Hogan's Alley

Monday, March 13, 2006

World War II Monument In Washington A Disappointment

During our trip to Washington I was able to get over to the Mall to see the World War II Memorial that went up since my last tourist venture to The District. It is such a disappointment.

Most of Washington's great monuments are moving tributes to their subjects. Anyone who has stood beneath the statues of Jefferson or Lincoln and read the words carved in their temples has certainly felt the majesty of those places. As for the war memorials, on my first visit to the Vietnam Memorial I was moved to tears by its power and simplicity and by the sacrifice of the thousands represented by the carved names. It is the work of a great artist, Maya Lin. The Korean War Memorial has the power to make those men's sacrifices real in the individual faces of the soldiers sculpted by artist Frank Gaylord.

The World War II Memorial site is enormous compared to the other 20th Century war memorials. It is essentially a grand granite plaza surrounded by stone columns represented all the states and territories whose soldiers died during the war. All are noted as are all the battles or campaigns of the war in both the Atlantic and Pacific segments of the war. It appears that unit, no branch of service, no interest group was left out. A wall of 4,000 simple brass stars represents a hundred deaths for each star. There is, in short, nothing human about the place. One can imagine the endless meetings of the veterans involved, each unit demanding that its sacrifice be noted. No artist designed this memorial. It is a classic work of a committee. What a shame. The 400,000 who died deserved better.