World War II Memorial Opens

Public, Dignitaries Get an Early View Before May 29 Dedication

The National World War II Memorial

The National World War II Memorial. Melissa Gray, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Melissa Gray, NPR

Seventeen years after it was proposed and three years after ground was broken, the National World War II Memorial opens in Washington. Its location, in the middle of the National Mall, was the subject of much debate. Opponents of the site said putting another major memorial there would mar the vista between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

NPR's Bob Edwards recently visited the site, where he talked with prominent veterans of the war, including former Sen. Bob Dole, who helped raise $191 million for the project.

The Memorial's Announcement Stone

"Here in the Presence of Washington and Lincoln, One the Eighteenth Century Father and the Other the Nineteenth Century Preserver of our Nation, We Honor Those Twentieth Century 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."

"You can still see the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial," Dole says. "It's not obscured... I think the view is enhanced."

Architect Friedrich St. Florian designed the new monument. He says it's not strictly about memorializing a war, as some critics have charged. "This is about an entire nation, a generation of Americans, that at one moment stood up on a global scale to defend our principles and ideals and in so doing actually changed the course of history," he says.

The memorial, the size of a football field, will be dedicated May 29. Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, fewer than 4 million will be alive to see it open 59 years after the war ended.

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