National World War 1 Memorial

A public memorial, the National World War 1 Memorial honors the service of the American Armed Forces during World War 1.

The World War 1 Centennial Commission mandated the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. 

They authorized the construction of the National World War 1 Memorial in Pershing Park. It is located at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. in Washington, D.C. 

The park, which has been open since 1981, also includes a memorial to John J. Pershing, General of the Armies. The design commission selected “The Weight of Sacrifice.” 

It was by a Joseph Weishaar, Sabin Howard, Phoebe Lickwar, and GWWO Architects. They were the winning design chosen in January 2016. It is estimated to be completed by 2024.

The infantry regiment also raised the flag at the memorial on April 16, 2021. Moreover, President Biden spoke at a virtual event to officially open it to the public. 

Likewise, the District of Columbia War Memorial was also established on the National Mall in 1931. It memorialized District residents who fought in the United States armed services during World War 1. 

Similarly, the Liberty Memorial, a 217-foot-tall tower with an artificial burning pyre atop it, was the tallest. It is located in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Additionally, a Memorial Court surrounded the tower. It also had a Memory Hall on the east and a Museum Building on the west.

The museum building was dedicated to Kansas Citians who died in the war. 

The memorial was dedicated on November 11, 1926, after construction workers broke ground on November 1, 1921. 

Who designed the National World War 1 memorial?

Harold Van Buren Magonigle designed the World War 1 memorial. 

Besides the ones in Washington and Kansas City, how many World War 1 memorials are there in the U.S.?

There are 100 WW 1 Memorials scattered throughout the U.S. The Memorial Coliseum in L.A, the Chicago’s Soldier Field, San Francisco’s War Memorial Veterans Building and Opera House, and Washington DC’s Pershing Park are all the official 100 “WW1 Centennial Memorials”. 

The Location – Pershing Park 

John J. Pershing, National World War 1 Memorial in Pershing Park
John J. Pershing, National World War 1 Memorial in Pershing Park

Various nineteenth-century structures occupied the Pershing Park site until around 1930. The federal government enacted legal title to the block and demolished its structures. 

In 1957, Congress passed legislation officially designating the site as Pershing Square.

The area’s development was contentious, as many parties proposed competing for tributes to John J. Pershing. He served as General of the Armies during World War 1. 

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As a result of these debates, inaction ensued. By 1962, the area remained empty and frequently littered.

In September 1963, officials in the District of Columbia eventually planted grass and flower beds to beautify the square briefly.

The President’s Council on Pennsylvania Avenue also submitted a master plan for the reconstruction of Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. They got approval from the White House to the United States Capitol in November 1963. 

Likewise, the master plan provided a National Plaza (also known as the Western Plaza). This would have necessitated the demolition of Pershing Square. 

Additionally, the Willard Hotel north of the square and two blocks of buildings and roadways east of these areas also required demolition. 

The American Legion, among others, continued to advocate for a magnificent Pershing statue for the square.

But the construction planners put all park plans on hold until the court could finalize the Pennsylvania Avenue master plan.

What’s more, National Plaza was never built. Instead, a much modest Freedom Plaza was constructed. It avoided the need to demolish Pershing Park (as the square was now known). 

The construction committee completed the designs for a monument and memorial to Pershing and the relatively large park in the 1970s.

Pershing Park was built concurrently with Freedom Plaza from 1979 to 1981. 

Because of the reconfiguration of Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. along the area’s north side, the planners slightly expanded the park. On May 14, 1981, at 11:45 a.m., Pershing Park officially opened its doors.

Pershing Park features a statue of General Pershing by Robert White. It also has memorial walls and benches behind the statue detailing Pershing’s accomplishments during World War 1. 

In October 1983, the sculpture was dedicated.

There is also a fountain, a pond (which turns into an ice rink in the winter), and flower beds in the park.

The District of Columbia owns Pershing Park. But it is managed by the National Park Service as an official park system unit.

It is under the administration of the agency’s National Mall and Memorial Parks executive group. 

Furthermore, amid anti-globalization rallies against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in September 2002, over 400 people were unlawfully arrested in Pershing Park. 

Design and Construction of the National World War 1 Museum

The District of Columbia War Memorial, West Potomac Park, Washington, D.C.
The District of Columbia War Memorial, West Potomac Park, Washington, D.C.

With the Liberty Memorial renovations underway in 2000, Senator Kit Bond (R-Missouri) presented a resolution (S.Con.Res. 114). 

He proposed granting the Liberty Memorial full government accreditation as “America’s National World War 1 Museum.” However, the title was only an archaic term, and it did not muster qualification. 

Representative Karen McCarthy (D-Missouri) also sponsored legislation (H.Con.Res. 421) in 2004. 

The National World War 1 Memorial was due to open in Washington, D.C. This was for the designation of the Liberty Memorial as “America’s National World War 1 Museum.” 

Nevertheless, senator Jim Talent (R-MO) sought consensus in the Senate to alter the proposal. 

Likewise, the following Act- the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005, similarly had identical language. 

On June 15, 2004, Talent’s amendment was unanimously adopted. Consequently, the bill passed both houses of Congress. 

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On October 28, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the measure.

