Does the US need a memorial to World War II in the center of the Washington Mall?
The federal district's Commission of Fine Arts voted 6 to 0 last week to approve a $100 million memorial, paid for by private donations, to the Americans who fought in "The Good War," as writer Studs Terkel called it.
Former presidential candidate Bob Dole testified in favor of it and is raising funds. So is actor Tom Hanks, star of "Saving Private Ryan." President Clinton has already dedicated the site.
Several speakers at the commission meeting, however, raised objections. One thought the design, which includes a semicircle of 56 pillars, was too reminiscent of the architecture of the fascists that the United States helped to defeat in the war.
The main objection centered on how the memorial, to be built on the mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, would interrupt the grand view between them. The site also includes an oval pool, fountains, two arches representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war, and a wall of five-pointed stars honoring Americans who died in the war. The architect has lowered the site by six feet and made other adjustments in the 7.5-acre site to ease concerns about the vistas.
The National Capital Planning Commission or the secretary of the interior could still halt work, now planned to begin this fall on Veterans Day. But we hope they won't.
World War II was the decisive event of the 20th century, a time when free people stopped an unthinkable evil from enveloping the globe. Adding a memorial to "The Greatest Generation," as newsman Tom Brokaw titled his book about the war's veterans, is not too much to offer in gratitude.
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