Monday, May 28, 2001

National Mall to house controversial memorial

By Christopher Newton
The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — In times of conscience, the still fields between the Washington Monument and Abe Lincoln's mighty chair have served as the nation's spiritual town square.

        Change is coming to that historic sweep of the National Mall. It will be altered by the dream of thousands of World War II veterans. Soon, there will be a memorial to their effort at the heart of it.

        A decade-long struggle was ended decisively by Congress last week with a vote to place the memorial plans outside the normal regulatory process, effectively overriding all the resistance.

        Veterans are dying, about 1,100 each day, President Bush has noted. “It is time to give them the memorial they deserve.”

        Opponents argued that the mall should remain open and untouched, so that future generations can protest the government in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. Some also described the memorial design as gaudy, or authoritarian.

        “We could have memorialized World War II in a place that would not have defaced the National Mall, which is a historic symbol of our nation's democracy,” said 79-year-old World War II veteran George Peabody, who allied with the Coalition to Save Our Mall. “I will never feel good about this.”

        Built around the existing Rainbow Pool on the mall, and designed by Friedrich St. Florian, the memorial is to be a shallow stone crater that extends across 7.4 acres. On either side, there are 43-foot tall concrete triumphal arches, one representing the victory in the Atlantic theater, the other, the Pacific.

        Cradling the circle are 56 pillars; one for every state and territory at the time. At the heart of the memorial, fountains spring from a pool of clear water. At its head, a wall of gleaming golden stars, one for every 1,000 American soldiers who died, stands between two waterfalls.


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