The National WWII Memorial Chronology
In 1993, the Congress passed legislation authorizing the building of a National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., or its immediate environs. The authorizing legislation was signed into law by President Clinton on May 25, 1993. The responsibility for designing and constructing the Memorial was given to the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), an independent federal agency created by law in 1923. The Memorial will honor all who served in the American armed services during World War II and the entire nation’s contribution to the war effort. The following summary highlights key events in the history of the project.
1987 – 1993
Dec 10, ’87 – Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) introduces legislation to authorize establishing a Memorial on federal land in the District of Columbia or its environs. Similar legislation was introduced in 1989, 1991 and 1993.
May 25, ’93 – President Clinton signs Public Law 103-32 authorizing the ABMC to establish a World War II Memorial in the District or its environs.
Sep 30 – The President appoints a 12-member Memorial Advisory Board (MAB), as authorized in Public Law 103-32, to advise the ABMC in site selection and design, and to promote donations to support Memorial construction.
Oct 6-7 – The House and Senate pass Joint Resolution 227 approving location of the World War II Memorial in the Capital’s monumental core area because of its lasting historic significance to the nation. The President signed the resolution into law on October 25th.
Jan 20 – ABMC and MAB hold their first joint site selection session attended by representatives of the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the National Capital Memorial Commission (NCMC), the National Park Service (NPS), and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Seven potential sites are visited:
- Capitol Reflecting Pool area (between 3rd Street and the Reflecting Pool)
- Tidal Basin (northeast side, east of the Tidal Basin parking lot and west of the 14th Street Bridge access road)
- West Potomac Park (between Ohio Drive and the northern shore of the Potomac River, northwest of the FDR Memorial site)
- Constitution Gardens (east end, between Constitution Avenue and the Rainbow Pool)
- Washington Monument grounds (at Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, west of the Museum of American History)
- Freedom Plaza (on Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets)
- Henderson Hall, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery (Henderson Hall was dropped from consideration because of its unavailability).
Mar 2 – The ABMC and MAB unanimously select the Constitution Gardens site as the most appropriate one out of the six alternatives.
May 9 & Jun 20 – The NCMC holds public hearings on the site for the World War II Memorial with consideration given to both the Constitution Gardens site and the Capitol Reflecting Pool site on Third Street.
Jul 27 – The CFA concludes after a public hearing that the Constitution Gardens site would not be commensurate with the historical significance of World War II, and requests that further consideration be given to the Capitol Reflecting Pool and Freedom Plaza along with a new alternative, the traffic circle on Columbia Island on the Lincoln Memorial-Arlington Cemetery axis. The Rainbow Pool is discussed as a possible alternative site.
Aug 6 – The ABMC proposes to the chairmen of the CFA, NCPC and NPS that the Rainbow Pool site with space on both sides of the pool be studied as a replacement for the Constitution Gardens site.
Sep 19 – In a public meeting, the CFA unanimously approves the Rainbow Pool site with the understanding that design guidelines be developed in consultation with them.
Oct 5 – During a public meeting, the NCPC approves the Rainbow Pool site on the condition that the Mall’s east-west vista formed by the elm trees bordering the Reflecting Pool would be preserved.
Nov 11 – President Clinton dedicates the Memorial site in a formal ceremony that concludes the 50th Anniversary of World War II commemorations. A plaque marks the site as the future location of the World War II Memorial.
Apr 19 – The ABMC and General Services Administration (GSA), acting as agent for the ABMC, announce a two-stage open design competition for the Memorial that closed on Aug 12th.
Aug 15-16 – Four hundred and four entries are reviewed by a distinguished Evaluation Board that selects six competition finalists. The second stage competition closes on Oct 25th.
Oct 29 – A Design Jury composed of distinguished architects, landscape architects, architectural critics and WWII veterans review the designs of the six finalists.
Oct 30-31 – The Evaluation Board evaluates finalist design submissions and interviews the six design teams. Both the Design Jury and the Evaluation Board, independently of each other, recommend unanimously that the Leo A. Daly team with Friedrich St. Florian as design architect be selected. ABMC approves the recommendation on Nov 20th.
Jan 17 – President Clinton announces St. Florian’s winning Memorial design during a White House ceremony.
Mar 19 – Senator Bob Dole is named National Chairman of the Memorial campaign.
Jul 24 – In a public hearing, the CFA approves many elements of the design concept, but voices strong concern over the mass and scale and the interior space of the concept as presented. The CFA requests that the design be given further study and resubmitted at a later date, but unanimously reaffirms the Rainbow Pool site.
Jul 31 – In a public hearing, the NCPC reaffirms its approval of the Rainbow Pool site, but requests design modifications and an analysis of various environmental considerations prior to the commission’s further action on a revised design concept.
Aug 19 – ABMC announces that Frederick W. Smith, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Federal Express Corporation, will team with Senator Dole as National Co-Chairman of the World War II Memorial Campaign.
