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  • They deserve better

    I absolutely agree. This thing stinks.

    They deserve better
    Charles Krauthammer

    WASHINGTON -- Those of us who publicly opposed placing the World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington argued that doing so was a prescription for failure. If the memorial were to respect the sight lines, symmetries and elegance of the Mall, it would be too small to do justice to the grandeur of the Second World War. And if the memorial were large enough to reflect the majesty of its subject, it would overpower and ruin the delicate harmonies of the Mall.

    The World War II Memorial has just opened, and it is indeed a failure. The good news is that the Mall survives. The bad news is that for all its attempted monumentality, the memorial is deeply inadequate -- a busy vacuity, hollow to the core.

    The World War II Memorial is a parenthesis, quite literally so -- two semicircular assemblies of pillars cupping the Rainbow Pool on the invisible axis that connects the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.

    The pool, with its fountains, makes a nice space for tourists and toddlers to dip their feet on a hot summer's day. But as a remembrance of the most momentous event of the 20th century, it is a disaster.

    Where does one start? The memorial's major feature -- 56 granite pillars 17 feet high, adorned with wreaths and marked with the names of the states and U.S. territories -- is a conception of staggering banality. One descends the main entry to the monument and the pillar to the left is marked American Samoa; on the right, the Virgin Islands.

    What do the states have to do with World War II? What great chapter of that struggle was written by the Virgin Islands (or Kentucky, for that matter)?

    The Civil War was very much a war of states. Its battles were defined by state militias that fought and died as units. But World War II was precisely the opposite. Its glory was its transcendence of geography -- and class and ethnicity. Its fighting units mixed young men from every corner of America. Your classic World War II movie features the now-cliched platoon of the Polish millworker from Chicago, the Jewish kid from Brooklyn, the Appalachian woodsman and the Iowa farm boy bonding and fighting and dying for each other as a band of brothers.

    And yet it is these gigantic soulless pillars, each mutely and meaninglessly representing a state or territory, that define this memorial. What in God's name were they thinking? Did not one commission that passed on this project ask: ``Why states?''

    But that is just the beginning of the banality. The monument is strewn with quotations inscribed in stone, meant to inspire. You descend into the parenthesis from street level, and the first large stone panel to greet you on your right reads ``Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women ... this was a people's war, and everyone was in it.''

    ``Stepped up''? ``Everyone was in it''? Is this the best we can do? Are we not embarrassed to put such pedestrian prose hard by the biblical cadences of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural carved in stone at the Lincoln Memorial just a few hundred yards down the Reflecting Pool?

    And then, alas, the ultimate banality. The centerpiece of the monument is a low curved wall, closing the top of the parenthesis, as it were, straddling the central axis of the Mall and adorned with 4,000 gold stars.

    The gold star, of course, was given to those who had lost a son in the war. Why 4,000 stars? To represent the more than 400,000 American dead: each star represents a hundred.

    Why a hundred? Did they die in units of a hundred? Did they fight as centurions? The number is entirely arbitrary, a way to get the stars to fit the wall.

    Four thousand stars are both too few and too many. Too few to represent the sheer mass, the unbearable weight of 400,000 dead. And too many -- and too abstract -- to represent the suffering of the mother of a single fallen hero.

    This wall has the feel of a bureaucratic compromise between commemorating every individual (as does the Vietnam Memorial) and representing loss as a whole (as do tombs of the unknown soldier). The solution -- take 400,000 and divide it by 100 -- is nothing but sheer imaginative laziness.

    I feel sorry for the old veterans who came with war bride and grandchildren to make their pilgrimage to the monument's opening this Memorial Day weekend. They deserve to be celebrated. They deserve their memorial. And they will no doubt celebrate this one because it is all that they have. They will lend it the dignity and power of their own experience. But once again, it is they who will have done the work. They should not have to. They deserve better, far better.
    Editor-in-Chief
    GameSquad.com

  • #2
    Stinks? Not as much as this dog poop that passed for art in the fine city of San José, California, a mile or so, from where I work.

    Talk about a stink being raised...
    I have no problem at all with being proved wrong. Especially when being proved wrong leaves the world a better place, than being proved right...

    Comment


    • #3
      I disagree. What does the splendor of something have to do with the honor behind it? The Wall commemorating the Vietnam War is just that, a wall. Why no outcry against that?

      I think the WWII memorial is a memorial, and the spirit with which it was built is what counts. There are memorials to just about every major event in WWII in the locations they occured, and they do a much better job of honoring the participants in those battles/incidents than any one memorial ever could.

      I am also against spending millions upon millions on another memorial in our nation's capitol. Though this one still cost a pretty penny, it is quite sufficient.

      I would like to read/hear from actual WWII veterans on what they think of the memorial, see what the consensus is. I think that anythying would pale in comparison to the memorial at Pearl Harbor for those who were involved, so why even try? Ditto for all of the other memorials.

