than on a monument," Gibson said. "I’ve heard a lot of veterans say the best use for that money would be to provide for the future of our country by improving the quality of life for our young people."

Gibson said the men and women who served during WWII were doing their duty.

"It was our obligation to serve our country," he said. "And, I’m as patriotic as anyone, but my feelings are that the money could be better spent on education. That’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it."

Those wishing to express their feelings about the Memorial may do so by contacting their senators and congressmen.