Moreover, the successful attempt to create the National World War 2 Memorial sparked interest in a national World War 1 memorial. 

After numerous failed attempts, legislators introduced legislation to build the National World War 1 Memorial in 1987. It passed Congress on May 12, 1993. 

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund CEO, Jan Scruggs, also proposed rededicating the District of Columbia War Memorial to all World War 1 veterans. 

Scruggs also claimed that a member of Congress was working on legislation to achieve the change. But members submitted no measure in the 106th or subsequent Congresses. 

Likewise, the American Legion has campaigned to convert the District of Columbia War Memorial in 2008. 

Local attorney Edwin Fountain established the World War 1 Memorial Foundation to raise donations and lobby for the cause to boost the effort. 

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (in whose ward the D.C. War Memorial is located) and D.C. Delegate to Congress- Eleanor Holmes Norton also became auxiliary trustees of the organization.

The Establishment of the World War 1 Centennial Commission

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates  and WW1 veteran Frank Buckles
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and WW1 veteran Frank Buckles

In the 112th Congress, the government finally passed legislation. It compromised the designating from both sites as national memorials.

This was suggested in 2008 by attorney Edwin Fountain. In December 2009, Senator Thune expressed his support for this.

There was a lot of action before legislators passed the final bill. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-West Virginia) also introduced compromise legislation (S. 253) on February 1, 2011. 

The legislation established a World War 1 Centennial Commission. It also designated the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City and the District of Columbia War Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

Rockefeller’s bill similarly established the World War 1 Memorial Foundation to gather funds and oversee the memorial’s renovation in Washington, D.C. 

However, the District of Columbia residents grew more hostile to the loss of their local memorial.

The Rhodes Tavern-D.C. Heritage Society, a prominent local historic preservation organization, lobbied for converting Pershing Square into a monument. 

Even though a commemorative statue to General Pershing already stood on the site, they did so.

The World War 1 Memorial Foundation also contended that the Pershing Square location was too isolated by busy D.C. streets. 

That being away from the National Mall lessened the significance of the war. For the same reason, the foundation is opposed to any new designation for the Liberty Memorial.  

On February 27, Frank Buckles perished of natural causes. It sparked an outpouring of sorrow, including a bid to have him laid to rest in the United States Capitol Rotunda. 

Rep. Poe reintroduced the Frank Buckles World War 1 Memorial Act (H.R. 938) on March 8. This time, the Act matched Rockefeller’s bill, which designated both memorials and established a centennial commission. 

This was an agreement reached by the Missouri delegation, Thune, and Poe.

Additionally, like his 2009 law, Poe’s new effort empowered the World War 1 Memorial Foundation to solicit funds. It also included designing the memorial and overseeing its construction. 

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Poe’s bill has likely been forwarded to the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform and Natural Resources. 

The opposition to the D.C. War Memorial takeover was building. 

On July 8, 2011, Del. Norton presented H.Res. 346. It is a non-binding resolution expressing the House of Representatives’ belief that the District of Columbia War Memorial should remain devoted entirely to District of Columbia residents. 

Norton’s opinion shifted once she came to see the memorial’s architecture as a diminution of the District of Columbia.

The redesignation initiative was also opposed by D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of Columbia. 

Kansas City’s National Museum and Memorial of World War 1  

The Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri
The Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri

The Liberty Memorial was given to the National World War 1 Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. It first opened in 1926. 

The United States Congress appointed it as the country’s official World War 1 warred memorial and museum in 2004. 

A non-profit corporation manages it in collaboration with the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners. 

The museum focuses on world events beginning with the causes of World War 1 before 1914. It also focuses on continuing through the 1918 armistice and 1919 Paris Peace Conference. 

Visitors reach the 32,000-square-foot complex over a glass bridge above a field of 9,000 red poppies, each commemorating 1,000 warrior casualties.

Out of the two primary galleries with presentations of historical items, the first concentrates on the beginning of the Great Conflict before U.S. engagement. 

Likewise, the second focuses on U.S. military and civilian involvement in the war and peace efforts. 

In honor of troops and servicemen who fought and died in World War 1, a memorial tree dubbed “The Tree of Peace” was erected on the North Lawn. 

Slovakia is officially represented via the international project “Tree of Peace” under the brand “Good Idea Slovakia—Ideas from Slovakia.” 

The trademark authorization was given by the Slovak Republic’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. 

As such, the committee planted the memorial tree under the supervision of the Honorary Consulate of Slovakia in the United States. Slovak Republic’s Consulate General in New York City also supervised the tree plantation. 

Conclusion 

According to Vice Chairman of the Centennial Commission, Edwin L. Fountain, the goal was to create a memorial that would stand in solidarity with other monuments. 

It develops World War 1 in the American consciousness while also acknowledging that, unlike those memorials, this had to be both a memorial and an urban park. 

The $42 million project includes the park’s rehabilitation, which had fallen into disrepair. In addition, the design and installation of the memorial pieces also comprise the rehabilitation process. 

The park also serves as a recreational amenity for both tourists and locals. What’s more, both memorials in Kansas City and Washington D.C. offer visitors intense and nostalgic memorabilia of the Great War. 

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