WASHINGTON'S MEMORIAL MANIA (1998)

By Jug Varner

The newest memorial in the nation's capital is the Women in Military Service Memorial, sat the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. It opened on Saturday, October 18, 1997. Active, retired and former service women came from around the world to take part in the unique occasion — what they considered to be ” recognition, at last.”

The cemetery is the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, President John F. Kennedy's Eternal Flame, and other monuments of lesser renown, and is one of the major tourist attraction in this city of unrivaled attractions.

One-half mile north stands the Marine Corps Memorial, better known as the Iwo Jima monument, and just across the Potomac River near the Lincoln Memorial are the Vietnam Memorial, and Korean War Memorial.

Second newest is the Memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, opened mid-1997 in the same general area, near the Tidal Basin.

One can't go far in Washington without seeing interesting and varied monuments to people and historical events. The city's beautiful design of parks, plazas, circles, squares, malls, lakes, broad avenues, boulevards and wide expanses provide an environment for statuary like no other city in the nation. But sites for large memorials are becoming scarce.

The U.S. Navy Memorial chose a downtown renovation site on Pennsylvania Avenue across from the National Archives and on the Metro Line, when it opened a few years ago.

With 154 memorials in the capital region, some of its residents think its time to call a halt to this “monument mania,” but there are more on the drawing board. At least 11 are in the planning stages, including memorials to George Mason and Thomas Paine, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Japanese-American patriots, and black soldiers of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

A recent National Planning Commission Study suggests that the government should find sites for at least 10 new museums and 60 new monuments and memorials in the years ahead. A site has been dedicated on the Mall at Independence Avenue and 3rd Street for the National Museum of the American Indian.

Most controversial are the sites of the planned WWII Memorial and the Air Force Star structure. Both have been approved and are in the fund-raising stages. Confrontation between the Marine Corps Memorial supporters and those pushing to erect a modernistic star structure too close to the Iwo Jima Memorial has led to litigation and pleas to Congress to pass laws limiting such encroachment.

The Marine contingent claims the Air Force structure's design and close proximity will detract from the traditional monument hallowed by Marines and their families, and that placing them so close together will impair the beauty, meaning and effectiveness of both monuments. Air Force supporters say their memorial will enhance, rather than intrude upon the Marine's most sacred shrine.

Critics of the WWII Memorial site location, near the end of the reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, say it will interfere with the vistas of the Mall and should be relocated. The Commission of Fine Arts and the National Planning Commission have required a redesign of the original plans, but so far, nothing has been done about the site.