Apr 7 – ABMC approves the recommendation of its Site and Design Committee that St. Florian’s revised design concept be forwarded to the CFA, the NCPC and the District of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Office for their action.
May 21 – In a public hearing, the CFA approves the revised design concept.
Jul 9 – In a public hearing, the NCPC approves the revised design concept.
Apr 21 – ABMC approves the recommendation of its Site and Design Committee that St. Florian’s preliminary design be forwarded to the CFA and NCPC for their action.
May 20 – In a public hearing, the CFA approves the Memorial’s preliminary design.
Jun 3 – In a public hearing, the NCPC approves the Memorial’s preliminary design.
Jul 20 – In a public hearing, the CFA approves the Memorial’s final architectural design.
Sep 21 – In a public hearing, the NCPC approves the Memorial’s final architectural design.
Nov 11 – A groundbreaking ceremony attended by 15,000 people is held at the Memorial’s Rainbow Pool site.
Nov 16 – In a public hearing, the CFA approves several ancillary elements of the Memorial: an information pavilion, a comfort station, an access road and a contemplative area.
Dec 14 – In a public hearing, the NCPC approves several ancillary elements of the Memorial: an information pavilion, a comfort station, an access road and a contemplative area.
Jan 23 – Construction permit issued by the NPS.
Mar 9 – Construction, which was to begin in March, is delayed indefinitely pending resolution of a lawsuit filed by a small opposition group in Washington, D.C., and a procedural issue involving the NCPC), one of the agencies required by law to approve the Memorial.
May 21-22 – The House and Senate pass legislation directing that the Memorial be constructed expeditiously at the dedicated Rainbow Pool site on the National Mall in a manner consistent with previous approvals and permits. President Bush signed the legislation into law (Public Law 107-11) on Memorial Day, May 28th.
Jun 7 – The General Services Administration, acting as agent for the ABMC, awards a $56 million construction contract to the joint venture of Tompkins Builders and Grunley-Walsh Construction.
Jun 21 – In a public hearing, the CFA approves the granite selections for the Memorial.
Jul 3 – In a public hearing, the NCPC approves the granite selections for the Memorial.
Aug 27 – Tompkins/Grunley-Walsh begin site preparation work at the Memorial’s Rainbow Pool site on the National Mall. Construction begins one week later.
Mar 21 – In a public hearing, the CFA approves designs for flagpoles and announcement piers at the ceremonial entrance, and artistic enhancements to the field of gold stars. A proposed announcement stone design was not approved.
Apr 4 – In a public hearing, the NCPC approves designs for flagpoles and announcement piers at the ceremonial entrance and an announcement stone at the east Memorial plaza, and artistic enhancements to the field of gold stars.
Jul 18 – In a public hearing, the CFA approves concepts for 24 bas-relief sculpture panels, and requests that the announcement stone be designed for the ceremonial entrance of the Memorial rather than the proposed location on the plaza.
Oct 17 – In a public hearing, the CFA approves the redesigned announcement stone at the ceremonial entrance, and endorses the thematic content of proposed inscriptions but recommends minor adjustments in their presentation.
Nov 21 – In a public hearing, the CFA approves inscriptions for the Memorial.
Apr 22 – In a public hearing, the CFA approves inscriptions for the Memorial.
Apr 29 – The National World War II Memorial opens to the public.
May 29 – The National World War II Memorial is formally dedicated in a ceremony that draws 150,000 people.
Nov 1 – The Memorial becomes part of the National Park System when it is transferred from the ABMC to the NPS, which assumes responsibility for its operations and maintenance.
Feb 14 – Friends of the National World War II Memorial (Friends) is incorporated.
Sep 29 – Friends sponsors a “Tribute to World War II Veterans” on the National Mall, featuring documentarian Ken Burns, in partnership with WETA and Freedom Team Salute. The event coincides with Mr. Burns’ release of his documentary series, “The War.”
Nov 11 – Friends hosts the first Veterans Day observance at the World War II Memorial.
May 26 – Friends hosts the first Memorial Day observance at the World War II Memorial.
Apr 20 – Friends enters into a cooperative partnership with the the National Park Service (NPS). Friends takes on the lead responsibility in planning, staging, and funding major national commemorative events at the World War II Memorial on V-E Day, Memorial Day, V-J, Veterans Day, and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Summer – Friends introduces the annual World War II Memorial Concert Series, sponsoring free public performances of military bands at the Memorial from April through October.
Nov. 6 – Friends launches the Haydn Williams WWII Memorial Legacy Lecture, an annual public lecture series that features preeminent historians and others speaking on the lasting significance and impact of World War II on America and the world.
May 24 – Friends and NPS co-host the National World War II Memorial 10th Anniversary Commemoration.
Jul 20-22 – Friends launches annual summer teachers conference in Washington, DC.
Dec 7 – Friends launches four-year WWII 75th Anniversary Commemoration
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