- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2000

The Commission of Fine Arts listened patiently for more than five hours Thursday before quietly and unanimously approving the design for the World War II Memorial on the Mall.

The approval brings the $139 million memorial another step closer to breaking ground on Veterans Day.

Few objections to the design were presented Thursday, but several groups urged the commission to reconsider the location between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.

"We are for a memorial but not in that particular spot," said veteran John Graves, 79, chairman of World War II Veterans to Save the Mall. "I have received many, many calls. To a man, they oppose the location."

"I do not want a part of my legacy to be the defacing of the Mall," said veteran Charles Cassell, a veteran of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.

But both the site and design were approved by the nation's largest veterans organization, the 2.8-million-member American Legion, noted former National Commander Harold "Butch" Miller III.

"It's the very best and it's in the best place," said Mr. Miller, whose father fought in World War II.

The memorial will be built around the Rainbow Pool east of the Lincoln Memorial.

Before the commission meeting began in the Department of Interior building, the National Coalition to Save Our Mall staged a protest. Chairman Judy Scott Feldman said the site violates Mall development regulations.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting member of Congress, made an opposition statement before returning to committee meetings in the House. She accused the various commissions that designated the memorial site of knowing "all along" that it violated historic plans for the Mall.

"The proposed design comes nowhere near, even as modified, to satisfying my own [concerns] and, I fear, will be invidiously compared with the instantly evocative and universally acclaimed Vietnam Memorial," Mrs. Norton said.

In contrast, former senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole, chairman of the World War II Memorial Campaign, and Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, testified in favor of the design and site.

"Why haven't we done this before?" asked Mr. Dole, a wounded, oft-decorated veteran of the war. "We became the leader of the free world" after World War II.

The U.S. military "went all over the world in defense of our freedom," said Mr. Inouye, crippled by wounds sustained during the war. "[Opponents] say this is hallowed ground. I agree. It is indeed hallowed ground and, for that reason, this memorial should be located there."

Others called World War II the most important event in the 20th century. Several pointed out that 16 million Americans served in the U.S. armed forces and 400,000 died and the rest were unified and supportive on the home front.

The main objection to the design was that it will interfere with the view eastward from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. Some complained that it would block big demonstrations that historically take place there, notably the one that featured Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

Before the commission voted, Chairman J. Carter Brown said the memorial will enhance the view. The portion in the center will be built 6 feet deep while two square 41-foot Memorial Arches on each side will be concealed by 60-foot elm trees.

A Wall of Freedom bedecked with 400 gold stars, one star for each 100 soldiers and sailors who died, and two waterfalls will be on a lower level so as not to block the view, Mr. Brown said.

"We are extremely sensitive about not blocking the views," Mr. Brown said.

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