Groundbreaking Ceremony Held for World War II Memorial
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2000 World War II veterans, many in wheelchairs or with walkers, were out in force Nov. 11 to participate in groundbreaking ceremonies for the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall here.
"We're a lot like the season," said Andy Glover, a vet from Harrisburg, Pa., as he watched the gusting wind knock more leaves out of the trees near the site. "We're like the leaves in that there's more of us falling each day. I'm glad I'm here to see this."
Artist's rendition of the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The memorial is being built between the Lincoln and Washington monuments.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
President Clinton, former Sen. Bob Dole and Defense Secretary William S. Cohen joined with World War II veterans to begin the process of building the $140 million structure.
Speakers and veterans stressed that the memorial will honor the more than 400,000 Americans who died in the war. It will also pay tribute to the generation that fought the war. Another purpose is to school future generations about the sacrifices Americans have made for freedom. Plans call to dedicate the completed structure on Memorial Day 2003.
Dole, who served as chairman for the memorial, touched on why build a World War II memorial now, 55 years after the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay ended the war. "There is a simple answer: because in another 55 years there won't be anyone around to bear witness to our part in history's greatest conflict," he said.
"For some, inevitably, this memorial will be a place to mourn," Dole said. "For millions of others, it will be a place to learn, to reflect and to draw inspiration for whatever tests confront generations yet unborn."
President Clinton in his address to the veterans said the memorial will act as a challenge to future generations. "This memorial is built not only for the children whose grandparents served in the war, but for the children who will visit this place a century from now, asking questions about America's great victory for freedom," he said. "With this memorial, we secure the memory of 16 million Americans, men and women who took up arms in the greatest struggle humanity has ever known."
World War II was the central aspect of life during the 20th century and all Americans drew together as one to win the conflict. Clinton said the memorial will remember those who fought and died overseas and those who helped win the war on the home front. He said the memorial will allow Americans to "remember those who fought faithfully and bravely for freedom, even as their own full humanity was under assault: African Americans who had to fight for the right to fight for our country, Japanese Americans who served bravely under a cloud of unjust suspicion, Native American codetalkers who helped to win the war in the Pacific, women who took on new roles in the military and at home."
Cohen praised the veterans in the audience. "We, the heirs of your sacrifice, are citizens of the world you made and the nation you saved," he said. "We can only stand in awe at your silent courage, at your sense of duty and at the sacred gift that you have offered to all those who came after you. The honor of this day belongs to you.
"The men and women of America's armed forces, those who inherited your spirit, who defend the consecrated ground on which you fought, today carry on your noble work, preserving what you have created, defending the victory you achieved, honoring the great deeds and ideals for which you struggled and sacrificed. All of us, all of us, are truly and deeply in your debt forever."
The memorial will contain soil from all the overseas cemeteries where American dead from the war are buried. "What makes this hallowed ground?" Dole asked. "Not the marble columns and bronze statues that frame the mall. No, what sanctifies this place is the blood of patriots across three centuries and our own uncompromising insistence that America honor her promises of individual opportunity and universal justice.
"This is the golden thread that runs throughout the tapestry of our nationhood -- the dignity of every life, the possibility of every mind, the divinity of every soul," he continued. "This is what my generation fought for on distant fields of battle, in the air above and on remote seas. This is the lesson we have to impart. This is the place to impart it."