      The problem with all of these memorials is that it can actually get out of hand. I am of the mind that, if the WWII veterans had wanted a memorial built just for them, it would have gone-up a LONG time before the Vietnam, Korean, or any other memorial which celebrates a conflict since the end of WWII.

      WWII Veterans don't really feel the NEED for a memorial, IMO. At least in talking to many at the local VA Hospital, that is. They are, for the most part, a humble group, and are just glad they could do what they did to contain the spread of Nazi Germany.

      Here's another take on the memorial

      By Laura Bly, USA TODAY
      WASHINGTON — Tomorrow comes the pomp and circumstance, the benedictions of presidents and generals for an honor long overdue.
      Never forget: Jim Ford, a Marine officer from Wichita Fall, Tex., right, photographs World War II veteran Carlton Earl of Fredericksburg, Va.By Susan Walsh, AP
      But today, an 82-year-old man in a leather bomber jacket the color of pipe tobacco sits alone on a granite step. Gazing toward a wall of gold stars at the soon-to-be-dedicated National World War II Memorial, he tunnels into his past — and looks gratefully to the future.

      "The nightmares stopped years and years ago, but the memories of involvement get starker with age," says Frank Capone, his neatly trimmed white beard glistening with tears. "This memorial will go on for eternity, remembering and recognizing everyone who contributed to the success of the war."

      Encounters with veterans like Capone, a Distinguished Flying Cross honoree from Brooksville, Fla., who flew 17 combat sorties over Europe, are key incentives for visiting the nation's capital this summer. And with the $175 million expanse of granite and bronze on the National Mall as a backdrop, the Washington region is wooing "the greatest generation" and their families with more than 140 war-era exhibitions, performances, lectures, walking tours, menu items and hotel packages — the largest cultural tourism effort in the city's history.

      The endeavors range from grandiose to obscure, enlightening to inane.

      By Ron Edmonds, APRelief panels: Eighteen of 24 depictions of war and home-front efforts will be in place for the dedication.
      Veterans can quaff a "Waving Flag" (Ketel One citron vodka, sour mix, soda, Campari and Blue Curaçao) at Palette, a restaurant in the capital's recently restored Madison Hotel, or chow down on a special "greatest generation" offering of braised hog jowls and macaroni-and-cheese casserole at Signatures, a power-lunch favorite on Pennsylvania Avenue.

      They can listen to George McGovern and Bob Dole exchange war stories at this weekend's Smithsonian-sponsored World War II reunion on the Mall, or see Norman Rockwell's wildly popular Four Freedoms paintings at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

      There are homages to Winston Churchill and Bob Hope at the Library of Congress, three-dimensional war-gaming of pivotal battles through the Georgetown Center for Living History, a Gallaudet University lecture on deaf Americans' contributions during the war, and a showing of the documentary film Government Girls of World War II at the City Museum.

      Washington's summer-long tribute comes at a time when the city's travel industry is flexing its muscles after the economic body blows of the Sept. 11 attacks, terrorism alerts and a series of sniper shootings in the fall of 2002. An estimated 6 million visitors will head here over the next few months, including 800,000 expected for this weekend's dedication, putting the city on track for a record tourism showing in 2004.

      Most of the attention will be focused on the World War II memorial, which straddles the Mall at the east end of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Slammed by many architectural critics and those who had hoped to maintain open space on "America's front yard," the 7.4-acre site is anchored by a sunken plaza with two arches representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters and 56 stone pillars for the District of Columbia and each U.S. state and territory at the time of the war.

      Keenly aware of the visiting veterans' advancing age and physical limitations — only 4 million of the 16 million Americans who fought in the war are still alive, and they are dying at a rate of 1,056 a day — the U.S. Park Service and others are making special arrangements for the influx of pilgrims for the dedication weekend.

      Retrofitted shuttle buses will take ticketed participants from subway stations to the memorial dedication and the Smithsonian's World War II reunion elsewhere on the Mall, where medical tents will be staffed with doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians. A geriatric dietitian added salads, veggie wraps and other low-sodium, low-cholesterol offerings to the Mall's snack-stand menus, and the official guidebook to the city's greatest-generation tribute was printed in a larger-than-normal type size.

      But naysayers point out that nostalgia won't be the only intangible hanging heavy in the capital's air this summer. So will the region's infamous heat and humidity, which — along with stepped-up security efforts and the greatest number of simultaneous construction projects since the bicentennial summer of 1976 — could wilt the stamina and enthusiasm of even the most energetic tourists.

      "Everywhere I drive or walk around the city, I'm dismayed that this symbol of American freedom looks so afraid, defensive and ugly. ... It's a frenzy of fences and walls," says art historian Judy Feldman, president of the non-profit preservationist group the National Coalition to Save Our Mall. Among the construction zones visible from the new memorial: a fenced-in Washington Monument, where security barriers to deter vehicles are being built. The project may take two years.

      What's more, Feldman says, "no one is asking the hard questions about what happens to that 89-year-old veteran (who visits) when the medical tents come down and the Memorial Day hoopla is over." She notes that the new memorial is "a good 15-minute walk" from the closest subway station and several blocks from the nearest public parking garages.

