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World War II Memorial to Open Last Week of April

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2004 – It's been a long time coming - some 59 years after the war - but soon visitors wandering about the National Mall here will see the new memorial dedicated to the nation's World War II veterans.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
The World War II memorial on the National Mall in Washington will be dedicated May 29, but will be ready for opening at the end of April. Artist rendering by Joe McKendry.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Betsy Glick, the memorial's communications director, said the 7.4-acre site between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial still needs some "fine-tuning of small items," but that the memorial will be ready for opening the last week of April.

"We have yet to complete paving the sidewalks leading to the memorial, as well as some components of the information pavilion and comfort facilities," she said. However, she added, the few -- mostly travel writers - who have managed to get a glimpse of the memorial have been "very pleased" at how beautifully the monument nestles in with existing elements on the Mall.

When she asked one veteran from Texas accompanying a reporter what he thought, he replied, "You got it right."

Two 43-foot arches welcome visitors to a bronze-and-granite memorial plaza. The arches, she said, serve as north and south entries to the plaza, and within each arch are four bronze eagles that hold a suspended victory laurel.

A 17-foot granite pillar adorned with bronze oak and wheat wreaths, symbolic of the nation's industrial and agricultural strength, represents each state and territory from that period. "The 56 pillars celebrate unprecedented national unity," Glick explained.

In the center of the pillars stands a rainbow reflecting pool with fountains and a wall with 4,000 sculpted, gold-plated stars. The stars commemorate the 400,000 American soldiers who died in the war and the 16 million who served and supported the war effort from home, she added.

The memorial, which cost $170 million to build and will be officially dedicated May 29 during Memorial Day weekend, culminates an 11-year effort to honor America's World War II generation.

The four-day celebration begins a 100-day summer-long tribute to the world War II generation that Glick said is "long overdue."

"We are proud to finally have a place to honor those Americans in the military and on the home front who took up the struggle to defend freedom and save the world from tyranny," she said. "The memorial will stand as a symbol of American national unity, a timeless reminder of the moral strength and awesome power of a free people united and bonded together in a common and just cause."

Glick said the memorial fund received $194 million; $16 million came from the government, and $15 million is interest income. She said the rest of the money came from "hundreds of thousands" of individual donors.

"Corporations, veterans organizations, states, foundations, school children and others, recognize that a tribute to the World War II generation is long overdue, and contributed to help build a memorial in their honor," she explained.

Organizers anticipate more than 100,000 visitors for the official dedication. Glick said the four-day event will be perhaps the largest gathering of World War II veterans since the war ended.

"There has been strong nationwide interest in attending the dedication ceremony, particularly by members of the World War II generation," Glick said. "We received requests for all 117,000 ticketed seats." Due to overwhelming demand, she said, ticket requests are no longer being accepted.

Glick added that even more people are expected to participate in the four-day "Tribute to a Generation" May 27-30 near the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall.

Memorial organizers will cordon off a five-block area between Third and Seventh streets in northwest Washington to host an array of outdoor events, presentations, interactive displays and concerts.

The official dedication begins at noon May 30, with gates opening between 9 and 11 a.m. Two hours of pre-ceremony entertainment will include Big Band and Swing music the popular musical genre during the war -- and a patriotic finale. Military bands also will provide entertainment during the event.

Other planned activities include a World War II-themed reunion and exhibition on the Mall, a service of celebration at the Washington National Cathedral, and an entertainment salute to World War II veterans from military performing units. Related activities will take place at cultural venues throughout the city.

President Bush has been invited to receive the memorial on behalf of the nation. Former Sen. Bob Dole, who served as the volunteer national chairman of the memorial fund-raising campaign, also is expected to take part in the ceremony.

Glick said anyone planning to attend the dedication ceremony who does not have a ticket should visit the memorial's Web site to find out about alternate nonticketed viewing areas in the city, or to view the ceremony on television.

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