In the area where my brother lives in France Great War monuments are as ubiquitous as Civil War monuments are here in the United States. Every town square has its bronze doughboy representing the young men from that locale who mort pour la France. World War One monuments are less common here in America but one does see them on a fairly regular basis. We have been spending so much time on the Civil War sesquicentennial that the upcoming 100th anniversary of the First World War has been pushed to the back burner. Ready or not it is coming in just two short years. It will be an opportunity to challenge many of the assumptions we have about that conflict, just as the CW 150th has done for the War of the Rebellion. If you ever have a chance I strongly recommend a visit to the National World War One Museum in Kansas City; if you really have a chance take in the Historial de La Grande Guerre in Perrone. Both will change your perspective of this pivotal event in 20th century history.
I don’t know if the National Mall needs another monument but earlier this week Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) proposed the construction of a national World War One memorial to be built in Constitution Gardens near the Reflecting Pool. The proposal has a long road before reaching fruition because of a 2003 law prohibiting new construction on the Mall. Any exemption would mean setting a precedent. Washington already has a WW1 memorial, located in Pershing Park, but it is a local memorial dedicated to the soldiers from the District who fought in the conflict. It will be interesting to see if this proposal goes anywhere. Monuments take time, sometimes decades, to go from drawing board to ribbon cutting. I doubt this would take that long if it indeed comes to pass. 2014 is probably too soon. Perhaps five years, in time for the 100th anniversary of American involvement in April 2017, is more realistic. It will be interesting to see if this goes anywhere.
(image/Thomas R Machnitzki)