- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Washington is gearing up for a summer-long salute to the men and women who served in the U.S. military during World War II.

The official opening of the new National World War II Memorial on Memorial Day weekend will kick off a 100-day celebration in and around the city including more than 60 World War II-themed exhibits, performances, walking tours and discounted hotel packages.

“The opening of the World War II Memorial is an important event for Washington D.C., as well as the world,” said William A. Hanbury, president and chief executive of the Washington DC Convention & Tourism Corp. “This is an extraordinary opportunity to honor the greatest generation.”

The new memorial and the program, called “America Celebrates the Greatest Generation,” is expected to draw an additional 1 million visitors to the region next summer, bringing in about $100 million in total spending, Mr. Hanbury said. Typically, about 5 million people visit Washington each summer.

The memorial will pay tribute to the 16 million people who served in American uniform in World War II, the 292,000 killed in action and 114,000 who died from noncombat causes, and the millions who supported the war from the home front.

The American Battle Monuments Commission, an independent agency overseeing the memorial, said fewer than 4 million World War II veterans are expected to be alive when the memorial is dedicated.

“We are now rapidly losing this generation,” said Michael G. Conley, a spokesman for the commission. More than 1,000 World War II veterans are dying every day.

Construction began in September 2001 on the 7.4-acre site between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. The white, stone memorial will feature fifty-six 17-foot-high granite pillars, two 43-foot arches and a sunken plaza with a pool. It is expected to be complete in March and open in April, Mr. Conley said.

The summer-long program begins with the commission’s official dedication events from May 27 to May 30, including a four-day national World War II reunion on the Mall, produced with the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and the memorial’s dedication ceremony on May 29.

Through Labor Day, “America Celebrates the Greatest Generation” will offer World War II-themed cultural programs, festivals, parades, museum exhibits and special hotel packages, including rates as low as $99 per night.

Visitors who buy the promotional hotel packages through a new Web site, www.americasgreatestgeneration.com, will receive a limited-edition DVD of Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” and an official guide to the events. A complete list of events and programs is available on the Web site.

“This is an unprecedented regional collaboration,” Mr. Hanbury said.

The memorial has been a long time in the making. It was conceived in 1987 and approved by Congress in 1993.

It has received $193 million in cash and pledges, including $16 million by the federal government, to cover the project costs such as site selection, design and construction.

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