      "I hope people will self-select what they can and can't do," says Carolyn Crouch of Washington Walks, who notes that her new three-hour "Eleanor Roosevelt's Washington" tour necessitates climbing on and off a shuttle bus that isn't wheelchair-accessible.

      But while "most people in their 80s won't be able to participate," Crouch says, their influence will nonetheless permeate her tours and other city celebrations this summer.

      "I hope they're gratified and honored," she says. "It's a gift we can give them before it's too late."
      Last edited by CPangracs; 28 May 04, 20:04.

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      • #4
        I am in agreemnet with Curt here.
        "Have you forgotten the face of your father?"

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        • #5
          I agree with Curt here on the monument aspect of honoring WWII vets. However I don't think that WWII Vets. get as much respect/honor or remeberance as they should. Alot of people I know have no respect for what those men did.

          Thanks for looking!!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by CPangracs

            WWII Veterans don't really feel the NEED for a memorial, IMO. At least in talking to many at the local VA Hospital, that is. They are, for the most part, a humble group, and are just glad they could do what they did to contain the spread of Nazi Germany.

            Here's another take on the memorial
            At last, i agree with Curt, and this statement is interesting. The WW2 veterans knew what they were fighting for they had a clear mission. Its combatants from other less clearly defined missions that have problems later. Many have a feeling of being ripped off/robbed for a bullshit cause that was more of their own gov's fault than that of their opponents, who they would never have called enemies in the first placed.

            I know my father feels robbed of his youth/innocnce whatever, especially after killing people that had a standard of living far below his, its like a adult beating up a five year old child, real tough!
            Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

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            • #7
              The pictures I have looked at look ok. I don't really like the state/territory concept. Considering practically the entire world was involved to some degree or another it just bugs me somehow.

              I do agree with CP on that. Memorial, hell the whole world is these guys memorial. Even if they didn't want it or need it, it is a shame it has taken so long, so many have already passed.

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree with you all. As BigDog stated, these guys saw the world at it's worst, and brought it back from that. Everything that has happened since is in part due to their sacrifices and services.

                I would say though that the momument is long overdue. Though symbolic, the WWII generation is almost completely gone. As this occurs, others to come might not appreciate the effort. A momument could say more than a book.

                On a side note: I think history overlooks the significance of Germany, Japan, and Italy's transformation. No one in 1945 thought any of these countries, particularly Germany and Japan, could ever live down it's deeds. Yet, they demonstrated that it is possible for people to make good use of second chances.
                "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Deltapooh
                  I agree with you all. As BigDog stated, these guys saw the world at it's worst, and brought it back from that. Everything that has happened since is in part due to their sacrifices and services.

                  I would say though that the momument is long overdue. Though symbolic, the WWII generation is almost completely gone. As this occurs, others to come might not appreciate the effort. A momument could say more than a book.

                  On a side note: I think history overlooks the significance of Germany, Japan, and Italy's transformation. No one in 1945 thought any of these countries, particularly Germany and Japan, could ever live down it's deeds. Yet, they demonstrated that it is possible for people to make good use of second chances.
                  Those periods for Germany and Japan were very short ones in their history it is not as if it came after hundreds of years of the same behaviour, and the pre WW2 period was a time of socio economic change and revolution. So really it was a matter of steering the ship back on course no totally reforming their ideas and way of doing things.
                  Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SoccerDJ
                    I agree with Curt here on the monument aspect of honoring WWII vets. However I don't think that WWII Vets. get as much respect/honor or remeberance as they should. Alot of people I know have no respect for what those men did.
                    I agree they don't get the respect that thier deeds earned them.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      There should have been a WWII monument long ago. Congress fumbled the ball badley with this project. They chose a very controversial location for it that is a significant disruption to two of America's most important symbols of democracy. The poor choice of location led to massive cost overruns, legal challenges, and constant bickering over the design. In the end, congress bypassed the legal challenges with the midnight session that authorized the construction despite ongoing court proceedings. This enraged many veterans groups who were against the current design and location.

                      Why is this so important? Because the whole effort was plagued by poor design and inept leadership from the start. After years of delay, the monumnet has finally arrived, but many WWII very didn't live long enough to see it. It should have been completed years ago, in a better location, with a much better design. The WWII vets deserve the best tribute possible, and this isn't it.

                      What's done is done. It's already built so we have to do our best to lend this flawed monument the dignity the tribute deserves.
                      Editor-in-Chief
                      GameSquad.com

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Temujin
                        Those periods for Germany and Japan were very short ones in their history it is not as if it came after hundreds of years of the same behaviour, and the pre WW2 period was a time of socio economic change and revolution. So really it was a matter of steering the ship back on course no totally reforming their ideas and way of doing things.
                        By same behaviour do you mean genocide or militarism.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Sharpe
                          By same behaviour do you mean genocide or militarism.
                          Yes genocide and expansionism, they were always military minded, thats why they did so well when they mixed expansionism into the pot.
                          Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

                          Comment

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