The World War II Memorial
The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century, the memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people. The Second World War is the only 20th Century event commemorated on the National Mall’s central axis.
President Clinton signed Public Law 103-32 on May 25, 1993, authorizing the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to establish a World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., or its environs. It is the first national memorial dedicated to all who served during World War II and acknowledging the commitment and achievement of the entire nation. Above all, the memorial stands as an important symbol of American national unity, a timeless reminder of the moral strength and awesome power that can flow when a free people are at once united and bonded together in a common and just cause.
ABMC engaged the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Public Buildings Service to act as its agent to manage the memorial project. The design submitted by Friedrich St.Florian, an architect based in Providence, R.I., was selected as one of six semi-finalists in an open, national competition. Leo A Daly, an international architecture firm, assembled the winning team with St.Florian as the design architect. The team also included George E. Hartman of Hartman-Cox Architects, landscape architect Oehme van Sweden & Associates, sculptor Ray Kaskey, and stone carver and letterer Nick Benson. St.Florian’s memorial design concept was approved by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission in the summer of 1998. The commissions approved the preliminary design in 1999, the final architectural design and several ancillary elements in 2000, granite selections in 2001, and sculpture and inscriptions in 2002 and 2003.
Construction began in September 2001. The memorial opened to the public on April 29, 2004, and was dedicated on Saturday, May 29, 2004. The memorial became part of the National Park System on Nov. 1, 2004, when it was transferred from the American Battle Monuments Commission to the National Park Service, which now operates and maintains the memorial.
National World War II Memorial Bas-Relief Panels
A series of bas-relief sculpture panels created by sculptor Ray Kaskey is set into the balustrades of the north and south ceremonial entrance walls. The bas-reliefs consist of 24 separate panels. The 12 on the north depict the Atlantic front; the 12 on the south depict the Pacific front.
The unifying theme of the panels is the transformation of America caused by the country’s total immersion in World War II. The panels depict the all-out mobilization of America’s agricultural, industrial, military, and human resources that transformed the country into the arsenal of democracy as well as the breadbasket of the world.
The visual inspiration for these panels is the bas-relief sculptures that encircle the Pension Building in Washington, D.C., which were influenced by the bas-reliefs on the Parthenon. What these bas-reliefs have in common is that all are isocephalic, a Greek word meaning that the heads of the principal figures line up horizontally. The human scale is the visual unifying element common to all 24 panels; all details, scenes, equipment, etc. are subordinated to the scale of the figure. The unity of purpose unique to this time in America is best evoked by placing the visual emphasis on the individual in this time-honored manner. Most of the panels are based on historical photos.
National World War II Memorial, The Mall, Washington D.C., USA
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