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National World War II Memorial
The National World War II Memorial is located on The National Mall in Washington, DC, at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool, opposite the Lincoln Memorial, so that the Lincoln statue now gazes eastwards upon the WWII memorial as well as the Washington Monument. It opened to the public on April 29, 2004, and was dedicated by President George W. Bush on May 29, 2004, two days prior to Memorial Day. It is the first national memorial in the United States dedicated to all who served during World War II and managed by the National Park Service.
The memorial consists of 56 seventeen-foot (5.18 m) tall pillars arranged in a semi-circle around a central plaza with two 43 foot (13.11 m) tall arches on opposing sides. Each pillar is inscribed with the names of the then-48 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Alaska, Hawaii, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each arch is inscribed with Atlantic and Pacific. Freedom Wall, containing 4,000 gold-colored stars, one for each 100 American deaths incurred in the war, is also a part of the memorial. The plaza is 337 feet 10 inches (103 m) long and 240 feet 2 inches (73 m) wide, is sunk 6 feet (1.83 m) below grade, and contains a pool that is 246 feet 9 inches by 147 feet 8 inches (75 by 45 m).
Lobbying efforts to construct the memorial took more than a decade, starting in the early 1990s. The memorial was authorized by Congress in 1993, but it took until 1997 for Friedrich St. Florian's design to be selected and until September 2001 for the construction to begin.
When it unofficially opened at the end of April 2004, throngs of people descended upon the memorial from all parts of the country. Many veterans came in order to see the memorial before they died; currently, American World War II veterans are dying at a rate of over 1,000 per day.
Many citizens liked the park-like atmosphere of the memorial. Others remarked that the plaza was symbolic of the nation's commitment to the war because it recreated the sense of community that the war stimulated within the nation.
Many critics such as the National Coalition to Save Our Mall opposed the design and the location of the memorial. The main critique of the location is that it interrupts the vista between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It is also criticized for taking up green space that has historically been used for major demonstrations and protests.
There were also aesthetic objections to the design. A critic from the Boston Herald called the monument "vainglorious, demanding of attention and full of trite imagery." The Philadelphia Inquirer noted the irony that "this pompous style was also favored by Hitler and Mussolini."
Most irksome to the critics was the expedited approval process which is normally quite lengthy for such an important site. Congress, worried that World War II veterans were dying before an appropriate memorial was built, passed legislation exempting the National World War II Memorial from further site and design review. They also dismissed pending legal challenges to the memorial.
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